“Hi, I’m Mary--I roast your coffee!” The woman who opened the door to that greeting last spring seemed a little puzzled by my words, or maybe by the level of excitement they carried, but she shook my extended hand anyway. Comprehension gradually cleared her face as I continued to rattle on about stopping by to borrow an ice axe from Chad, and how it was great to meet her, since I’d heard she was the one who was the coffee drinker.
Chad was a neighbor, a colleague at Pacific, and a member of the coffee share program in Forest Grove. Every two weeks we dropped a jar of coffee by his office at the outdoor program. and though he didn’t drink it himself he usually passed on a favorable review from his wife Amy, one of the few people in our share program I had not yet met. I thought I had just found her, having knocked on the door of the house in front of which Chad’s white van with sea kayak racks was parked. Turned out, I was just a little off. The woman I’d greeted with the proclamation about roasting her coffee kindly explained that Chad and Amy lived next door. Surprised and blushing, I backpedalled-- “Oh, oops, sorry, no, I don’t roast your coffee.”
I may have been wrong about the house, and perhaps toned down my pronouncements a bit when I did find and meet Amy next door. But that incident, and my excitement (though initially misplaced) at meeting one of the few coffee members I hadn’t yet gotten to know, helped me realize just how much Noah and I had embraced our new role in the small town of Forest Grove. By the time one season of the coffee CSA had passed, we were greeted with friendly shouts of excitement whenever we entered the post office, the local bakery, and many campus offices. We were those people with the coffee.
As we’ve resettled in Missoula, we’ve been anxious to start our local coffee CSA program here, in part to re-establish that rewarding role for ourselves in the neighborhood. We're not the only coffee roasters in this town, and we're certainly the smallest, but it's great to finally be roasting even a tiny fraction of Missoula's coffee.
In early February, we launched our program here, first with an open house and public roasting event, and then, two weeks later, with our first deliveries to our Missoula CSA share members. The public roasting packed our small house with friends and neighbors, gave a lot of people their first look at a green coffee bean, introduced some neighbors to each other, and set a small pack of neighborhood girls industriously to work coloring coffee bags.
We call the coffee program a CSA (short for community supported agriculture) because, like many farm-shares, we ask members to pay for a season’s worth of coffee at the start, and because we see it as a direct way for communities to come together to support good agricultural practices. It’s an act of commitment and trust, and it really is a membership in a community that is providing support to agriculture and processing at a very human scale. The support from members lets us pay the farmers we work with a price they set, substantially higher than the price they’d get from a large exporter. That support, in our first round of the CSA, helped us pay off our investment in the roaster. Right now, the support makes some dents in the behind-the-scenes costs of developing the storytelling workshop in Indonesia, as we work to establish the necessary framework to run a course and recruit participants.
All of those were part of the original plan, part of the model for how different programs within Forest Voices might complement each other, and how this program could build community at home and also support farmers in the tropics. But the wonderful surprise to the roasting was the personal satisfaction, and the fun of being the people who roast your coffee.
If we do not yet roast your coffee, we'd be happy to. There are still spaces open in the spring CSA for Missoula, and we are pro-rating the membership for people who join after the first deliveries. You can find more information and sign up here.