Growing a dream
PC(USA)-backed Café Justo coffee cooperative expands, can offer more fair-trade coffee
November 16, 2010
AGUA PRIETA, Sonora, Mexico
Founders, friends and neighbors celebrated the dedication of the new roasters and processing facility of Café Justo (Just Coffee) in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico, Oct. 30. The celebration marked a milestone in a dream that germinated in the minds of Presbyterian laypersons and ministers nearly 10 years ago. Café Justo, a coffee grower cooperative, was created in response to the growing wave of Mexican men and women migrating north to the U.S. border.
Café Justo is the result of years of planning by Daniel Cifuentes, a migrant from Chiapas, Mexico; the Rev. Mark Adams, U.S. coordinator of Frontera de Cristo; and Tommy Bassett, a Roman Catholic layperson. The men wanted to create a sustainable, small-scale coffee company that sells its products at a fair and just price.
They negotiated with coffee growers in Chiapas, who were justifiably suspicious because they had been bilked by Americans before. After building trusting relationships, the negotiations bore fruit, and with a small microcredit loan, the group bought a roaster and bags for shipping. Café Justo was up and running. Thanks to the efforts of U.S. Presbyterians who promoted the coffee, the cooperative grew at a phenomenal rate. After a few years expanded capacity was necessary.
With the help of several Christian organizations, Café Justo took a great leap forward this year. Catholic Relief Services enabled the acquisition of land for the new processing facility. The Presbyterian Women's 2005 Thank Offering expanded Just Coffee to include a new community of farmers in El Aguila, Chiapas, which expanded growing capacity. And a grant from Self-Development of People provided newer and larger roasters. With the completion of the production facility, the pieces were in place for new beginnings.
The dedication included participants from Salvador Urbina and El Aguila, Chiapas; the state of Narayit; and Agua Prieta, Sonora.
Reynaldo Cifuentes, president of the Salvador Urbina cooperative, shared that when he first heard of Café Justo, he did not believe it nor did he have hope in the company’s future. When he and his neighbors were under the domination of the "coyotes" — buyers for large coffee corporations who came to the communities to buy coffee at low prices — there was little hope.
Seeing no options at home, the children of Salvador Urbina would come to the border and die in the desert or cross to live in anonymity. But now, because of Café Justo, they have hope for the future. As a Presbyterian, Reynaldo said he is thankful for Frontera de Cristo, Café Justo and the many Presbyterians who support the cooperative with their purchases.
Daniel Cifuentes, director of production, shared his story of leaving his home in Salvador Urbina for work on the border. For him, Café Justo is a dream come true. Many of his family, who seemed doomed to leave their homes for the border or for the United States are able to stay home and earn a living working in the coffee fields and enjoying the beautiful mountains they love.
Although he was welcomed and treated kindly by the people of Agua Prieta, and especially the Lily of the Valleys (Presbyterian) Church there, Café Justo gave him and his family the blessing of being able to stay in their home.
"Now the cooperative provides a way to care for the land, grow a crop, produce for export, and, most of all, stay in the home so dear," he said.
The dedication was crowned by the offering of thanks and plaques for persons who sacrificed much for the dream. Adams and the Rev. Rodolfo Navarrete, pastor of the Lily of the Valleys Church, offered readings from scripture and prayers that Café Justo will be a light to the nations for peace and justice.
The Rev. Parrish Jones lives in St. Augustine, Fla. and serves St. Johns Presbyterian Church, Jacksonville, Fla. as interim pastor.