photo of co-op leader Rene with members of Their-BucksIn 2003, a mission group from Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church traveled to Nicaragua to help build a medical clinic roof. A handful of them opted to take a side journey, a jarring two-hour trek up a mountainside to the remote El Porvenir. The name means "the future."

There, they met a group of 257 former Sandinista, Contra and Somoza fighters who had settled after the war onto an old coffee plantation in the high-shade canopy. The 43 families lived with no running water or electricity, with only a single timeworn blue tractor for transport. Together, bonded by poverty and a need to farm the land, they eked out a spartan livelihood.


But they faced an imminent threat: a buyer who had taken their entire last year's crop had not paid them. The farmers had no way to pay for their next season.


The visitors opted to pitch in their own money to buy the next year's harvest from the farmers. They'd also pay the farmers a fair wage. "Send us this year's crop," they said. And the farmers did. All 10,000 pounds of it.


That's how Their-Bucks Coffee began.  In the meantime, the amount of coffee purchased from El Porvenir has quadrupled.  The El Porvenir families have used their steady income to plant more, improve water access and build a school and privacy room for when medical and dental missions come.


(adapted from this article in The Post and Courier newspaper, March 28, 2014.)

Photo of the large drying patio where freshly shelled coffee beans are spead out to shun dry.