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Blog

2018 Plans

Brian

We've hit the ground running in 2018, which is why this post is at the beginning of February instead of the beginning of January.  This year should be a big year for Underground Coffee International and we wanted to share some of our big plans with you.  So here's a quick game plan of what we're looking forward to:

-Training Center:  We've been building a training center in the village for the past several months. This will be a space to hold trainings for farmers, use as an office, and give us a place to stay in the village, as well as a place to roast and check the quality of the coffee coming in.  We've got a local builder working on it (so it is a little behind schedule) but completion date should be the end of March.

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-Wet-mill:  Part of the reason this post is so late is that we've been busy building our wet-mill during January.  The wet-mill will allow us to handle the volume of coffee needed for export and make processing much easier.

-Even more construction... : We still have lots of small construction projects we're working on such as drying houses, storage and a small water-treatment setup.  No pictures on those yet, but we should have them built in the next couple months.

-Seedling Program:  This year we're rolling out a new program in the village where we share high quality seedlings with farmers.  We've been busy with community surveys and mapping out coffee in our village as well as identifying potential partners for these new seedlings.  We'll distribute approximately 10,000 seedlings this spring and in a few years will have lots of great coffee to harvest from our village.

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-Planting more coffee on our test farm:  We'll also plant 3 new varieties on our test farm this spring.  Two of these varieties are new to our region and if they perform well, we can use them to further increase and diversify what farmers are growing.

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-Harvest: We have an order for 10 tons of very specific coffee this upcoming harvest.  We've been busy figuring out who has this kind of coffee and thinking through the logistics of getting it to our mill.  Ten tons sounds like a lot, but in reality that means processing 60+ tons of coffee cherry.  We're busy this year trying to track all that coffee down as well as harvesting it all for the first time this fall.

-Continued growth in the village church:  We're also hoping to see even more people from our village be trained and step up into leadership.

So 2018 has some VERY big plans.  Thanks again for everyone who has partnered with us financially and in prayer to help make these plans become a reality.

Wrapping up 2017

Brian

2017

2017 has been a great year for us at Underground Coffee International.  This past year has seen us making huge strides towards our goal of creating a sustainable coffee project that benefits local farmers as well as creates avenues to further the Gospel in South East Asia.

First and foremost, 2017 saw growth in our village church.  Church members  continue to be discipled and some are participating in 2-week Bible classes in a nearby town.  In addition, there have been 12 people baptized in the village this year.  We were also able to hire a new salaried position on our farm, which provides a job for one of our best workers who also happens to be one of the church leaders.

We continue to develop our test farm, planting three new coffee varieties that each have potential to increase the farmers' livelihoods.  Over the coming years, we'll check the potential and yield of these new varieties and hopefully they will produce well enough to be introduced to the farmers.

2017 also saw the formation of our seedling-sharing program.  There will be more details coming on this as we roll it out in 2018, but this will allow us to better partner with local coffee farmers and help them to produce better coffee.  Currently we have 10,000 high quality seedlings that will be ready to distribute in the spring of 2018.

One of our biggest projects of 2017 (and 2018 and probably 2019) has been community surveys.  These surveys have provided us with information on what kind of coffee farmers are producing as well as having a database of farmers who might be willing to partner with us in the future.  The time we spend in homes talking with people has also allowed our farm manager (also the village pastor) to deepen his relationships in the village.  We always try to end the time with prayer.

2017 also saw us enter into a partnership with Baptist Global Response.  We've worked for the past few years with BGR to supply our coffee that we use in the US.  This past year saw a bigger partnership in which we work together in South East Asia.  BGR is currently helping us to source coffee processing equipment, helping us with quality control, and has agreed to buy/import our coffee after next year's harvest.  This partnership has been huge for us because it solves some major logistical headaches, as well as paying  the farmers upfront for their coffee (which is a rare thing out here).

2017 also saw our first attempts at harvesting and processing coffee.  UCI is continuing to try to develop a quality standard for farmers that currently does not exist.  Planting good coffee, fertilizing correctly, picking ripe coffee cherries and processing coffee well all goes against the culture here.  Changing habits that have lasted generations takes a lot of time and energy, but we are slowly starting to see progress.  If farmers can take better care of their coffee, we can introduce much higher quality genetics and sell the coffee for over 3x the price in the specialty market, meaning that everyone is able to benefit financially.

Our final major project in 2017 (told you we've been busy) is building a training center in the village.  This training center will provide a place for us to hold trainings, check the quality of coffee the farmers bring in, as well as provide a place for us to stay in the village.  We currently have a local builder working on the office, so it is being completed at the local pace...  the hope is that the building will be finished this spring before the rains start and we can have a nice dry place to work.

Once again, thank you to everyone who prayed, supported and drank our coffee in 2017.  The work here continues to go forth because of the support that you provide.

Community Surveys

Brian

Rainy season is finally over (with the exception of getting caught in 2 rainstorms last week) and this means that activity is starting to pick back up in our area.  Farmers are beginning to harvest their coffee, mills are getting prepared to process coffee cherries and the roads are starting to be navigable again.  Now that people are out and about, we've got a lot of things going on.

First, we're about to begin construction on our new training center in the village.  The training center will be a place where we can bring farmers for agricultural trainings, cup and evaluate coffee from the community, as well as have a place where we can sleep when we need to stay in the village.  Construction is set to begin November 1st.

Secondly we are processing some coffee this year.  Our goal is to export several tons to the US next year, so we are using this year as an opportunity to figure out our systems and refine our processing flow.  We still have a lot of construction to do in order to handle the volume we need next year, so having some of the basics figured out will hopefully cut down on problems in the future.

  The biggest thing we are working on is conducting community surveys in our area.  One of the largest problems we are facing is knowing what kind of coffee the farmers have.  Different coffee varieties have different qualities, tastes and different price points in a quality focused market.  Because farmers in our area have only had access to a volume market, they usually sell all their coffee together for one price.  Our goal is to buy their higher quality coffee, process it well and then send it to America next year.  We are attempting  to track down at least 60 tons of the good stuff, which is A LOT of work.

One day a week we've devoted ourselves to conducting community surveys in order to try and solve this problem.  Basically, we have written out several questions like:

  • What kind of coffee do you have?  
  • How much did you produce last year?
  • How much were you paid for your coffee last year?
  • Would you be interested in planting different kinds of coffee in the future?

So far this has been great for gathering information and also building relationships with people.  We try to end the time with asking the farmer if they are having any problems and if there is anything we can pray for.  There is almost always a request for their health or someone in their family.

Please continue to pray for us as we go around and visit with farmers over the next several months.