Long Miles Coffee Project http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com Coffee. People. Potential. Sat, 14 Oct 2017 18:57:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 A History Of Harvests http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/history-harvests/ http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/history-harvests/#comments Tue, 10 Oct 2017 11:37:46 +0000 http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/?p=6336 burundi coffee

Every harvest is difficult. I think if you asked farmers the world over, “What do you wish people knew about farming?” The answer would be, “That it’s BLANK hard.” Fill in the blank accordingly depending on the farmer’s location and what crop they are choosing to grow. A tomato farmer from France might say it’s fairly hard but a wasabi grower from Japan would probably say that its damn hard. No matter the adjective, it’s tough. It just is.

Every time you hold a cup of coffee in your hands, you hold someone’s sweat and tears… and a whole lot of their anxiety. The same goes for everything we consume. Sure, there are the corner cutters out there who use pesticides and growth hormones to make production easier, but true farming and producing takes more grit than I ever knew it did.

I have a reverent fear of harvest. At the beginning of each one I wonder just how broken we will be by the end. Who will collapse first and what will be the thing that brings us to our knees? I realize that paints a dramatic picture. As much as I crave leaning away from drama, we’ve done nothing but embody it and become absorbed by it since we started producing coffee. Here’s our story…


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The Bukeye Washing station site, 2013.

Bukeye Washing Station, present day during harvest 2017. Photo by Alexander Hansen.

Our first ever harvest was in 2013. In January of that year we had a crazy idea to build a washing station. We wrote a blog post and 48 hours later we had several donors who were willing to help us start. We couldn’t believe it. Harvest was just eight weeks away and we were walking the bare land of what would be the washing station. We were in a race against time. Building began in a fury and even now, traces of that fury remain. Stairs of every width and depth grace the station as if someone laid the cement with a tiger perched on their backs.

The community didn’t know us and we wondered if they would trust us with their coffee. As it turned out, most of them decided not to. Our shiny new depulper, the one machine needed to produce washed coffee, got stuck in customs. We bought two old hand crank depulpers and processed everything through them in our first season. Wet cement dried right alongside the coffee that year as the Bukeye station was still under construction as the coffee trickled in.

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Our first eighty bags of coffee were produced on this tiny hand crank depulper.

When harvest came to an end, The McKinnon finally cleared customs. We produced a measly eighty bags of coffee that year, just a quarter of one container. We didn’t export our harvest until seven months after it was produced because we had to figure out how to get the twenty seven stamps and signatures needed to export coffee out of Burundi. Needless to say, our coffee that year didn’t taste very good. We begged roasters to stick with us, but in the end many of the roasters rejected their lots upon their arrival in the States. The quality was just not good enough and we were forced to sell parts of the harvest however we could to whomever we could.


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Every inch of land was cleared by coffee farmers at both Bukeye and Heza. Heza under construction, 2014.

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Heza washing station during harvest 2017. Photo by Alexander Hansen.

We were sure we had finally pulled it all together. We would be prepared for this harvest. We took on an investor and that would allow us to break ground on a second washing station. This one would be bigger and better.

We found a piece of land in one of the most remote regions of Burundi that took our breathe away. We called it Heza, which means beautiful place in Kirundi. The mountains surrounding Heza were covered in coffee trees up to 2250 meters above sea level.

We hustled to get everything in place for harvest but again, we fell short. This time, we were overwhelmed by problems we had not foreseen. Heza did not have enough water. Without water, there would be no coffee production.

With harvest looming just days away, we drove up to Heza with high hopes of coaxing a water solution out of the day. Just as the half-built Heza came into view, our car came to a thumping and unintentional stop. We had brought invested visitors with us and we were excited to show Heza to them. When we asked one of them what he thought of Heza he said, “It’s a great Taj-Mahal white elephant.” The words stung because they were coated in truth. We were out of money and out of time, and standing by our broken down car in the middle of the remote Burundian countryside we felt trapped by our own makings.

