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Please Welcome Esperanza Dionisio Castillo to Our Board of Directors!

Our new board member Esperanza wearing a white t-shirt and standing next to Minnie Mouse.

Photo Caption: Esperanza and Minnie Mouse!

We are extremely honored to announce that Esperanza Dionisio Castillo, Advisor and Human Resources Manager of Pangoa Cooperative in Peru, is joining Dean’s Beans’ Board of Directors! Her role as Benefit Director is to independently observe our Development Program work with our co-op partners, and ensure that it aligns with our Mission. Asking Esperanza to serve on our Board demonstrates how deeply connected and committed we are to the farmers we source from.

Dean and Esperanza’s connection began in 2003 at the Specialty Coffee Association of America conference in Boston. She approached him, as is custom at this massive gathering of coffee professionals, to ask him to try roasting her co-op’s green coffee beans. At that time, Esperanza was the General Manager of Pangoa. Their coffee had been certified Fair Trade and Organic for years, but they had yet to find anyone who would buy it at the Fair Trade premium price, so they resorted to selling it in the infamous conventional market. Dean knew that Esperanza was a role model for women in the industry, and her green beans smelled delicious, so he stepped up to give Pangoa the market it deserved! He convinced a friend at Royal Coffee to go in on half of a container (40,000 lbs) of Pangoa’s coffee. After he visited Esperanza’s gracious community in the high mountains of the Junín region in Peru, the relationship between Pangoa and Dean’s Beans was solidified. By 2005, Pangoa sold nine more containers under Fair Trade contracts with Dean’s help. This success was a long time coming, as Esperanza had been working tirelessly to improve the lives of coffee farmers for decades.

In the 1980s, Esperanza was the first female agronomist to work in the Peruvian coffee sector. She worked with Pangoa through decades of political danger in Peru, and through the co-op’s enormous debt accrued by the previous managers, until she was elected to be the GM in 1997 by an all-male board of directors. In her time as GM, Esperanza helped Pangoa grow exponentially, adopt modern processing methods such as raised drying beds and compost facilities, restore sacred forests of the coffee-producing Ashaninka tribe, and facilitate alternate income endeavors. She even mentored young women from nearby co-ops. From her humble start with Pangoa, Esperanza has evolved into one of the leading voices for the environment and for women’s empowerment in the international coffee industry.

More recently, Esperanza has collaborated with Dean’s Beans to create a women’s loan fund for incoming-generating projects, a reforestation project “Restoring the Sacred,” and to obtain Bird-Friendly certification.

With her expertise and compassion for her community, Esperanza will be instrumental in the future of Dean’s Beans and the global coffee community. We are so honored to welcome her to the team! 

Esperanza was kind enough to make some time for a brief interview - check it out! 

When did you realize you wanted to go into the coffee industry? 

When I joined as manager of the Cooperativa Agraria Cafetalera Pangoa in 1997; the business was selling coffee but we did not have any [Fair Trade] certification seal and the coffee was sold as conventional, at the stock market price, which did not cover the cost of production for the farmer. I began to investigate and understand why the farmer abandoned coffee for another crop; and when the price of coffee rose, the farmer went back to planting coffee and improving his agricultural practices. This coffee began to produce fruit when the market price was low, so the farmer remained poor because he never overcame his economic difficulties.

Another group of coffee growers resisted cultivation when the price was low in the international market, with the hope that at some point the price of coffee would rise. They persisted with the cultivation of coffee, even though there were other crops as a mediate alternative: bananas.

Keeping up with the New York "C" stock market means instability. In the investigation we found that there was a minimum price with the Fair Trade International seal (FLO) and a premium for being an organic product. We worked for these seals and we sold our first container of Organic and Fair Trade coffee in 2003 to Dean’s Beans. He bet on us and he is now our honorable partner. There was a lot of emotion when shipping the first container with the name of Pangoa Coffee. Dean also said during his visit to Pangoa, “many people will come to buy this.”

What has been your favorite or most memorable experience in coffee? 

In June 2006, at the meeting of the New York State Teachers' Union held in Rochester. The NYSTU had been motivated to incorporate the following agreement, “to buy fair trade products from kindergartens to universities,” and had received a greeting from Hilary Clinton, who was haranguing her teachers, that they would be be the first in her educational work. Both Dean, the gentlemen of NYSUT and myself are very excited about this occasion.

What do you hope to accomplish with Dean's Beans? 

To encourage the cooperatives to integrate women's committees into their statutes, and to ensure that the microcredits they receive are drivers of economic ventures within the farm with their families, and that one of the children understands the coffee business.

