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A problem presented itself to Paul Kurtz during his 22 years as director of Rosedale Mennonite Missions.
Over the course of his career, Kurtz realized buying coffee at a fair market price could help empower those in the coffee industry by helping them find a direct market for their product in the United States.
“It’s business to business,” Kurtz said. “It’s not a handout. It’s not a nonprofit, we’re a for-profit business. We just pay the farmers a good, fair price for their coffee.”
Kurtz will talk about the fair trade principles behind his brand: Hemisphere Coffee Roasters, based in Mechanicsburg, Ohio. He will also discuss how his business has helped those reliant on coffee become more economically prosperous during a presentation at the Christian Aid Ministries Building just north of Kalona on Nov. 24 at 7 p.m.
The idea for the company occurred to Kurtz as he took trips to the coffee-producing countries, where growers were forced to sell their products at prices below what it cost them to produce the product, which often forced growers into business with predatory lenders for short-term loans.
Kurtz goes and buys anywhere between 100,000 and 120,000 pounds of coffee beans a year from growers in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Thailand and Ethiopia for a fair market price. Kurtz said one farmer he buys from in Central America now employs 300 people year-round to help work his 600 acres, which in turn helps put more money into the local community.
Kurtz said Hemisphere Coffee would not have been possible without the work he had done with Rosedale Mennonite, were he first heard stories about the poverty in these coffee-producing areas, due in part to farmers not having enough money to employ other people in their communities and towns.
With the help of the churches, Hemisphere Coffee has taken off. Kurtz said he’s seen the product become popular among farmers, who can connect with how markets affect personal situations.
The event on Nov. 24 will also feature a coffee-tasting.
“Coffee is a product of place,” Kurtz said. “Where on the mountain, what type of soil, what country, what variety was used all affects over 800 nuances of flavor in the cup.”
Kurtz said he views coffee drinking a lot like sipping a fine wine. For the morning, he prefers a smooth medium roast that won’t shock the palate after a long sleep. A more “fruity” light roast works better for Kurtz in the afternoon or with dinner.
Nathan Miller of Golden Delight Bakery is related to Kurtz by marriage and helped set up the meeting. Anyone with questions should contact Golden Delight Bakery at (319) 646-3030.