When we finally got home that day, I painted a great big sign with the words, “We do not lose heart” in blue cursive letters.  I taped it to our living room wall right over the couch and it stayed there until well after harvest was over. Every time I looked at that sign I could breathe a little deeper and believe a little harder.

As harvest came, our station sat silent. There was no whir of a generator or clacking of a McKinnon. There was no water. No matter how well built the new rinse tanks and tables were, we could not produce coffee.

Our car, broken down near the Heza build site.

We decided that we would collect a harvest anyway. We had told the community we would begin, and we felt we needed to try. We trucked coffee cherries every night from Heza over switchback mountain roads to our Bukeye station forty-five minutes away. One night, a competing washing station blocked the roads and demanded that our team stand down. They carried on. In 2014 we produced nothing from unique hills on Heza. All the trucked lots were combined into one hill that we simply called “Heza.” It was all we could muster and it brought our Bukeye station to the very brink of its capacity. To our surprise, those who drank it appreciated it. Maybe there was hope that we could one day produce a great cup of coffee?


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Having fun at Bukeye WS while “waiting out” the trouble.

It began with protests and tear gas and escalated until bullets and grenades rang through the air every day and night. There was no school for the kids. I baked cookies in the kitchen with them most mornings, the radio blaring to drown out the sound of gunfire. We kept a “go bag” near the door with our passports and money inside. We stood ready to flee but our feet felt like led.

As harvest reached it’s fullest middle, a coup d’etat graced the capitol city where we lived. Overnight, our world changed. Most Burundians and ex-pats with the means to do so left the country. Over 250,000 refugees were reported. We retreated upcountry to the safety of the farmland and coffee harvest but even there, cracks in Burundi’s thin shell of peace were appearing.

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Ariana joins our family as harvest 2015 comes to a close.

Our boys had been out of school for nearly a month and in that month we trespassed upon the hospitality of nearly everyone we knew who lived in a more remote region. When we were in the city, we trolled daily social media reports to assess the security situation before we went out the door. I was pregnant with our third baby at the time and whenever I left the house I questioned it… Can we make it to school today? Can I get to the market without getting caught in crossfire?

It became evident that life in Burundi was no longer sustainable for our family. With harvest still ongoing, we made the decision to leave. We didn’t know how long our exit would be for and we were leaving a team of people behind us to carry on in the chaos. It felt wrong, but we’ve always said that the safety and health of our family has to be a priority and so, during mid harvest, we made it one.

Ben continued to fly in and out of Burundi while the boys and I, and a growing baby girl, stayed firmly in South Africa. We began to build a new life, but how long would it be for? In the end, our 2015 harvest was better than any before it and the growing demand for Burundi coffee left us feeling hopeful about the future, if only peace would return.


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Weighing in.

The dust had barely settled from a large scale military base attack in the city of Bujumbura when we touched back down in Burundi. Making the decision to return with our growing family had been riddled with uncertainty.  It looked like the same old Burundi, but nearly everything and everyone had changed. People were being taken and there was no finding them. Forces were searching the homes of whomever they wished and they did not come in peace. There were whispers of mass graves. Everywhere there was fear. Was this the start of war?

I often traveled upcountry and left our five month old in the city, but I struggled to stay calm. What if I couldn’t get back to my kids? What if the roads were closed? What if they decided to search our home while I was gone? I dropped the boys off at school with trepidation. Was it a good idea for them to be a fifteen minute drive away? I asked the school what they would do in case of an attack. I began to feel lost in the sea of sad stories that surrounded me. Stories of torture, disappearances and injustice were everywhere.

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The junior LMCP squad, 2015.

Harvest began. All went well until we had more coffee than some thought was necessary. Our oldest son was with us one evening when we were surrounded by a dozen armed men and told that we had to stop the farmers from delivering their coffee to us. “This coffee,” the leader told us while waving his gun in the the direction of the coffee trees, “no longer belongs to you. Tell your farmers to take their coffee elsewhere.” Fear carried us and all we could think about was the damage these men could do to our team or our family.

