Connecting The Dots Around The World With Coffee

Confronting The Coffee Crises:

On our way to Brazil, the largest coffee exporter in the world, we had the opportunity to listen to Lee Gross explain his Masters research on small scale coffee production in the Dominican Republic. We are traveling down the Amazon River on the ML Explorer with the Spring 2011 Semester At Sea voyage learning new concepts from the theme: Thinking Globally to Acting Locally on a daily basis.

Lee Gross sharing research on Spring 2011 Semester At Sea

The information Lee shared was really an awakening for me to really embrace the concept of supporting  “Certified Fair Trade” products.

I must admit I have been on the outside looking in with really understanding the importance of using my consumer dollar to support the environment and small scale farming families. Lee’s presentation “connected the dots” for me in understanding why we should buy “Certified Fair Trade” products.
Interesting facts about coffee production:
• 25 million families are “sustained” by coffee and its connected production products
• Shade grown coffee helps with soil conservation, provides habitat for bird life and consumptive fruits to families
• Brazil produces 1/3 of the world’s coffee
• Small production farms would be the size of a backyard in an American subdivision.
• Coffee is handpicked by millions of laborers and grows in remote mountainous areas. The largest cost to bring the coffee to market is the transportation by mule to the cooperative and export overseas
• Coffee is harvested only one time a year which creates a cash flow problem for small farmers
• Coffee is the 2nd most traded commodity in the world behind OIL
• Most small coffee growers receive $1 to $1.40 per pound
• President John F. Kennedy started the ICA International Coffee Agreement regulating coffee prices
• In 1989 the ICA was terminated which has resulted in an extremely volatile coffee market
• It takes 5-7 years from planting a coffee tree to harvest
• Farmers have all the risk with weather, disease and pests
• 63% of the coffee market is controlled by 5 big corporations: ie. Kraft, Proctor & Gamble, Nestles, Tchibo. who in 2001 at the heart of the coffee crisis experienced significant earnings
• Coffee can be differentiated through specialty coffee organizations, which purchase the highest quality coffee i.e. Starbucks, Green Mountain, Cooperative Coffees, Peats Coffee. Coffee can also be differentiated by purchasing single origin coffees
• Fair Trade is a certification, which ensures that farmers are paid a minimum price ($1.38-$1.50) plus a social premium for good practices, democracy in organization and additional premiums for organic production. Coffee by any roaster can be Fair Trade certified
• Certified Fair Trades growers have to produce products under specific condition to obtain the certification
• Many developing countries spend more in military expenses than in the education of their people
• There is no incentive to grow organic so only the consumer can help the farmers by paying more for certified products
• Organic certifications certify the productions method
• Fair Trade certifications certify the process of trade (i.e. labor practices, minimum price, transparency, etc.
• Many farmers do not have title to their land and cannot obtain loans
How can you help make a difference in supporting small farmers?  Follow the links below for a cliff note lesson!

1. Read about the Certified Fair Trade products, Specialty Coffees and Relationship Coffees. Don’t buy coffee in a can. Know where it comes from and that workers were paid a fair price. Buy certified and single origin coffees. Be a conscious consumer, your dollar speaks!

2. Be willing to pay more to help the environment and sustainability of the world. Support companies who can ensure transparency in process, social and environmental best practices.
3. Learn more about injustice happening everywhere and share with your friends.

Coffee bean sorting

When I posted information about the class and helping small coffee growers on facebook the first person to comment was my friend Sadie Harris from France. She has been buying Certified Fair Trade products for years and makes a conscious effort to support the movement. Many Europeans are acutely aware of how this impacts the world. Traveling around the world, learning from educators in all fields of sustainability is certainly helping me connect more dots!  We are taking the global lessons and applying them to our local practices!

One person DOES make a difference and if that person shares with one other person who becomes aware of the environment and injustice then modifies their buying behavior the world can change. Remember to Buy Certified Fair Trade Products!

I am excited to hear back from you!  Read all the links and then let us know how it touched your life and what you are doing to share?

This post took days to finish with the bad Internet connection so thank you for your patience!  More to come Connecting The Dots Around The World!  Be sure to check out the contest to visit one of the seven wonders of the world!

Connecting More Dots In Nassau!

“Connecting The Dots Around The World” will be a huge learning curve each day in  finding a gracious way to “step over the bar of expectations” from our American point of view and will be a skill that needs to be practiced. Trying to be understanding and be considerate of different cultures and their values will be of utmost importance. Kindness and peaceful communication about all kinds of situations will be the order of the day to maintain peace within ourselves and thereby create peace among people and nations.

I have been reading the book “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson as required reading for the students and Life Long Learners on the voyage for Spring 2011, Semester At Sea.  The book is about how the passion for an idea can change the world with just one person pursuing the vision of their dreams. The message that is coming to me from the book is one of belief in convictions no matter what it is.  Not that Greg’s passion would be my passion but that his example shows how an individual can make a difference with their actions.

