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156. General reflections on Symposium

2011-05-03 Comments Off on 156. General reflections on Symposium

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I participated this year for the first time in the SCAA’s annual Symposium.  I realized what a coffee geek I am when I felt mildly star-struck by my contact with such luminaries as James Hoffman, Peter Giuliano, Geoff Watts, Aida Batlle, and others similarly positioned in the industry’s stratosphere.  While I was sure I was going to encounter the big fish at Symposium, I was less sure that I would find the content engaging as someone who makes a living working closely with the little fish.  The agenda provided plenty of pleasant surprises, and plenty of material relevant for folks like me working at origin with smallholder farmers.

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I would say that the event’s agenda was fearless in addressing some pretty daunting systemic challenges in the industry — climate change and market volatility, for example — and other challenges at source that haven’t historically been considered industry issues, such as chronic seasonal hunger at origin in Mesoamerica.  The content of these presentations was very high-caliber and the conversations they provoked were thoughtful.  I think the approach the organizers took — lots of perspectives on difficult issues — is precisely the one the industry should take on the rare occasions it is able to assemble so many of its thought-leaders.  I will plan to participate next year whether I am on the agenda or not, and look forward to seeing how the sustainability discussions joined last week are evolving and what new-and-improved actions are being taken on the ground in coffee communities.