What do you wish American coffee drinkers knew about coffee that they may not know already? 

Due to climate change, many aromatic coffees that are commonly sold in the foreign market currently have reduced production areas due to the effects of pests and diseases; and the few areas that are left are sold as specialty coffees.

By 2050, the industry pledges to buy “Carbon Neutral” coffee, which will be a very big challenge for coffee producers.

If you could change one thing about the global coffee system, what would you do? 

Right now the coffee trade is based on the stock market, causing many years of cheap coffee and very few years of high-priced coffee. Not all coffee beans are sold as Fair Trade.

When a young man is asked, “why don't you stay on the farm growing coffee?” He replies, “I need economic stability, like any other business.” So I say, if the industry would buy all the coffee covering its production costs continuously, it would be the crop that revolutionizes the rural development of tropical areas of the world.

Lee la entrevista original en español:

¿Cuándo se dio cuenta que quería entrar a la industria del café?

Cuando ingrese como gerente de la Cooperativa Agraria Cafetalera Pangoa, en el año 1997 y el negocio era vender granos de café, no teníamos ningún sello de certificación y se vendía el café como convencional, al precio de la bolsa que no cubría el costo de producción para el agricultor. Empecé a investigar y comprender porque el agricultor abandonado el café por otro cultivo; y cuando subía el precio del café, el agricultor volvía a instalar plantas y mejorar sus prácticas agrícolas, y este café empezaba a producir cuando el precio en el mercado estaba bajo, y entonces el agricultor seguía pobre, porque nunca superaba sus dificultades económicas.

Otro grupo de cultivadores de café resistían con el cultivo cuando el precio estaba bajo en el mercado internacional, y con la esperanza de que algún momento el precio del café iba a subir. Persistían con el cultivo de café, por más que existían otros cultivos como alternativa mediata: plátano.

Estar al compás de la bolsa NY “C”, es inestabilidad. En la investigación encontramos que había un precio mínimo con el sello de comercio justo – FLO y premio por ser producto orgánico. Se trabajó para estos sellos y llegamos a vender nuestro primer contenedor de café orgánico y de comercio justo en el año 2003 a DEAN BEAN; el apostó por nosotros; “es nuestro socio honorable”.

……….. “hubo mucha emoción al embarcar el primer contenedor con el nombre de Pangoa Coffee”….. dijo Dean también en su visita a Pangoa “vendrán muchos a comprar”.

¿Cuál ha sido su experiencia favorita en el mundo del café?

En junio del 2006, en la asamblea del sindicato de profesores del Estado de Nueva York, realizado en Rochester, haber motivado la incorporación del siguiente acuerdo “comprar los productos de fair trade en los kindergártenes hasta las Universidades”; y haber recibido el saludo de Hilary Clinton que estuvo arengando a sus profesores que sean los primeros en sus labores educativas. Tanto Dean, los señores de NYSUT y mi persona nos sentimos muy emocionados por este acontecimiento.

¿Qué espera lograr con Dean Bean en su nuevo papel?

Impulsar en las cooperativas, a que los comités de la mujeres sean insertadas en sus estatutos y que los microcréditos que reciban  sean impulsoras de emprendimientos económicos dentro de la finca con  sus familia y lograr que uno de los  hijos entienda el negocio de la caficultura.

¿Qué quiere que los bebedores de café estadounidense sepan de café, que posiblemente no sepan ya?

Que por el cambio climático muchos cafés aromáticos que eran común vender en el mercado del exterior, hoy han disminuido sus áreas de producción por las afectaciones de plagas y enfermedades; y las pocas áreas que están quedando, se vende como cafés especiales.

Que al 2050, la industria comprará café carbono neutro, siendo un reto muy grande para el productor de café.

Si pudiera cambiar una cosa sobre el sistema mundial de café,  ¿qué haría?

El sistema de comercialización se basa en la bolsa. Muchos años de café barato y poquísimos años de café con precios altos.

No todo el grano de café se vende a comercio justo.

Y cuando al joven, se le pregunta porque no te quedas en el fundo cultivando café, responde necesito estabilidad económica, como cualquier otro negocio; entonces yo digo, si la industria compraría todo el café cubriendo sus costos de producción de forma continuas sería el cultivo que revolucionaria el desarrollo rural del área tropical del mundo.

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1 comment

  • The Women’s Loan Fund is a wonderful initiative, Esperanza. Glad to hear you will have an even greater impact on Dean’s mission. Best wishes.

    Kathy Beitler

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