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The Struggle Behind Your Cup of Coffee


On The Edge - Sunset


BY GREG RAULS | OCTOBER 18, 2015

Jess Pernsteiner, a student of the Sustainability Leadership program at Edgewood College, traveled to Nicaragua from August 23-29 to assist local coffee farmers whose crops are being plagued by the la Roya fungus.

The fungus renders the plant unable to produce coffee beans, affecting the impoverished locals who rely on the crop’s income. The coffee, grown by the local women on one-acre lots, is pooled together after harvest and sold to Just Coffee Co-op. Fundacion Entre Mujeres (FEM), a local organization in Nicaragua dedicated to women’s empowerment, ensures the women receive a fair market value for their hard work and dedication to organic farming methods.

Upon hearing of their issue with the fungus, rather than simply buying from another coffee supplier, Just Coffee Co-op put together a group of 13 volunteer delegates to travel to the remote mountains of Nicaragua and assist the women. Pernsteiner and the other delegates assisted in educating the women on ways to deal with the fungus and continue to farm organically.

“We wanted to help the women of Diosas recover from Roya (coffee leaf rust fungus). We have been partners with Las Diosas and their parent organization FEM since 2006. They are one of our closest relationships. So far, we have raised over $25,000 for them. It is a good amount, but really just a drop in the bucket of what they need,” said Matt Earley, founding member and Head of Marketing at Just Coffee Co-op.

Pernsteiner, who heard about the opportunity in the Willy Street Co-op Flyer, said “It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. It directly ties into what the Sustainability program hopes to accomplish and provides the kind of assistance to these women that I wanted to be a part of.”

The women refuse to use pesticides, taking pride in their all-organic approach. They continue to refuse pesticides even though people who use them are not experiencing the fungus.

“It was amazing to see where the coffee comes from and how much effort is put into it by these women,” said Pernsteiner.

One dollar from every bag of Las Diosas coffee is currently going to support the women’s fight for their crops. Pernsteiner also continues to fundraise for the women and is currently more than half way to achieving her goal. If interested in trying the coffee, Las Diosas can be purchased at the Willy Street Coop.

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