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Wake up and smell the coffee

Coffee Beans (Flickr, sean dreilinger)About two years ago I was listening to a podcast mention a video documentary about the coffee industry. I wanted to watch this independent film, but it wasn't showing anywhere locally, so I had to wait for months until the film showed on the local PBS station. It aired at 11 p.m. I guess nobody thought that a movie about coffee was interesting.


The film was Black Gold, a documentary following the life of Tadesse Meskela, a representative of a coffee farm co-op in Ethiopia. In the film you see the harsh living conditions of the Ethiopian farmers, contrasted with the bubbly Starbucks managers. I don't want to give the movie away, but it opened my eyes to see the need for improving living conditions for coffee farmers. I almost broke down in tears after a scene where the poor farmers are crying out, "God please give us a good price for our coffee!"Starbucks recently made headlines in announcing that they are closing 600 stores. The sagging economy is likely drying up everyone's coffee fund. I wonder if this will affect the whole movement to make living conditions fairer.

God is concerned about making sure people get paid fairly. The Apostle James writes:

Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. James 5:4-6

It's honestly frustrating trying to figure out if farmers are being paid fairly or not. When Fair Trade Certified coffee is available at Wal-Mart and the FTC price is supposedly* less than current coffee prices, I wonder, "How are farmers in Ethiopia faring?" Lord willing, I hope is to someday professionally roast coffee and use the business to improve living conditions and plant churches among coffee growing peoples. You can read more about my dreams at

* I am trying to find out if the current FTC minimum price per pound green is less than current coffee prices. If you know for sure, please comment.