After the men left, our agronomist Jeremie said, “Yeah, I’ll just go talk to them on Monday. It will be ok.” We believed him and as harvest carried on, we kept our doors open to any farmer willing to deliver their coffee to us. Our team’s continuous bravery during the entire season was an inspiration to us.


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Farmers and employees carrying water to the station during the height of the 2017 water shortage. Image Alexander Hansen.

Ben calls our current harvest the hardest one yet. I’m not sure what to call it, but the image of my husband in tears at our kitchen table will be with me forever. This was the harvest that frayed us to our very last emotional thread.

Our biggest challenge was navigating a country-wide fuel shortage. Power and water are the most basic needs of coffee production. In order to produce coffee in remote regions, fuel is necessary to power the generator that in turn powers the coffee depulper that is the key to washed coffee. We also needed fuel to get people and other resources up and down the mountain.

Our Operations Manager was glued to her phone, hoping that one of her contacts would tell her where there might be fuel. If a text came, she would race with fuel canisters in tow to the fuel station. Often, she would wait for hours in a line only to get to the front and be turned away because there was none left. Our lives became all about fuel until the fumes of it stuck to our hair and drenched the interior of our cars.

When our attention wasn’t on the fuel crisis, it was on our water crisis. Heza, after three years and many attempts, still did not have a working well. Our water supply was critically low. We have tried to solve the water issue at Heza in so many ways that I have lost count of the attempts. On several occasions we declared that, “The well is finally working!” only to discover hours later that the pipes had given way.

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Farmers have to walk or bike their coffee to us after 2017 regulations outlaw collection points overnight.

This season we also faced a constant stream of changing laws. Right before harvest commenced, collection points were outlawed. We could no longer go to the farmers to collect coffee, they had to bring it to us. In past years collection points had been a way to save farmers valuable time and energy and improve our coffee’s quality. This season it became commonplace to meet farmers on the road who were carrying their coffee to us from ten to fifteen kilometers away.

One evening Ben asked a farmer named Jean why he brought us his coffee when his farm was fifteen kilometers away. Ben was especially curious because Jean had passed two other washing stations on his way to us. Jean said that for twenty years the others stations had been taking a portion of his harvest for themselves.

Ben and Jean calculated together that unjust scales and the people behind them had taken six point six pounds of every twenty pounds of his coffee cherries, and they had been doing it for twenty years. Jean pointed to our coffee farms which cover the mountain above our washing station and said, “Your scales are fair and I see that you are also farmers. We are in this together. Twese hamwe.”

Stories like Jean’s kept us going through a season like no other. But that’s just it… every season is like no other. The winds of challenge and change always blow in a choice assortment of new circumstances every year. And that, my friends, is why my heart races when I think of harvest. Next time you hold a cup of coffee, know that you also hold a story and probably a whole lot of struggle.


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Summer Coffee Camp http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/summer-coffee-camp/ Fri, 15 Sep 2017 10:28:36 +0000 http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/?p=6315  





This week our annual Coffee Summer Camp came to an end. Our agronomist, Ephapras, was the visionary behind the camp. When he realized that children were not motivated to learn about coffee, he decided to come up with an innovative way to spark their interest. Back in 2015, he came up with the idea of running a coffee summer camp that could take place during school holidays. Since then, together with the help of our Coffee Scouts, he has been able to motivate hundreds of children to learn about coffee and recognize its value.

The theme for this year’s camp was “Ikawa wacu, kazoza kacu” which means “Our coffee, our future”. One of the major camp activities this year included the Scouts teaching about the Antestia bug and its link to the potato defect. To end off the camp, they took part in a month long Antestia-catching competition. Their response to the competition was incredible and by the end of it they had captured 248 046 bugs!

The camp ended just before the new school year began, so the prizes awarded to our Antestia-fighters included school uniforms, notebooks and stationery sets to encourage them with their future at school. Parents in the community were overjoyed that their children took part in the summer camp, because not only did it keep them occupied during the school holidays but it also empowered them with skills and opportunities. Leaders in the community were also proud that so many children have now taken a new interest in coffee.