The dots that are connecting for me from a global standpoint which I can take back to my local community, the “glocal” lesson is one of raising the bar with the best quality service to attract the consumer. I can see clearly that business in general, the global business community included is fighting for the discretionary consumer’s dollar.  The video of David in front of the Big Ten Restaurant on Bay Street in Nassau included in my post  from the past week, shows how retailers are literally fighting for that same dollar.

My belief is the consumer will spend their discretionary dollar and share with their friends if a business provides the  Nordstrom quality service at an affordable price.  Taking those concepts to a practical place to implement, a business must have clean presentations and superior customer service to get repeat and referral business from past consumers.

The number one reason my husband Tom and I are on this voyage is the fact the program was 2 for 1 package on Semester At Sea and it had been on our life “goddard” list for five years.  The opportunity was right being able to leave home for 4 months and with the value of the package we stepped up to experience this journey. We arranged for a house sitter couple that worked from home and would take care of the cat and off we went!

We are very grateful to the Semester At Sea program for this opportunity and did  not want to shake up any relationships on the first day with the group……. but after considering the message in  the required reading book “Three Cups of Tea”  and knowing that “raising the bar of expectations” is a passion of mine I felt impelled to try and correct a situation with the Hotel we are staying at as it just appeared to me they were taking advantage of a large group of people, probably 300 rooms or more of families seeing their students off on this voyage.

The hotel we made arrangements to stay with at Semester At Sea was actually below average and the room with a channel ocean view seemed extremely overpriced at $188.00 per night. I had to have some self-talk, telling myself that my expectations needed to drop down a little as this experience was about cherishing and respecting different cultures and different value systems. After seeing the unpainted ply wood circle in a window with pen scribbles, the hangers too large for the closet space, no screen on the sliding glass doors in the room combined with the stained carpet in the elevator, stained tile floors, dead palm fronds in the atrium and windows so dirty you can’t see anything but the dirt drops into the garden, I decided that corporate America and/or international resorts really need to raise the bar for service and conditions if they expect to receive top dollar for their products and consumers sharing their experiences to get repeat and referral business.

Pen markings on unpainted plywood used as a sun block in $188 per night room

Dead Palm Fronds in atrium area

Tom Brokaw reviews “ Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin “proof that one ordinary person, with the right combination of Character and Determination, really can change the world.”  This concept encouraged me to stand up to do the right thing and help create change. I think this is what the Semester At Sea experience is supposed to do.. encourage people to take action. My action is a not anything compared to Greg Mortenson but his writing has stimulated me to take a stand and to reach out to corporate International connections to really let them LOOK at what the consumer sees and then try and modify behavior from the bottom up.

This concept has stimulated another aspect of my conscious reasoning: the first contact with the consumer should be one of the VERY best experiences if the consumer is going to continue to spend their discretionary dollars with that company. Now the issues corporate business has is hiring people who have actually experienced the level of service the company is expecting their employees to give to the consumer. Why not train the front line by letting them experience that high end service in some sort of practice exercise. Then they will KNOW what it feels like and can attempt to recreate that feeling for those they are being paid to serve.
I had some guilt feelings about the mini rant however; as I reflect on the day and what I am learning I think that the consumer needs to DEMAND the bar be raised to spend their money where they feel the service provided is worth the price. Talking about International business we spoke with the cab driver about the condition of the hotel and he said it was going to be torn down. Now that gave me some insight as to why they were not maintaining the facility.. It was going to be torn down and they were going to take advantage of all the tourists they could as long as they could. This does not seem right.. and even though we got a discount through the Semester At Sea group the condition was not acceptable for a group of such magnitude.

I took some action.. called the manager.. explained the dead palm fronds.. the scribbling on the plywood in the room. The view over HVA equipment to the ocean and the price of the rooms for the condition of the building. I wanted my bill to be cut in half as that is what I thought the room was worth.  He could not do that but could move me to another room and give me 2 free breakfast buffets with a $40.00 value.  He gave us an ocean view rooms for the next 2 days and the breakfast buffets.

When I asked the manager if he felt dead plants in the atrium, dirty floors, and scribbles on the wall is what the company wanted reflected in their image. He said “no” so he knew it is not acceptable and maybe my discussion can help management change the maintenance policy.  Who knows with tearing down some of the building but I did my best in trying to make them aware the consumer is watching.


The dots are starting to connect around the world
and you dear reader, can help by commenting on any of the posts sharing what is on your mind. Enter the contest: Where In The World is Carra Riley? Go to the right hand side of the home page  to register and participate to win a trip to one of the seven wonders of the world! Contest starts January 12, 2011 as the ship embarks.

Cosmic Chili for Company!

Cooking With Carra in the Cosmic Cow Pie!

I know, I know.. what is that crazy Carra doing now? Creating some Cosmic Chili for Christmas and New Years!

It’s always a good time in the Cosmic Cow Pie!

Check out the Cow Tips to making great Chili for a big group!

