Creating the Extraordinary Student Experience: Office of Student Life

  • OSU's team outside the El Socorro de la Penita elementary school with a group of students. OSU's team outside the El Socorro de la Penita elementary school with a group of students.

Dining Services Launches Service Learning Collaboration

June 24, 2013

Ohio State students have experienced first-hand the campus coffee’s long journey from farm to cup. While many students only interact with their barista, five students participated in an opportunity from Student Life’s Dining Services to visit coffee growers in Honduras. It allowed them to be immersed in the production process and help create solutions to address the farm community’s infrastructure needs.

The recent trip was a partnership of Ohio State’s Office of Student Life, Columbus coffee roaster Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea, social innovation enterprise AXIOM Coffee Ventures, and students from the university’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Led by Zia Ahmed, Ohio State’s senior director of Student Life’s Dining Services, the students met with small-plot coffee farmers in the Honduran village of El Socorro de la Penita who have been working with Crimson Cup since 2011. “The goal of the service learning trip was to learn about the coffee production lifecycle, grow relationships and understand the socioeconomic issues of the coffee smallholders,” Ahmed said, noting that farmers in this remote mountain community produce coffee served in six locations throughout the university’s campus.

To develop a perspective of the current challenges and vision for the future, the team spent time with community leaders and visited the Honduras Coffee Institute, a private organization that assists locals with production and marketing methods. Participants also visited and actively participated in the teaching process at the local elementary school.

In addition to immersing in these cultural and economic components, Ohio State students spent hands-on time in the field to trace how coffee makes it to campus – from picking the berries off the coffee plants, to assessment of crops for rust (which recently destroyed much of the country’s production), to observation of the milling process. Team student leader Alexa Hirsch, a second year student from Columbus, Ohio, was impressed by the level of cultural exposure and activities packed into the five-day trip, stating, “We witnessed how the coffee supply chain works and actually engaged the smallholders who grow the coffee served on campus.”

Most importantly, the experience and growth didn’t end with the trip; all those involved are working to transform the impoverished village into a thriving coffee enterprise. Crimson Cup Founder and President, Greg Ubert, noted “I was amazed by how much was accomplished by bringing together El Socorro community leaders, Ohio State students and coffee industry experts. Together, we folded the community’s vision into a five year plan engineered to address their specific needs.” Combined with Crimson’s current efforts to boost the population’s K-6 proficiencies, this program aims to create even more possibilities for the Honduran community.

For more informationabout those involved, visit diningservices.osu.edu, crimsoncup.com, or axiomcoffeeventures.com.

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