Muskox, caribou, elk, bison, and moose -- I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore! And even farther from Piura, Peru where Santiago Paz left from in mid-April to catch the annual SCAA, and then to fly up to Whitehorse, Yukon to spend several days with Coop Coffees' member-roaster, Bean North. With a couple quick detours in Montreal and Toronto beforehand, Santiago's brief Canadian tour ended in a couple feet of snow and with extremely grateful company!
Arriving to the "little tiny town," as he called it, of Whitehorse, Yukon, Santiago was quickly immersed into the one-of-a-kind reality of our northern-most member, Bean North. Unlike most producer tours (like the one Santiago did last year) where the itinerary includes visits to at least two to three different roasteries located in populated areas/cities, this year's visit was quite different. It takes 20 minutes of country-road driving to get to Bean North from the city. Surrounded by fields (all covered in snow at this point), forests, and mountains, there isn't much more than Mother Nature and fanatical coffee drinkers near the grounds of the roastery. The visit included a few planned events in which Santiago presented information on Fair Trade and CEPICAFE but he also had the opportunity to experience the lifestyle and environment of a distinctive part of the world and get to know the true "northerners" who buy and enjoy his coop's coffee.
Santiago's week in Whitehorse included a whole slew of fun activities: one morning began with an interview at CBC North -- who (jokingly?) offered Santiago a job given his smooth and radio-friendly voice. Later in the week, Santiago got a private tour of a nearby fish hatchery as well as the wildlife reserve that borders the property of the roastery. At Bean North, he spoke to a crowd of about 40 people at an evening event that was organized for the staff, customers and anyone else interested in learning about Fair Trade and the Peruvian coop that Santiago works for. Afterwards, they all enjoyed homemade cookies and bread with samples of CEPICAFE's newly imported jams and coffee. Everyone was thrilled to meet and listen to Santiago; for most of the folks at the event, this was the first experience with a representative from a producer group. Making the face-to-face connection and learning about the coffee process from someone who sees it and works with it every single day is crucial to the Fair Trade movement. Doing it another several thousand miles north of any city allows for an even more gratifying opportunity for all since it's that much less common.
"The white earth" as Santiago called it standing at the summit that looks over Alaska, was unlike anything he had ever experienced. But at the same time, despite the great differences of life in the Yukon, Santiago got to see similarities as well. Michael and Helen of Bean North welcomed him into their home for the week, just as he has done for other members of Coop Coffees on a trip to Peru. In that way, everyone involved comes away with a better understanding of the people and lives beyond the coffee partnerships. This producer visit was certainly a unique experience for both Santiago and everyone that got to participate in Whitehorse. A big thank-you to Bean North for their willingness and enthusiasm to host such a well-planned and worthwhile tour and also to Santiago for making the HUGE trip from Piura to Whitehorse to bring a bit of his own world to the Great North!