We’ve haven’t had 790 children participate in a camp like this before, never mind catch 248 046 bugs. We’re curious to know if this impacts the ecosystem in any way. If anyone has any information on this, we would love to hear about it!

We couldn’t be prouder of all the children who participated in this year’s camp. We are also incredibly grateful to our team who are working extra hard to engage with and empower farmers. If this summer camp has taught us anything, it’s that there is great hope for the future of coffee in Burundi.

Coffee. People. Potential.

Spes: Burundian Coffee Farmer http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/spes-burundian-coffee-farmer/ Fri, 07 Oct 2016 08:22:18 +0000 http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/?p=6297 Burundi, coffee farmer000094320012 000094320013

Life’s best moments often seem to be tucked deep inside the ordinary ho-hum minutes of our days. On Tuesday, the boys and I gave our turtle Popcorn a bath. His name alone makes me smile- one day Ben went out looking for some popcorn (which he couldn’t find anywhere in town) and came back with a turtle. Popcorn’s bath was a simple thing- but to see that turtle’s joy at the vast amount of water before him kind of made my week. That’s strange, I know, but lately I’m realizing it’s all about the little things. Laughing with a friend in the gym, watching an epic rainy season storm roll in, taking a long walk on one of our coffee producing hills, giving myself permission to listen to Christmas music in October… and greeting farmers like Spes.

Spes is one of the first woman coffee farmers I connected with back in 2013 and I love seeing her every coffee season. Greeting her, finding out about how her five children are, talking to her about the future- there is something familial and joyous about seeing the same farmers harvest after harvest. Spes has a small number of trees, only 500, and she’s one of the farmers whose land we have been rejuvinating with new coffee trees.

With new trees comes great responsibility- farmers have to agree to being trained in mulching, fertilizing and pruning practices in order to recieve trees from our nursery. Before the nursery project began our farmers were averageing just 400 grams of coffee cherries per tree and now the average in the hills around our station is 1 kilogram. It’s training alone that has made that difference. We hope, one day, that our farmers will be gleaning 3 kilograms per tree. One day.

Ok, we do get pretty geeky about the coffee trees around here- but seeing transformation is really what this is all about for us.

Follow our #fridayfarmers hashtag on Instagram to see more!

Elizabeth: Burundian Coffee Farmer http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/elizabeth-burundian-coffee-farmer/ http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/elizabeth-burundian-coffee-farmer/#comments Mon, 13 Jun 2016 09:07:37 +0000 http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/?p=6278 burundi coffee, coffee farmer, burundi, specialty coffee, coffee origin, burundi coffee, coffee farmer, burundi, specialty coffee, coffee origin, burundi coffee, coffee farmer, burundi, specialty coffee, coffee origin, burundi coffee, coffee farmer, burundi, specialty coffee, coffee origin,

Have you tasted your coffee before?

“Yes. It’s disgusting. It tastes like medicine!”

What do you hope for your children?

“That someday they will have a life outside of poverty.”

It’s time for a woman’s voice to echo through this portrait series again. Elizabeth is one of the first farmers I remember meeting. She was carrying coffee cherries in a basket on her head into the washing station four years ago- one of our first farmers. She has given us gifts over the years of bananas and beans. It is hard to take Elizabeth’s gifts because we know that she is a widow with six children, but to refuse them would be the antithesis of living in community.

Elizabeth’s life is marked by the loss of her husband. She has had to become the sole provider for her six children since he was killed in the war. Unfortunately, in Burundi widows can loose their land to their husbands’ brother or other male family members after the death of their spouse. Here land is most family’s only lifeline. Thankfully Elizabeth has been able to retain ownership of her land on Gaharo hill and she’s still caring for her family’s 600 coffee trees.

Follow our #fridayfarmers hashtag on Instagram to see more!

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Charles: Burundian Coffee Farmer http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/charles-burundian-coffee-farmer/ http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/charles-burundian-coffee-farmer/#comments Fri, 03 Jun 2016 09:30:30 +0000 http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/?p=6256 Long Miles Coffee Project Long Miles Coffee Project

Development begins by picking up a hoe.

