In Stark Contrast to Starbucks

So, more than a few folks have wanted to know, if not Starbucks, then what? Where do I get my coffee fix? I am sure there are any number of better alternatives to a multination corperation. In general, you will get the best flavor and highest degree of accountibility from local roasters. I get my Joe from two sources, one -Red Wing, is local, the other sells on line, allowing anyone who reads this blog to access thier beans.

"Good people, Great history, Amazing coffee" unlike so many companies, Nossa Family Coffee actually lives up to their slogan, and their values of social and environmental responsibility. From the rich volcanic soils of the Brazilian Highlands, this family bussiness has nurtured a tradition of award-winning quality for nearly a hundrad years, without exploiting the land or the people.

Whether it be through their support of SHIFT, involvement with local charities or national non-profits, Nossa Familia is all about empowering people to make a difference through their actions and choices. These ideals are practiced in different ways in different areas, as appropriate to the local region. On the farms in Brazil, workers are paid a living wage well above the average for the industry. Nossa Familia also provides comfortable housing, schools, health clinic, church, sport facilities, etc. These farms are true agro-villages that should be used as models to deter the migration from rural to urban areas.

Environmentally, they have a commitment to use the least amount of chemicals as possible - they do this by recycling nearly everything. When the husk is removed from the coffee bean, it is seperated and used to generate power for the farm. The remaining husks are used as fertilizer for the coffee plants and the cycle begins all over again. This reflects the core values of the family. They also strive to protect native species and habitat. In addition to setting aside areas to be untouched, they plant on average between 6000 and 8000 native plants per year. We've been growing coffee at this farm for over 100 years and plan on being there for another by being good stewards of the land and responsible employers.

Certification by Utz Kapeh reaffirms these practices. The Utz Kapeh Code of Conduct includes elements such as standards for minimizing and documenting use of agrochemicals, protection of labor rights and access to health care and education for employees and their families. Their regular inspections verify our practices and ensure traceability to the end consumer.

Oh, and their coffee! The first coffee plants were planted at Fazenda Cachoeira (Waterfall Farm) in 1890; now 4 generations later they are preparing for the 109th coffee harvest! On this farm everything is done manually, which includes coffee planting, harvest, drying and roasting. The quality of the coffee produced by Fazenda Cachoeira is the result of dedication and care during all coffee production stages, from the selections of the nursery trees and plantation to harvesting.

The coffee planted here is 100% Arabica, of the yellow bourbon variety. This rare variety is well known for its exceptional body, profound aromas, and non-existent bitterness. One might ask why it is a ‘rare’ varietal if it does indeed have such desirable qualities? The reason is that it is very, very delicate plant, requiring just the right rainfall, plenty of sunlight, and high altitudes. Luckily, Fazenda Cachoeira has it all, at an elevation of 3,600 ft with well-defined seasons that help the yellow bourbon Arabica beans flourish year after year.

The high quality of these beans have landed the farm various awards, and has placed Fazenda Cachoeira among the finalists of the Brazil Cup of Excellence Competition in its 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2004 edition.

Social responsibility and environmental sustainability are at the forefront of the farm's mission. Lindolpho de Carvalho Dias and his son Gabriel Carvalho Dias who now runs the farm, developed a reforestation program planting native species to help maintain a better ecological balance. All the wastewater generated in the farm is treated to avoid polluting the local stream. Socially the goal is to provide excellent conditions for the workers and their families. This is why the farm, with the 47 resident families, functions almost as a self-sufficient community. The farm has a school for kids from Kindergarten to eighth grade, a clubhouse where folks can gather for fun and games, a health clinic, and most importantly—since we are talking about Brazil—a full size soccer field!

The finest beans, grown in the richest soils, buy workers who are respected and well supported, all for $9/ld. I dont own stock in their company, but they have earned my loyalty and my respect. I actually had the opportunity to meet a member of the family, who lives here in Oregon and helps promote their coffee. You think I'm tough on companies in this blog, imagine being cornered and grilled in person. This lovely young man answered all my questions with grace and honesty, and I have been drinking their coffee ever since. Perhaps if Starbucks could learn something from him. But then, they wouldnt be Starbucks.


