Olds College helps get coffee profits to growers

Java drinkers can support some coffee growers and their children in the Dominican Republic thanks to a new project at Olds College.

Java drinkers can support some coffee growers and their children in the Dominican Republic thanks to a new project at Olds College.

For six years, the college has been working with a private agricultural university, known as UAFAM, on the Caribbean island.

Toby Williams, project manager of Canadian Institute for Rural Entrepreneurship at the college, said they began talking about coffee with their Dominican counterparts last fall.

Olds College then partnered with coffee company Belarminio Ramirez, which buys from the independent growers who make shade-grown, organic coffee in the region of Jarabacoa. The coffee company will classify the coffee.

The college will work with five to eight of those growers.

“Ninety per cent of the net profits will go back to that area of the Dominican to help the coffee farmers’ kids finish Grade 8 and high school, and maybe go to college,” said Williams. “It will also help with technical training for the coffee farmers so they can be more productive with their coffee farms.”

The college receives the remaining 10 per cent of the net profits.

Williams said the college is interested in the project for a couple of reasons.

For one thing, it’s a great way to celebrate the college’s 2013 centennial.

“Also, Olds College is really interested in rural entrepreneurship,” Williams added. “This is a project where we’re getting students involved in marketing this coffee, plus there’s a whole philanthropy piece.”

Williams visited the Dominican Republic last spring, including the school that will benefit. An Olds College group will return in January to do projects and bring supplies to the children.

Each shipment will involve 3,600 kg (8,000 pounds) of green coffee beans.

These beans are ripe and green in colour, but once roasted, turn brown.

Williams said green coffee beans have a long shelf life, up to a year or maybe longer, while roasted coffee beans should be used fairly quickly.

The first shipment of beans came by boat, via the Panama Canal and then north to Vancouver. It was then trucked to Calgary. It has taken more than a month for the shipping.

They were to arrive at Calgary premium roaster Coffee Concept on Wednesday. It’s anticipated the beans will be ready for sale by the end of this month.

The owner of the coffee company is flying to Calgary on the weekend and will spend time figuring out the perfect roast for the beans. It’s anticipated this coffee will be a medium roast.

Many island coffees have good reputations, like Jamaica’s Blue Mountain or Kona from Hawaii.

“This coffee will be right up there in terms of quality,” said Williams. “The Dominicans have been growing coffee for 400 years, but for whatever reason they don’t have that same recognized brand as Hawaii or Jamaica.”

The beans will be sold in various ways, including online at http://www.canadianentrepreneurship.ca/buy-rural and http://www.oldscollege.ca/onlinestore.

Customers can also find beans at the Olds College bookstore and at other retail outlets in Olds. Sales won’t start until around Dec. 1. The college is also in talks with larger retailers.

A new entrepreneurship club involving Olds College students and instructor Jim Beatty will help market the coffee. They’ll be on hand at the Christmas craft sale at Red Deer’s Westerner Park on Dec. 1 and 2.

“People will also be able to drink it if they come to our centennial events,” said Williams.

The coffee beans will sell for about $15 for a 340-gram (12-ounce) bag. The college will first start off with a beans, not ground.

“We’re going to roast it once or twice a month because we need the coffee to be really fresh,” said Williams. “Depending on what our customers say, we may start to offer ground coffee as well.”

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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