Staff Spotlight: Terri Wong

Terri Wong has been selling coffee from the San Lucas Mission for more than a decade. Read on to learn why Terri cares about the Coffee Program.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am the Director of Coffee for the Friends of San Lucas. I have been married to my husband Ken Wong for 42 years. We have three children and 5 grandchildren who bring so much joy to my life!

What led you to support the Mission? How did you get involved?

My first trip to the Mission was as a chaperone for a group of youth from my church in 2001. I was immediately impacted by those I met in San Lucas and I continue to want to share this experience with others. In 2004, I started leading adult groups to San Lucas. In 2008, I began working with Fr. Greg at local fundraisers and other projects. After Fr. Greg died in 2012, I was part of a small group that collaborated with the Diocese of New Ulm to set up a 501c3 that would carry on the work to support the San Lucas Mission.

Why do you care about the Coffee Program?

I love all the programs of the Mission. I have a special passion for the Café Juan Ana Coffee Program. It provides small, independent coffee growers work and guarantees a just price for their product through our Direct Trade Model, which helps them support their families. The ability to work one’s own land and produce a crop that can support their family is a huge motivator that keeps the family together. So many small farmers are being forced to leave their farms and migrate to find work. Coffee is the second largest traded commodity in the world and most small family farmers around the world are losing money and struggling to continue to grow coffee.

Café Juan Ana has been improving the product it sends to the US and the varieties that are offered. They continue to improve the quality of their coffee, which is moving them into the higher specialty coffee grades. They have been offering classes to the growers that they buy ripe coffee from to improve their crops and provide the world’s best coffee. Café Juan Ana has been able to buy from nearly 100 small growers this past year. It is significant that a third of those growers are women. The Direct Trade Model makes it possible to pay above market rates to the grower and in return receive their best quality, shade grown, 100% arabica coffee.

Small, independent growers need a predictable income. Cafe Juan Ana provides stability, by guaranteeing the price won’t fall below a set upon price, no matter what the market does. Large plantations can sit on their coffee when the market has huge fluctuations in the world price for coffee, where small growers can’t!

Can you share a specific story of the program’s impact that you know of?

Felipa, one of the small growers we met during our Coffee Immersion Trip last year, shared her story that really touched our group. She didn’t know how she would survive and support her family when her husband died 13 years ago. She worked hard in the coffee fields and being able to sell to the Mission meant she was able to feed her five children. She credits Café Juan Ana for their help. She was so pleased with the classes she was able to take to learn all aspects of growing coffee and improve her crop so she could sell more of it to Café Juan Ana as they only accept the best quality coffee beans. She was able to make enough to receive education for her children. She also has beehives and sells honey. In her “free time,” she weaves traditional cloth to make clothes for her kids and sell in the market. The stories of each grower have, over and over, pointed out that the additional price they receive for their coffee helps makes it possible to support their families. Direct Trade brings a great product directly to the consumer.

What difference are people making when they purchase Café Juan Ana?

By buying Café Juan Ana Coffee, people are helping support small, independent growers. The more coffee we can sell, the more growers we will be able to buy from, which means that more small growers will benefit from the program. Your morning cup does make a huge impact on a small coffee grower and his or her family.

How has this program touched your life personally?

I am continually learning about the specialty coffee industry! I am so impressed by how small individual growers can really impact the cup of coffee that you and I drink. Unlike bigger companies that are using big machinery to pick coffee in one cutting, our small growers pick it all by hand, picking only the ripe beans that produce better flavors and aroma. Hand picking allows for shade grown coffee fields. The trees used for shade help with erosion problems in areas that are at risk of mudslides, because many fields are on mountainsides. They also shelter birds who take care of pests meaning no need for pesticides. Shade helps with rising temperatures to keep the coffee plants cooler and keeps the soil from drying out too soon, creating natural mulch from the leaves, as well as helping to provide some of those special fruity flavor notes, as some of the shade trees are citrus and avocado, etc., which have been a trademark of Central American coffee.

I have picked coffee in San Lucas and I know how much work it is and the tremendous amount of beans it takes to produce the cup of coffee that I drink. I want to make sure that I know who is receiving the money I am paying for my coffee. I know how little a worker on a bigger farms receive. There is a gnawing at my heart to help more small growers so they can continue providing for their families with coffee from their own fields. It saddens me to think about how many farmers around the world are being forced to stop growing coffee because they can’t make a living with what is paid to farmers for their beans. I hope Café Juan Ana and the Direct Trade Model we use can help make an impact and change that at least for San Lucas!

To join Terri in supporting the Coffee Program, you can make a donation or purchase coffee today. To make a gift, click here. To purchase coffee, click here.

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