The fog was heavy, and the clouds were thick as we wound our way up the dirt road in the early morning on the outskirts of the municipality of Dos Quebradas, Risaralda, Colombia. The ground was soaked from rain the night before, and even though our fingers were crossed for sun, it seemed all too likely we were going to have a rainy day. But as we drove into the gates of Dos Cosechas, the coffee farm hosting our Coffee Kids Youth-to-Youth Exchange event, that didn’t matter. Dos Cosechas sits on the side of a hill with a bright, colorful coffee shop with a sweeping, panoramic view of the city Pereira and its surrounding landscape.
Felipe, the owner of the farm, greeted us and then immediately got to work clearing space for the group of over 100 participants joining the event. Felipe himself is a young entrepreneur, a member and leader within his local producer association, Asocafé Manantial, which is addressing generational transition by incorporating young farmers within their Board of Directors. The farm and Felipe provide a perfect model to demonstrate the range of possibilities in coffee for youth.
The goal of this Coffee Kids Youth-to-Youth Exchange event, as with so much of the work we do, is to motivate young people to believe that having a farm is an option for their future, it’s where they can create a business and improve their family income. At the same time, this day was also designed to raise awareness within producer associations that young men and women play a critical role and that it is of vital importance for youth to be visible and have the space to bring in new ideas. In addition, a diverse group of organizations was invited to participate, including government officials, university members, and other participants from nonprofit entities. The plan is to create a network of all the members of the coffee value chain, so youth understand the various avenues to commercialize their own coffee.
The first groups to arrive were the 26 youth from Coffee Kids and representatives from all three producer organizations we have been working with over the past three years. The setup of the event incorporated five different stations and a culminating panel conversation to demonstrate various thematic topics integral to the coffee value chain, including; personal narratives from Coffee Kids participants, climate pioneers, coffee processing (adding value), cupping, barista skills, and a panel conversation on marketing and selling coffee.
The Coffee Kids participants were in charge of leading the various stations and exchanging information with the additional 55 youth and 26 adults in attendance, representing seven producer associations from the same region of Risaralda. The young men and women of Coffee Kids were incredible leaders, poised and prepared to share both their personal journeys and technical expertise. When they shared their experience, they motivated the other young people in the audience so much so that a youth participant said their takeaway was “to see our farms as a business, to recognize the value of our products, and that what you plan you can achieve.”
At the end of the day, we took the time to collect information on the experience of all the participants. The learning from the day ranged from the importance of teamwork to different types of drying methods to analyzing the flavor attributes in a cup of coffee, and to having love and appreciation of the farm. Another youth participant said, “the barista skills and the cupping, or rather, the whole event filled me with new things that I wanted to know, it enriched me emotionally.”
The exchange between young people and directors of the producer associations also had a lot of impact. One young participant said that “the theme of collaboration through associations is crucial,” adding that, “it is possible to dream and fulfill our goals.” Another said that they want to take and put into practice “the potential of coffee consumption, being in a producer association, and intergenerational exchange of knowledge.”
It was an inspiring day, full of learning and dialogue, along with appreciation and recognition of the value these young adults bring into our coffee community, both locally and globally. In summary, as one participant explained, “It was a great experience, to see so much potential in these young people, both the knowledge they have gained and all the good things we can achieve if we strive to continuously improve.”
With your commitment to our Supporters Circle, we can continue to inspire more young adults in coffee producing communities with exchange events like this one!
We are so grateful to all those who participated, especially:
- La cristalina
- Cooperativa Santa Rosa de Cabal
- Cuchilla San Juan
- Asocafé Manantial
- Asotatama El Aguila
- Apecafeq Quinchia
- Agrosolidaría La Celia
Universities and other participating organizations
- Comité de Cafeteros de Risaralda & el programa Risaralda Diversidad de Perfiles
- CoopCafeR – Cooperativa Departamental de Caficultores del Risaralda
- SENA – Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje
- UTP – Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira
- SUEJE – Sistema universitario del eje cafetero
- Café y procesos
- Unisarc – Corporación Universitaria Santa Rosa de Cabal
- Red de tiendas de pasaje cultural cafetero de Colombia
- Universidad Católica de Pereira
- Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung