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Alternative Capitalist: How a Coffee Business Brews Reconciliation
Image: Gary S. Chapman

As an industrial psychologist, Jonathan Golden helped companies grow stronger through team building and management training. But he wanted to do something more. When a Rwandan bishop encouraged him to help coffee farmers in Rwanda, Golden was sold. In 2006, he bought 20 bags of coffee—2,640 pounds—from Rwandan farmers. He borrowed $20,000, bought a used roaster on eBay, and began selling the coffee to church cafés. He opened a coffee shop in Roswell, Georgia, and Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Company was born.

The company now works with thousands of farmers in Rwanda and Haiti through microfinance loans, agricultural expertise, and providing bikes for transport. It will buy about 100 tons of coffee this year, paying farmers well over the fair trade minimum of $1.40 per pound. It's roasted in the U.S. and sold to about 600 churches; profits are re-invested in more farmers.

The company is visible at Christian rock shows and conferences, where it's known for the slogan, "Drink Coffee. Do Good." Q founder Gabe Lyons says Golden "thinks through the entire process of how their work contributes to the good of everyone, from the farmer to the customer. They create sustainable economic environments for people in developing countries, while providing U.S. consumers with great coffee."

Question & Answer

Your company goes beyond fair trade to what you call "community trade." Explain.

Fair trade puts a floor on prices for commodities. Community trade goes beyond mere economics and builds relationships. We ask people, "What are your other needs?" In one village, the children wanted a soccer field; we built one. In another, with help from our friends ...

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June 2011

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