Cycling is not a Crime

While cruising around the internet I found a rather disterbing (though in no way surprising) artical [originaly posted on BikePortland] about anti-cycling/unfair labor practices at Starbucks (better known in these parts as "Star-sucks")

I suppose that, in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I have way too much experience with the Seattle-based coffee conglomerant to be discribed as unbiased. Although I have never worked for this mega corperation, between my involvment with local unions and the Starbucks employees I have known over the years, I have to say that the following story is not even the most shocking example of unfair labor practices at the company, only the most recent. It is all too easy for me to imagine that a company that berated a father for being with his infant son in the critical care wing of the hospital during a familiy emergancy, rather than filling his shift, would do something exactly like this:

Fabian Mills has the kind of boyish good looks and well kept appearence that flies in the face of the Gen-X stereo-type and sets him appart from the slacker sub-culture. His enthusiasm and work ethic allowed him to progress from being a lowly barista at Starbucks to managing their store on 102nd and Halsey near the Gateway Transit Center. In his 2 1/2 years with the company, he never once had a bad performance review and profits were up at his store after he became manager.

Back in August he rode his bike to a district meeting and got a surprising reaction from his new district manager, Frances Ericson. According to Mills, Erickson "pulled me aside and said she would prefer that I drove to the meeting. She asked me if I even had a car and then said it was inappropriate to ride my bike. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing but she actually said she would prefer if I drove a car and that it was unprofessional to ride a bike to work.”

Four days later Ericson transferred Mills to a store in Troutdale at 257th and Stark. Mills was unhappy with the decision because the transfer would add 16 miles to his daily bike commute. When Mills expressed his disappointment with the move, Ericson said, “you should just get over riding your bike.”

Mills filed a formal complaint with the human resources and business ethics departments at Starbucks, Ericson claimed she moved him because of his poor job performance, despite the fact that all of Mill's performance reviews had been possitive and profits were up at his store. Mills has since moved on to a job at Bank of America.

This is a sad comentary on a company that claims to want to be a positive influence on the communiites it moves into. The City of Portland is actively encouraging businesses to support alternative forms of transpotation, including biking to work. Last month over 6,000 Portlanders from 550 companies, including NIKE and other mega corperations, took part in the BTA’s Bike Commute Challenge. Starbucks did NOT participate.


A Card To Show You Care (about safe streets)

A Yellow Card is used in many sports as a means of cautioning a player regarding their conduct, in the UK, Police may issue a "Yellow Card Warning" to teenagers committing Anti-Social behavior. Now, thanks to Peter Miller, there is a yellow card for maniac motorists. The fact that a couple people sent me links to this site, shortly after I had found the site on my own, struck me as noteworthy enough to warrant a post. I love the calm, compassionate tone of the text, and goodness knows we have all had occasion to want to deliver such a message to a careless driver.

I'm not sure where Miller is located, but do have to admit to my concern that flicking a card, however harmless and eloquent, at an American motorist could result in bodily injury or death. They take their paint jobs and, well, themselves, way too seriously. The card seems like a great idea who's time may or may not have come to this once brave nation.

Miller's site has wonderful images, and info about his myriad art projects and related activity. Well worth a visit.

Related to the Yellow Cards, I am tempted to come up with a card I could flick at the countless cars that arrive on campus with only the driver, with some equally eloquent message and carpool resources. This my be the latest evidence that I have become a crotchety old cyclist. With luck my "Minus Car Project" t-shirt will arrive soon,and that will cover it.

Thanks to tuco for the tip


First Photo of my Miyata & Freeradical

This is fast turning into one of those weeks were things just dont go right, I think I may have to surrender to that. Pretty much everything that could go wrong has, including geek support bailing on me at the 11th hour, meaning that the presentation that I am supposed to be giving tomarrowin one of my classes aint gonna happen, and that is gonna take one hell of a bite out of my grade. And thats just how it is.