Without working these fields,

we will never move forward.


What has made you the happiest in this life?

Being taught by my father how to farm. It is what has sustained me.

Who is your role model in life?

My grandfather. When he left this earth he passed on something to his children. I hope I am able to do the same.

What do you hope for your children?

I hope that they have a good future in agriculture. None of them have had much education. I believe that development begins by picking up a hoe. Without working these fields, we will never move forward.

Have you ever tasted your coffee?

Yes, it’s delicious and sweet!

Charles has been farming coffee since the 1970’s and has 480 trees. Since our washing station opened four coffee seasons ago, he’s been walking from nearby Gaharo hill to deliver his coffee cherries to us.

Follow our #fridayfarmers hashtag on Instagram to see more!

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Evariste: Burundian Coffee Farmer http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/evariste-burundian-coffee-farmer/ http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/evariste-burundian-coffee-farmer/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 10:00:27 +0000 http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/?p=6240 burundi coffee, coffee farmer, burundi, specialty coffee, coffee origin,burundi coffee, coffee farmer, burundi, specialty coffee, coffee origin,burundi coffee, coffee farmer, burundi, specialty coffee, coffee origin,Have you ever tasted coffee?

“Today was the first time.”

What did you think?

“It is very bitter- but I’m glad you see the value in it!”


During harvest, Evariste walks his coffee cherries 5 kilometers from his home on Musumba hill to our washing station. It’s a long uphill walk to the station. We always huff and puff walking from Musumba to Bukeye- and that’s without 50 pounds of coffee cherries on our backs or our heads!

Until recently, farmers from Musumba hill had to walk across a single felled tree, high above the river, to get to our washing station. This year we were able to replace their single “lane” bridge and partner with the community to build a safe footpath bridge. One day, we’d love to see Musumba with a working bridge for all types of vehicles- but if we’ve learned anything in the last five years it’s that a small start is still a great start.

Evariste has five children and his mantra for them is, “Work hard and learn how to sustain yourself so that you’ll know what to do when I’m not alive.” Like many farmers in Burundi, and maybe like all of us humans, sustainability is at the heart of Evariste’s life.

Follow our #fridayfarmers hashtag on Instagram to see more!

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Ninasi: Burundian Coffee Farmer http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/ninasi-burundian-coffee-farmer/ Fri, 13 May 2016 09:36:44 +0000 http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/?p=6226

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“I tell my children to work hard because it is how we will fight the poverty. My children bring me the most happiness- I have seven of them and they are all farmers too.”

Ninasi’s role model is the person who taught him how to farm. In Burundi, subsistence farming is how most of the population survives. Ninasi has 305 coffee trees and he’s been farming coffee for 15 years. You can taste Ninasi’s coffee in our Musumba hill offerings (Online in the USA at Duluth or Coffee Hound).

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burundi coffee, coffee farmer, burundi, specialty coffee, coffee origin,

burundi coffee, coffee farmer, burundi, specialty coffee, coffee origin,

Follow our #fridayfarmers hashtag on Instagram to see more!

Dorothy: Burundian Coffee Farmer http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/farmer-story-dorothy/ Fri, 06 May 2016 08:33:09 +0000 http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/?p=6202 burundi coffee, long miles coffee, origin coffee, coffee,

Growing Coffee is like raising a child.

You have to wash them, nurture them, and look after them.

We spent part of a Saturday at Dorothy’s house on Gaharo hill. The minute she saw our baby Ari she scooped her up and led our whole family into her home. The dirt floors were cleanly swept and covered in the family’s grass sleeping mats. As her guests, we sat on low wooden stools and she sat on the floor. The only things adorning the cool dirt walls were a picture of Jesus, a plastic rosary, and a small piece of mirror glass. A crowd grew by her open door, entertained as baby Ari grabbed fistfuls of hair belonging to Dorothy’s youngest. We asked her some questions about life and here’s what she said.

Who is your role model in life?

