Movie on a Mission: A Small Section of the World

By: Amy Spitalnick

Picking coffee beansPhoto: Greenlight Media & Marketing

Co-producer of An Inconvenient Truth Lesley Chilcott says learning that coffee comes from a cherry growing on trees, and that of all the friends and colleagues she polled, only one of them knew this, showed her “how disconnected we’ve become from our food and drink, and how this disconnection has really changed us, and not for the better.” The realization prompted her to produce and direct the documentary film A Small Section of the World, about the Asociacion de Mujeres Organizadas de Biolley (ASOMOBI), a group of women coffee suppliers in Costa Rica. Here, Chilcott—who’s veg!—answers questions about the film.

How much is coffee a part of the culture of Costa Rica?

A huge part. Costa Rica has eight coffee regions, most of them run by small-farm holders. The government distributed free coffee plants and also gave some land to farmers in the 19th century, and it’s always been a driver of development and the economy. Many prominent people today in Costa Rica worked in coffee, or picked it over their summer vacations.

How would you explain the involvement of the younger generation of women, such as Ariana and Samanta, in ASOMOBI?

Both are daughters of founding associates and grew up either at ASOMOBI or next door. Ariana went to college to study administration, and she now runs the office. She could have moved to the city, and yet she wanted to raise her son in Biolley and work at the mill.

Samanta grew up next door; she likes to say ASOMOBI was her backyard.  She used to get up before school and pick coffee, not because she was asked to, but because she loved the whole process. And after playing at ASOMOBI as a kid, she got used to the smell of coffee in her hair. She just graduated from the Costa Rica Institute of Technology and only wanted to work one place, ASOMOBI.

So here you have the original founders, whose goal was to make a better life for their kids and send them to college. And in less than one generation they achieved this, and it’s a real tribute to these women that the daughters have come back and work at the mill.

How are the members of ASOMOBI thinking about the future of the coffee crop in the face of global climate change?

Coffee is already a very risky business due to the threat of disease, frost, drought, too much rain, etc., all made worse by global warming.  Combine this with the fact that coffee takes four years to mature once it’s planted, and you have constantly changing demand and supply. So ASOMOBI is trying to buy coffee from more farmers in the area and increase their output. The coffee season is only four to five months each year, so they also have to think about complementary crops and diversifying by producing other things as well, like honey from the bees that pollinate the coffee trees. Additionally, they offer tours of the area and teach sustainability locally in the schools. But to be clear, all coffee farmers and producers are aware and concerned about the negative impacts of climate change on coffee, especially the overall reduction in available land due to higher temperatures.

A visiting agronomist from the Italian coffee company Illy—which is a producer on the film—makes the point that coffee connects people of different cultures and different countries. How can we make sure that connection isn’t exploitative for the suppliers?

The point made by Luca Turello [the Illy agronomist] that coffee connects is absolutely true. And I can tell you now after hanging out with so many coffee people, they are connected for life! What the women at ASOMOBI were able to accomplish—building a coffee mill on top of a hill and creating a better life for themselves and their community—this quiet revolution is happening in other places and villages as well. Globally, 70 percent of the work in coffee is done by women, and yet only 15 percent own the land, any of the facilities, or the product. Once women get leadership and technical training, things change drastically. As the saying goes, a promotion for a woman is a promotion for the whole family. Women tend to invest 90 percent of their earnings into their family and community. The International Women’s Coffee Alliance, which is featured in the film, has been making incredible progress, opening chapters all over the world. And now they are talking about creating a Women’s Harvest brand, which would be incredible.

Next time you have your cup coffee, ask yourself how many hands it took to make that cup. And how many of those hands were women’s? If we continue to learn more about how our coffee is made and about the people behind it, then we can help guarantee that a fair price is paid to them.

 

 

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    VT VIDEO: Los Angeles Vegan Beer & Food Festival
    By: Carolyn Scott-Hamilton | Comments (0)

    Vegetarian Times teams up with Carolyn Scott-Hamilton (The Healthy Voyager) to cover the 2014 Los Angeles Vegan Beer & Food Festival on the famed Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, California. Check out this year’s line-up of vegan grub, brews, and more! READ MORE

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    Media Watch: Chasing Ice
    By: Amy Spitalnick | Comments (0)

    Glaciers are canaries in the global coal mine, the film says, and we ignore their peril at the expense of our own. James Balog hangs off cliff by Columbia Glacier, Alaska to install time-lapse camera. READ MORE

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    Good News! Stories We Dig From Around the Web
    By: Tami Fertig | Comments (0)

    New research confirms that eating more fruits and veggies reduces the risk of stroke worldwide. According to the American Heart Association, you should be chowing down on at least four to five servings a day. READ MORE

  • photo credit: Farm Sanctuary
    Q & A with Gene Baur of Farm Sanctuary
    By: Lisa Barley | Comments (3)

    As the president and co-founder of the nation’s largest farm animal rescue and protection organization, Gene Baur seizes every opportunity to raise awareness about the effects of factory farming. Marathon running has given him a new outlet for his energy and a unique way to advocate for animals. READ MORE

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    TELL VT: What’s your favorite veg-friendly vacation destination, and why?
    By: vt_editor | Comments (10)

    Share your comments, and see what others have to say. Our favorite responses will be published in the next issue of Vegetarian Times. READ MORE

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    Kitchen Kung-Fu: Prepping Artichokes
    By: Aurelia d'Andrea | Comments (0)

    If they weren’t so darn tasty, artichokes almost wouldn’t be worth the trouble. Prepping, cooking, then the actual eating part—which requires working past spiny leaves and fuzzy inedible bits to get to the prized heart—demands dedication and perseverance. READ MORE

  • Robert Schueller, TK of Melissa's Produce
    Q&A with Robert Schueller of Melissa’s Produce
    By: Mary Margaret Chappell | Comments (0)

    You probably recognize the Melissa’s logo from stickers and labels on fruits and veggies you’ve bought. But unless you’re in the food world, chances are you don’t know Robert Schueller, public relations director at the largest supplier of variety produce in the U.S. READ MORE

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    Good News! Stories We Dig From Around the Web
    By: Tami Fertig | Comments (0)

    After an 18-month campaign spearheaded by animal rights groups, New Zealand bans the testing of recreational “legal high” drugs on animals—concluding that the tests are cruel and unnecessary. READ MORE

  • A scene from FED UP (courtesy of RADIUS-TWC)
    Movie on a Mission: Fed Up
    By: Amy Spitalnick | Comments (2)

    As if being a teen isn’t crazy enough, consider the extra stress of being a teen who’s obese. Stephanie Soechtig, producer and director of the documentary Fed Up, says, “I could see government policy, marketing, and industry-funded science actually playing out in these kids’ lives.” READ MORE

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    4 Veg-Centric Books at the James Beard Awards
    By: Tami Fertig | Comments (0)

    Didn’t catch last night’s 2014 James Beard Awards? No worries. We whipped up a handy-dandy cheat sheet to the veg-tastic books nominated in the Focus on Health and Vegetable Focused and Vegetarian categories. READ MORE

  • Leon Cauliflower Cheese
    Copy Cat in the Kitchen: Leon Cauliflower Cheese
    By: Don Rice | Comments (0)

    VT recently received a copy of Leon: Fast Vegetarian by Jane Baxter and Henry Dimbleby. It’s a beautiful book that puts the vegetables first, which is something I’d like to do at home. My first pick: Cauliflower Cheese. READ MORE

  • cinco de mayo
    Tasty Celebrations: Cinco de Mayo
    By: Aurelia d'Andrea | Comments (0)

    Many a sombrero-sporting reveler has confused Cinco de Mayo with the Mexican Day of Independence (false!). May 5th is also commonly understood to be the one day of the year when it’s OK to drink margaritas before noon and eat one’s weight in guacamole (true!). READ MORE

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    Good News! Stories We Dig From Around the Web
    By: Tami Fertig | Comments (0)

    Bring on the beans, cabbage, kale, and broccoli! Turns out, eating gas-producing foods may help your gut get the nutrients it needs. READ MORE

  • Success_Through_Stillness
    Mindful Eating: Q & A with Russell Simmons
    By: Jolia Sidona Allen | Comments (3)

    How long does it take to change your health and your life? Twenty minutes, twice a day, if you ask legendary hip hop producer Russell Simmons, a vegan, yogi, and meditation practitioner. READ MORE

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    What Do I Do With … Vanilla Beans?
    By: Aurelia d'Andrea | Comments (0)

    A friend came back from a Tahitian vacation bearing some unexpected travel souvenirs: vanilla beans. The spindly, black pods are actually the fruit of the vanilla orchid, which grows in tropical climates around the world. READ MORE

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    Veg Celeb: Q&A with Izabella Miko
    By: Amy Spitalnick | Comments (0)

    As if her plate isn’t already full with an acting career and her nonprofit foundation, Izabella Miko is also seriously into cooking. On the last day of shooting Starving in Suburbia, the new Lifetime movie she co-stars in, she treated cast and crew to homemade vegan treats. READ MORE

  • go veg
    Good News! Stories We Dig From Around the Web
    By: Tami Fertig | Comments (0)

    Here’s round-up of VT editors’ favorite newsworthy links. It’s US VegWeek! Need convincing to take the veg pledge? Read our top 15 reasons to go veg. READ MORE

  • pastrybrushbasters
    High and Low: Pastry Brush Basters
    By: Mary Margaret Chappell | Comments (0)

    When I happened upon the Bodum Bistro Sauce Pot at a department store a couple of years ago, I snatched it up without looking at the price (around $25). At last—a smart, chic brushing and basting solution! READ MORE

  • mature spinach
    Farmers’ Market Find: Mature Spinach
    By: Mary Margaret Chappell | Comments (1)

    I recently heard a farmers’ market grower on the radio refer to spring as the “leafy vegetable season,” citing spinach—not kale, chard, or another trendier green—as one of the best veggies to buy right now. I’m not talking about baby spinach, which is common as grass these days. READ MORE

  • easter eggs
    Tasty Celebrations: Easter
    By: Aurelia d'Andrea | Comments (0)

    Whether painted in pretty pastels, hidden and filled with treats, or transformed into tempting chocolates and wrapped in shiny foil, it’s hard to miss the Easter holiday’s most ubiquitous emblem: the egg. READ MORE

  • Good News! Stories We Dig From Around the Web
    By: Tami Fertig | Comments (0)

    Love NYC’s Cinnamon Snail? The super-popular lunch truck, which we highlighted a few years ago in a roundup of all-veg carts, trucks, and stands, just launched a Kickstarter campaign to build a new food truck—raising more than $28,000 of their $82,000 goal in just four days. READ MORE

  • Say Cheese!
    How to Satisfy a Cheese Craving – Without Dairy
    By: Jenné Claiborne | Comments (5)

    Thinking about going vegan, but not ready to give up cheese? You’re certainly not alone. Many vegans have gone through a period where giving up cheese felt impossible. Pizza is one of my favorite foods, and I never thought I would be able to give it up. READ MORE

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    What We’re Eating Too Much Of: The Better Chip
    By: Lisa Barley | Comments (2)

    I’m a fairly healthy eater, but chips will always be my weakness. Straight-up veggie chips are cool but just don’t satisfy my “junk food” chip cravings. Thankfully, there are some legitimately healthy chip options available these days to pull me away from greasy potato chips. READ MORE

  • Super Seder
    What Do I Do With … Matzo?
    By: Aurelia d'Andrea | Comments (0)

    Matzo (sometimes spelled “matzoh” or “matzah”) is a thin, cracker-like “bread” made simply from flour and water. It’s a key Passover component because it represents the Jews’ hasty retreat from Egypt, which left no time for bread to rise. READ MORE

  • photo credit: Growing Cities
    Movie on a Mission: Growing Cities
    By: Amy Spitalnick | Comments (0)

    Documenting a road trip to scout out urban farms across America, Growing Cities visits rooftops, back yards, and reclaimed abandoned lots under cultivation in major urban centers including Seattle, Atlanta, and Detroit. READ MORE

  • Lucky Beans
    Good News! Stories We Dig from Around the Web
    By: Tami Fertig | Comments (0)

    Bring on the beans! A new study finds that eating one serving a day of beans, peas, chickpeas, or lentils could significantly reduce cholesterol (the “bad” LDL kind). READ MORE

  • Basil Mint and Parsley
    How to Store Fresh Herbs
    By: Aurelia d'Andrea | Comments (2)

    On a recent excursion to the grocery store, I snapped up several beautiful basil bouquets. Stuffing the fragrant green bunches into my recycled shopping bag, I imagined all the wonderful things I’d be making over the next week: pesto, Italian salads, basil lemonade. READ MORE

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    Caring for Quality Cookware
    By: Aurelia d'Andrea | Comments (0)

    For many of us, the biggest evolutionary step we’ll take as home chefs is investing in quality cookware. That might mean springing for a really great non-stick pan, splurging on a top-of-the-line blender, or—as was the case for me—getting spoiled with the gift of an entire Le Creuset set. READ MORE