One advantage of being a --ahem-- older student is I dont get as bent outta shape about these things they way I used to. I am pissed off, but I also recognize that it is not the end of the world. I also recognize that my really sucky week does not make for good reading. So, instead, I offer this rather silly photo of my Miyata loaded down with --most notably-- an insane amout of strofoam (the kind that comes molded around computers and DVDs for shipping) for an art assigment at school. The bike is flanked by one of the many over-stuffed parking lots at school, filled to the brim with cars that, for the most part, bring single passengers --some of whome doubtless think they need to drive because they need to bring big bulky bags of things, in addition to their textbooks, school supplies, big red umbrella, and so on.


Cycles of Consternation and Celebration

Today was one of those days that tries the souls of cyclists. Saints be praised, the soul of the cyclist prevailed.

It was one of those quirky Autumn in Oregon days in which one is literally blinded by the pelting rain, and yet I was too hot with my rain coat zipped, too cold and wet with it open; the rain jacket was keeping my upper half dry (mostly) but my legs were getting wet -especially as I hurtled through puddles and kicked up the mud. It was not good, people, and I had to get across town and back, with multiple stops along the way, including a groceries run.

I made a stop at the cycle co-op, normally a beacon of bikey wonderfulness that makes me proud to be a cyclist, however they have one employee who makes Nurse Ratchet look like a paragon of warmth and human kindness

To say that she sucks at customer service --well, I mean, she would have to actually participate in customer service before one could say that she sucks at it. She sucks at customer service in the same way that I suck at drag racing. Guess who got sent up to the counter against her will when I walked in? I of course had a somewhat complicated question about a special order I had made, in addition to needing improved weatherization. She was not willing to do what needed to be done, I actually ended up coming back later and dealing with someone else, who was able to help me with my order, make a minor adjustment to my new bike and sell me a pair of rain pants in a fraction of the time it had taken her to do nothing. I am not making this up. So, I had an opportunity to meditate on compassion and forgiveness as well as gratitude (for the guy who eventually did help me)

The one flaw I have discovered in the otherwise brilliant Free Radical is that the slings, which are open at the top and sides, allow the monsoons in. But the problem is easily solved by placing a duffel bag in the sling. This has the added advantage of letting me pack everything I need in the duffel bag in the comfort of my home, then drop the duffel bag in the sling and head out --less time than it takes to pack the trunk of a car. Plus, no car!

I was able to fill the duffel bag with library books and rental movies to be returned, schools stuff, art materials, and even groceries and fresh flowers on the way home. Best of all, and the movies place I found Harold and Maude on DVD ~ HAROLD & MAUDE!

Made my day


Of Minds and Monsoons

I had hoped to get some work done in the garden today, in addition to spending some time working on my bikes; but alas, the monsoons are bombarding us today, so I am getting work done in the house and -oh yeah- trying to work on homework for school.

I had a seminar on Jungian psychology this weekend that was facinating, but also grueling: rather than getting this rich, complicated, esoteric information in bites of 2 or 3 hours a day, 2 or 3 days a week, over the course of some months; we are getting it in mamoth, unmanagable, Super-sized weekend marathons of 8 hours all in one day, come-back-tomorrow-and-do-it-again loads. Jung is all about expansivness (rather than "head shrinking") but my brain is way too full -expanded to the point of poping! I had hoped to get out for a ride and clear my head, but the weather was just a little too daunting for a head-clearing sort of a ride. The weekend after next I get to go back and get another weekend long dose ~eeeekk!

I would love to wax poetic about all the amazing stuff I learned, but at the moment my brain is tripping out my ear in time with the rain.



My new baby arrived Wednesday in the form of a Miyana Country Runner with an Xtracycle Free Radical attached
and I am a woman in love!

I rode my Montana to City Bikes to buy it, and was then able to strap the front wheel of Montana into the Free Radical and ride off into the sunset (I took photos and hope to have them up soon. In the mean time I borrowed the one above from their website)

Friday I was able to pack up all the gear The Boy would need for his weekend with is dad, as well all my school stuff and a change of clothes and head out without feeling like we were carrying anything. We stopped in rout and picked up groceries, and still had room to spare. The new rig has proven to be a real conversation starter, everyone wants to ask about it, ask what all I use it for, etc. So it's been a great way to expand my circle of friends exponentially ~and who knows where that might lead?

Why do I need and extra bike?

*First off, here are things I need to do and carry by bike that require more than my humble bike rack and buckets can offer. Art canvasses, tents and camping gear, bales of straw, poultry feed . . . anything too big or heavy for me to carry in the Free Radical is just too big or heavy for me to carry

*I sometimes need to take the Boy places too far for him to peddal in the stoker, or we need to leave too early in the morning --or late in the evening-- for him to be fit for stoker duty. He cant exactly sleep back there, but I have already had the experience of his little head leaning on my back as we travers the last leg home.

*After a year of daily use, my Montana needs a complete overhaul, including a touch-up to the paint, which will take it out of comission for a couple weeks

*With the Free Radical I can get a bike-mounted blender for bike-powered smoothies and other beverages

So there are so meny practicle reasons, but mostly I am dreaming of the adventures I can have with the Free Radical, and the smoothies and Margarettas I can make when I get there!


Trading Food for Fuel

One of the myriad ways that my upbringing was "un-American" is that I was raised to be very skeptical of simple solutions, as well as the status quo. As this country begins it's slow emergence out of denial, and begins to recognize that we are running out of oil, we seem to be latching on to "quick fixes" and simple answers in a way that is note-worthy even for this young country. One example: biofuel.

I have to admit that I was innitally taken in ~I mean, it sounds so lovely: swap out icky, poluting and unsustainable fosil fuels for stuff so pure, clean and organic that -in it's raw form- you can literally eat it. But, you see, that is in fact one of the primary problems. You can not have your grain and burn it too.

In an increasingly hungery world, cars claimed a substantial portion of the world's grain consumption this year, according to a enlightening and deeply disternbing article from the Earth Policy Institute.

"In agricultural terms, the world appetite for automotive fuel is insatiable. The grain required to fill a 25-gallon SUV gas tank with ethanol will feed one person for a year. The grain it takes to fill the tank every two weeks over a year will feed 26 people."

In some U.S. Corn Belt states, ethanol distilleries are taking over the corn supply. In Iowa, a staggering 55 ethanol plants are operating or have been proposed. According to Iowa State University economist Bob Wisner, if all these plants are built, they would use all the corn grown in Iowa. In South Dakota, a top-ten corn-growing state, ethanol distilleries are already claiming over half of the corn harvest.

We are all familiar with the cycles of supply and demand, as the price of oil climbs, it becomes increasingly profitable to convert farm commodities into automotive fuel, either ethanol or biodiesel. Whenever the food value of a commodity drops below its fuel value, the market will convert it into fuel. We are currently willing to pay 70 a barrel for oil, what does that say about what we soon might be paying for a bushel of corn, and thus an ear of corn for our dinner table.

The U.S. investment in biofuel production is threatening to draw grain away from the production of meat, milk, and eggs. And, most seriously, the vast number of distilleries in operation, under construction, and in the planning stages threatens to reduce grain available for direct human consumption. Simply put, the stage is being set for a head-on collision between the world’s 800 million affluent automobile owners and the world's food consumers. Given the insatiable appetite of cars for fuel, higher grain prices appear inevitable. The only question is when food prices will rise and by how much. Indeed, in recent months, wheat and corn prices have risen by one fifth.

Think about how many grocery item contain corn, grain, milk and eggs, rather rules out the line "let them eat cake. For the 2 billion people in the world who spend over half of their income on food, rising grain prices can quickly become life threatening. The broader risk is that rising food prices could spread hunger and generate political instability in low-income countries that import grain, including Mexico. If ethanol distillery demand for grain continues its explosive growth, driving grain prices to dangerous highs, the U.S. government may find themselves in a whole new "war without end" in the form of an unfolding global conflict over food.

There are alternatives to using food-based fuels, alternative to fuel-based transportation, as well as alternatives to single passenger transportation. While there are no alternatives to food for people.

One immediately available alternative would be to simply raise auto fuel efficiency standards by 20 percent, which would give us the equivalent of the 3 percent gain in automotive fuel supplies from ethanol everal times over—and at a fraction of the cost. Other alternatives include shifting some of the current investment in biofule production to investing in public transport could reduce overall dependence on cars.Similarly, if wind-rich countries such as the United States invest heavily in wind farms to feed cheap electricity into the grid, cars could run primarily on wind energy, and at the gasoline equivalent of less than $1 a gallon.

No matter how one crunches the numbers, the simple fact is that we will need to reduce our energy consumption, which was never sustainable by any standard; and in seeking alternatives, we must keep in mind that the days of simple and cheap answers are behind us. They are in fact what has brought us here.


Now THERES A Radical Notion!

I have been feeling rather the crotchety curmudgeon lately, with far too much to be crabby about. Whenever The Boy gets into these funks I advise him to focus on the positive, rather than the negative, so I took my own advice and went hunting on the Net for some positive to focus on. Thanks to Curt at One Planet One Gear I found a great story here are the highlights:

If everyone who lives within 5 miles of their workplace were to leave the car at home just one day a week and cycle to work, nearly 5 million tons of global warming pollution would be eliminated every year, the equivalent of taking about a million cars off the road.


And the news gets better: People are actually doing it! Cycling for transportation has doubled since 1990, and reports from Interbike tell us that this past year especially has been good for the cycling industry. According to the Washington Journal "A radical idea is sweeping the world of American bicycle manufacturing: building bikes that people will use for actual transportation.

the vary idea!

Cycling for transportation has doubled since 1990, and bicycle manufacturers seem to be responding. After decades of designing for recreation, nearly every major manufacturer has commuter models on offer, rugged bikes made for riding to work. They may look like 1940s through-backs, but materials like aluminum and carbon make the frames lighter, and technological advances mean better brakes, shock-absorbing seats, and smoother shifters. The models usually come with practical accessories, like racks for carrying briefcases, fenders for splash protection on wet roads, and big chain guards to keep legs and clothing away from chain grease.

I am still chuckling at the idea that bikes are radical, but at least I am chuckling, and knowing that commuting by bike -even once a week- can have that big an impact, it a definite incentive: one might even say positive reinforcement


Hard Rain Gonna Fall

The Boy and I had our first ride of the season that included a good solid rain. The rain gear -the perchase of which, only days earlier, had required bribing and conjoiling The Boy who was sure he didnt want it, and my insisting that he would need it- got it's first test and held up well.

This is the time of year that seperates the fair-weathered cyclists from the hard-core utility cyclists. Just 2 weeks ago, at the start of the quarter, every bike rack at school was literaly covered with bikes. I wish I had gotten photos, because they looked like some kind of modern art instalation, with bikes arranged in every concievable way on, over, and around the bike racks, railings and sign posts around campus. Now there is a mere sprinkling of bikes here and there; the bus shelters are clogged with students, and congestion is worse than ever. Car parking and traffic in this area is rediculous and impossible, add to that all the construction going on down town and most sane people dont even attempt to drive to campus.

It has me thinking that all The City (who claims to be hard at work reducing conjestion and encouraging alternative transpertation) would have to do is eliminate parking in the downtown core and the rest would take care of itself. But we all know that aint gonna happen.

Meanwhile, we have discovered that lots of light layers, panniers or buckets to carry the extra layers, and allowing enough time to stop for hot drinks is all we need to brave the winter weather. It's actually surprising how few layers one needs, as you are generating your own heat while riding. I bring a couple of changes of fresh clothes to hang in my locker at the begining of the week, including a dry rain coat and socks in case the ones I have on gets really wet, and carry a few layers for The Boy on the bike (as I know he will not think of it himself) and that seems to cover it. None of this really reqires more thought or effort than packing the car and stocking his backpack would.