My mom gave me to my grandmother to be raised because she had little means to raise me by herself. My grandmother became the person who taught me about life and the way to live. She taught me everything I know.

What has your biggest challenge in life been?

My biggest challenge in life has been linked to my children. Even after having my first child, I continued to experience pregnancy complications. My third child nearly died. The doctor didn’t think that she would survive the labor, but God intervened and I was able to give birth to a healthy girl.

What will you tell your grandchildren one day about life?

I will teach them about farming. What is most important though is to lead by example. If I pick up a hoe, they’ll follow and also pick up a hoe.

Have you ever tasted your coffee? What did you think?

Yes, when you made it for us. It’s good but it needs sugar.

What is the most difficult part about growing coffee?

It’s not difficult but it takes hard work and diligence. Growing Coffee is like raising a child. You have to wash them, nurture them, and look after them.

Dorothy is 37 and has six children, the youngest pictured with her here. Her family has 54 coffee trees and during harvest she walks the cherries to our Bukeye washing station, just 15 minutes away by foot.

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Ari meeting Dorothea, a farmer from Gaharo hill and our friend.


Back To Burundi http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/back-to-burundi/ http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/back-to-burundi/#comments Thu, 14 Apr 2016 07:16:24 +0000 http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/?p=6174 Two of Anicet's 7 daughters on Mvumvu hill... one of the furthest and most rural hills we work with.

Two of Anicet’s seven daughters on Mvumvu hill… one of the furthest and most rural hills we collect coffee from.

Our Burundi coffee reminds me of lilacs and saddles. Clearly, that’s not an educated flavor or taste profile. I’ve spent the last 16 years of my life in Africa, but these reminders are a nod to my Midwest American roots. I grew up craving everything that had to do with horses. My parents couldn’t afford to buy me a horse but that didn’t stop me from curling up for hours, knees thrown over an arm of our button backed blue velvet living room chairs, reading horse literature. Eventually, we met some lovely horse people and I traded chores for riding time most of my growing up years and even into my 20’s. To me a well-used saddle means warmth, connection, early mornings, pursuits of the heart and solitude- nearly all of my favorite things.

Our baby Ari being carried by Dorothea, a farmer from Gaharo hill and our friend.

Just as I poured over horse literature, my mother poured over flower catalogs. In the middle of February there would be sketches of her summer garden ideas and half completed order slips lying around our house in Minnesota. Complex number and letter combinations written in skinny blanks with blue pen… these always gave me hope. Summer would eventually come, even if it was impossible to believe when standing at six am in the dark at the school bus stop (penguin dancing in an ugly coat to stay warm).


Hope is found in connection. When we connect with others on the journey, it doesn’t seem so scary.

I guess the truth is- to me our coffee tastes like hope and comfort. The hope that summer will eventually come, no matter what February feels like. The comfort that we are pouring ourselves into something that’s worth it, no matter what happens in Burundi. We returned to Burundi as a family in early January. December 11th was a dark day in Burundi. We hadn’t returned yet, choosing to finish out the year in South Africa before coming home, but after December 11th we were reconsidering everything. Friends had bullet holes in their houses. Safety felt too far seperated from everyday reality. From within my ball of fear I found a familiar voice in my head. My friend Janette goes around spouting the line, “There is hope!” like a broken record. Tell her any sad story and she’ll say, “That’s sad but THERE IS HOPE!” Tell her about your worstest darkest awfulest day and, “THERE IS HOPE!” As annoying as this can be, she’s right. There is. There just has to be hope, and it’s there for the choosing. So, on the back of one of Burundi’s darkest days, we began packing.  I don’t call this choice bravery or stupidity (it’s been called both)- I just call it ours. Our choice to be home. Our choice to sink our roots into the soil of Burundi, come what may. Our choice to believe that the One who created the stars has not and will not leave this place or its people.

