Blue Mountain Coffee is ultra rich… Blue Mountain people are not.

“Jamaica is home to the most exciting, exotic, exhilarating and aromatic coffee in the world,” reads the advertisement for Blue Mountain Coffee. Grown at an elevation of 7402 feet, in the highest point of Jamaica, Blue Mountain coffee sells for between $35 to $90 a pound, yet because Jamaica has no Fair Trade association, the farmers and pickers who produce the coffee earn only about $10/day.

Blue Mountain Coffee - the good stuff.

In 1994, Denise Cagley-Jefferson went to Hagley Gap, where Blue Mountain coffee is grown, as part of a service learning program in college. She promptly fell in love with the 3,000 people living in 5 rural towns that make up the district, and she was profoundly moved by their struggle to live in a place with no running water, severely limited access to employment and health care, and a school with one stapler – but no staples.

When she left, she did not forget but instead, working with another AmeriCorps volunteer Sarah Weaver, started Blue Mountain Project in 2004 to empower and educate the people of Hagley Gap.

Denise Cagley-Jefferson & friend.

This small, young nonprofit is a dynamo. In five years, its list of accomplishments are impressive: 2 health clinics staffed by medical students from the U.S. and offering health, dental and eye care to area residents; a registered farmers’ cooperative to increase jobs and wages; a summer Fun Camp for kids, and after-school programs for all-age learners;  and a scholarship program to send the best students to college.

A volunteer & contented resident.

Blue Mountain Project attracts volunteers in service learning from Northwestern University, med students from U. of Michigan, Engineers Without Borders from Seattle, BlueLab designers at U. of Michigan and Students in Free Enterprise from Ripon College- as well as long-term Ambassadors who work for a year at BMP.

The women's group crocheting project.. neat!

But most importantly, Blue Mountain Project works in full partnership with the people of Hagley Gap, to be sure it is doing the projects that the community wants. “This requires us to put aside what we think should be done, from our western perspective, and respect that the people of the community know what they need,” says Executive Director Cathy Skoula. The Community Development Committee of Hagley Gap determines the needs of different groups– women, farmers, education — then works with BMP to create a list of top priorities (water is #1).

Blue Mountain love

Because the web of poverty is so tightly interwoven – with water affecting health.. affecting productivity.. affecting the economy.. affecting education — and because Hagley Gap is so small, Blue Mountain Project is able to work holistically on all fronts, with the sull support of the community. It’s like a little incubator for affecting sustainable, lasting change. I can’t wait to watch that happen!

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6 thoughts on “Blue Mountain Coffee is ultra rich… Blue Mountain people are not.

  1. I was doing research on blue mountain coffee and came across this site. Im very touched by what you have accomplished for this community. There is nothing better than people having aducation and the power to make their own decisions. Thank you so much.

  2. Pingback: Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee – Espresso Grind

  3. Pingback: Jablum Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee, Roasted Whole Bean, 16 oz bag

  4. In my former life, I must have been a Jamaican. I have a true affinity for the island and this article hits home… having traveled to the Blue Mountains often, I even have framed pictures of the school children from the surrounding parishes in my home. Their smiles heal just about any ailment.

    From what I learned over the years, Japan is the biggest importer of Blue Mountain coffee… which creates a demand. However, Japan is part of fair trade, so you’ve inspired to inquire more about this.

    I love that land. I’ve hiked all over that lush mysterious mountain. My heart resides there in many ways.

    Thank you for this article.

  5. Another inspiring group of people! Thank you Betty. Love the quote, “This requires us to put aside what we think should be done, from our western perspective, and respect that the people of the community know what they need,”

    Why doesn’t Jamaica have a Fair Trade association? and What is Mt Dew syndrome?

  6. Isn’t it CRAZY!!!! there are all kinds of silly things going on there… including the Mt. Dew syndrome….
    I am so glad you wrote this.. and how beautifully written it is!!!

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