Quick Cosmic Chili

6 or 7 15 oz. cans of different chili

1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes and green chilies

1 4 oz. can diced hot green peppers

1 15 oz. can stewed tomatoes pureed in the blender

1.5 lbs. hamburger browned

1 large white onion sauteed

1 pkg. Chili seasonings

1/4 cup sugar

1 16 oz can V-8 juice

2 cans water

Be sure to bake some cornbread.. add creamed corn to your mix or some cream cheese for chewy cornbread. Try green chilies for some southwestern spice!

Watch the video for chili directions….or wing it.. Cooking with Carra is a creative experience!

Has The Economy Got You Spinning?

Has the economy taken it’s toll and your “A game” is on the bench?

Get your head back into the game!  Is the mantra for Kit Cummings.

I had the pleasure of meeting Kit at a speaking event in Flagtaff, Arizona two years ago and felt his energy and message was one that would light up the world. I was right and I now have the privilege of interviewing Kit Cummings on Blogtalkradio Monday, September 27th 9:00 a.m. PDT and via webcam on CarraRileyLive.com October 14, 2010 at 9:00 a.m. PDT

Having attended literally hundreds of seminars this man is at the top of his game to inspire listeners to action. His message is FRESH, clean and new. Kit walks the walk of what he teaches! He is a doer not just a talker.

Set a reminder to meet Kit Cummings Author, Speaker and Coach on blogtalkradio with Carra Riley September 27, 2010 9:00 a.m. PDT as Kit celebrates the launch of his new book “Unshackled Diary of a Prodigal Son”. Call 347-994-1903 during the show if you want to ask Kit questions or join the chat room. He will be speaking around the country to groups about his journey through life and we have the incredible opportunity to talk with him live.

Read some of the reasons why Kit and his book WILL make a difference to the reader and why you want to tune into the blogtalkradio show. Hear what Kit has to say about many things happening in today’s world.

  • Kit spreads his energetic and life-changing message of power, optimism and hope to the corporateKit and sport hero Bo Jackson world, the schools and his community.
  • Kit does weekly work inside a maximum security prison and Death Row.
  • Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Kit has been involved in the field of personalKit Cummings & Bo Jackson development and team building for over twenty years.
  • Having worked with Fortune 500 companies and Non-Profit Organizations, Kit has devoted himself to teaching, coaching and training for many years, speaking to thousands of people around the country, as well as overseas.
  • Today people are being bombarded with drama: whether it be politics, the economy, the war, or health concerns– they’re being drained of their vital energy.
  • With so much bad news and negativity surrounding us at work and in the media, people have begun to EXPECT more bad news and unconsciously started looking for it.
  • Whether it be working with executives, athletes, inmates or youths, energy and attitude are always part of growth, recovery and victory. Kit shares principles and techniques that help people to increase their personal energy and develop an attitude for success.
  • Athletes speak of being in the “zone” or conversely, being in a “slump.” How much more effective could you be, if you could quickly recognize when you were beginning to slump and had the tools and resources to move back into that other place of efficiency and power? It’s all a matter of “Attitude Science.”

Kit Cummings has written the book “Unshackled: Diary Of A Prodigal Son”

“Unshackled takes the reader on the spiritual, emotional and psychological journey of a modern day

Book cover Unshackled: Diary of a Prodigal Son

book cover

prodigal son. Primed to be one of today’s spiritual leaders, Kit Cummings’s success as a minister ill prepared him for the dark turn his life took. Plagued by an addictive past, confronted by a disillusioned flock, and angered by a seemingly absent God, Kit left the shelter of God’s arms for the chains of worldly pursuits. Alone, depressed and on the run, Kit would experience his greatest suffering, realize his worst fears and squander the Spirit within. It took an old friend in shackles to set him on the course to true freedom and help him find his way back home. Unshackled is the true story of one man’s spiritual search that became inextricably linked to an unlikely group of random individuals on the road to Redemption. If you’ve ever been in chains and longed for the keys to true freedom, allow Unshackled to be your guide!”

Check out Kit’s ATTITUDE SCIENCE!

Get your head back in the game.

Many experienced, talented and knowledgeable people have simply “checked out” and are merely trying to get by.

At the same time there are others that are thriving in this challenging market.

The difference: attitude, energy, and mindset.

Kit says, “Don’t just settle, when you can create the life that you desire.”

Kit shares how to effectively manage your mental, emotional and physical energy, and tap into your purpose and passion…

Fear & anxiety are on the rise, brought on by financial crisis & economic uncertainty.

Many are burning out from all the “Drama.” The Solution? Get your head back in the game…

Both shows will have a message you need to hear!

Tune in and listen to Kit Cummings on blogtalkradio Monday, September 27, 2010 9:00 a.m. PDT

Call 347-994-1903 during the show if you want to ask Kit questions or join the chat room.

See Kit Cummings LIVE on CarraRileyLive.com October 14, 2010 9:00 a.m. PDT.

Listen and watch Kit Cummings in his own unique, energetic and humorous style, share his message of optimism, enthusiasm and positive change.