Harvest, our fourth one, has arrived. Harvest always brings drama with it- the generator breaks, drying tables wash away in a flash flood, the truck bringing in the cooperatives time-sensitive coffee cherries breaks down, there’s a coup d’état. After four years we feel ready for whatever may come (we have an incredible team) and Ben would add “we’re more committed to quality than ever before” but to me that sounds sales pitchy. It’s true, but it’s pitchy. I’d rather you just taste it in the cup- and try to taste the hope and the comfort while you’re at it. Whatever uncertainty you live in. Whatever challenges you are being asked to rise from. Whatever ugly is in this world. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE HOPE and it will find a way to rise.


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Uprooted: Our Burundi Exit http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/burundi-exit-links/ http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/burundi-exit-links/#comments Tue, 09 Jun 2015 10:15:22 +0000 http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com//?p=6130 Burundi coffee, long miles coffee, long miles coffee project, direct trade

Our exit from Burundi was like molasses falling steady from a spoon, sticky and slow. Lifting ourselves from the land was a process full of attempts to stay. After several years of struggling to call Burundi “home,” now I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving the place that had taught me so many of my best life lessons. Oh, the irony.

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The day of Burundi’s coup d’état my kids were at school. I had heard heavy gunfire all morning but after weeks of violent protests, that was nothing new. We had been sending them off to school with the sound of tear gas bombs as their soundtrack. This day was somehow different; suddenly I felt my gut turn and I just knew- the time to get to school was NOW. The women in my family pride themselves on these moments, moments when an “other sense” kicks in with extreme clarity. I think it can also be called common sense but on this day, whatever it was, it served me well.

As we drove home from school, a street to our right was full of protestors heading for a police line. They were chanting and shouting, unleashing themselves in the energy of potential change as police in riot gear steadied themselves for conflict. When we reached the bridge to our neighborhood the police assured me that we could not pass, I assured them that we had to. Panicked motherhood won. What followed was a citywide celebration like nothing I’ve ever witnessed. For the next four hours the city roared with cheers as Major General Godefroid Niyombare rode through town on a tank announcing the end of the current presidency. The following morning there were no cheers, not a sound, besides the heavy artillery of tank fire. Our kids jumped on their trampoline as RPGs sounded off in the background. Eventually, the coup failed.

Burundi coffee, long miles coffee, long miles coffee project, direct trade

“Too many things are occurring for even a big heart to hold.” 
— W.B. Yeats

Clarity had arrived. We wouldn’t be able to make life in Burundi work for awhile as a family. School could not possibly try to re-open after the coup, and even if they did I knew I wouldn’t be sending my kids. Most of the families at the school had already left and the ten-minute drive to school now felt like a country away, too much could happen between the “here” and the “there” for us to justify school. It was becoming evident after weeks of protests and living day to day, we all craved some stability and routine. We left the city to visit our friends at a mission hospital in the country. We attempted to work and live there for a few days, but it was clear that we couldn’t stay there long term either- as much as we all wanted to.

Burundi coffee, long miles coffee, long miles coffee project, direct trade

With dragging feet, we made the decision to leave Burundi for a few months. With coffee harvest still going strong and an entire team of people devoting themselves to producing our amazing Burundi coffee, we felt broken by our own wise choice. Ben would go back to Burundi after the kids and I settled into our previous home city of Durban, South Africa.

We landed with a thud, and since that thud my kids have taught me what true resilience is. They have jumped into new schools and new routines in a new country without any complaints, which is more than their mother can say. So here we stay, rooted but not, until the dust settles in Burundi and our baby girl (did I forget to mention that?) arrives in August.

Burundi coffee, long miles coffee, long miles coffee project, direct trade

Lately we’ve gotten a lot of emails asking where to buy Long Miles Coffee, thank you for the support. This list is not exhaustive at all, and availability is always changing as our coffees are produced in small lots and only seasonally available. Happy hunting!


Olympia Coffee Olympia WA

Herkimer Seattle WA

Dogwood Coffee Minneapolis MN

Fika Grand Marais, MN

Eiland Coffee Dallas, TX


Cartel Roasters Melbourne


Wild Kaffee Germany/Austria

Burundi coffee, long miles coffee, long miles coffee project, direct trade

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