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Coffee suppliers DJMiles support Somerset school and Dominican Republic Coop

It’s the season of giving and here’s a great example of how one of our customers – coffee suppliers, D J Miles of Porlock in Somerset – has collaborated with a local school to give support to a coffee growing Co-op in the Dominican Republic. Paul Marsh of D J Miles spoke to us about the project.

“It all came about as a result of the teachers at Heathfield’s community school taking a liking to D J Miles’s coffee. One of the teachers approached us to see if we knew of something to stimulate the students and to bring an idea of what the world is about for people from less prosperous societies. We contacted yourselves at D R Wakefield to see if you had any ideas and Simon Wakefield thought that the Movicac Co-op in the Dominican Republic would be a good organisation to support. It supplies great coffee and the island has suffered from earthquake damage along with many of the other problems of a third world former colony. We both thought that the communities that supply green coffee beans to the Movicac Co-op could genuinely benefit from a collaboration with two UK coffee suppliers – the people are very poor and had suffered the effects of numerous earthquakes – we felt we could really help.”

Neither of the companies wanted to be benefactors – “we both wanted it to be a long term, sustainable project that would benefit the communities rather than just a short term charitable donation. In other words, a self sustaining business whereby funds earned from the sale of coffee by the students could be re-invested to continue generating new business for the school project and the Co-op. Students run the business in its entirety from marketing, packaging and price to ordering and finances. The kids work on it in school and their private time to generate money…any surplus profit is sent back to the community and in particular to the Co-op school.”

The project generates significant academic benefits for the Heathfields school in that there’s a huge crossover in the type of subjects that it embraces: Geography, Art, English and Spanish, Design & Technology, Food Technology and Business Studies. 

“What’s so good is that students used to think that lessons were sometimes boring but now this project gives relevance and meaning to everything that they are learning.”

D R Wakefield supplies the coffee, D J Miles roasts the green coffee beans but the pupils do all the packaging design, marketing and distribution.

Paul Marsh explains further: “They set up a marketing group and have identified parents as a captive market. They use school events where they come together to have a stand and sell. Because it’s good coffee the project is now getting repeat sales and it’s working. Nobody is doing it for huge amounts financially but D J Miles is making a little money on it, as is DRW – that’s what makes it sustainable. And for me working as a local employer – it’s special to be able to work with people locally in your community.”

The project has now expanded to include the Dragon School (7 – 11 yr olds) in Oxford. They joined forces after a presentation done by Heathfield’s. It’s a different age group and a different approach. We’ll post a blog about their coffee project in 2013.

Like us, Paul Marsh is pleased it seems to be working: “We’re aiming to get a surplus to go back to a local Co-op community school to say thank you for growing great coffee – we want to help them to develop their community with what’s important – pens, books and things they need to improve education in the community. The kids have become pen pals. What I love it that is makes it so real for the students… they really understand how fortunate they are. It’s not about money, it’s about education, and community and fostering relationships between the students to better understand how people live on the other side of the world.”

About DJ Miles

We are tea and coffee suppliers based in West Somerset. Split between two sites we taste, buy, blend and pack our own brand of tea, 'Miles Tea', in Minehead. Our coffee is roasted, ground and packed in Porlock. Plus, we've got a factory shop at The Vale Yard in Porlock. We are a family run business with a passion for quality and service.

Is there any more picturesque a location for a coffee supplier and roaster? We doubt it.

Porlock is in the Exmoor National Park, home to the hill and also Miles Coffee. We managed to squeeze state of the art coffee roasting equipment into what was a stable block and create something quite unique. We have a wide range of coffees from around the world, all roasted, ground (or left in whole green coffee bean form), and packed in Porlock.

About Heathfields Community School

Heathfields is set in an attractive ‘green site’ on the edge of Taunton. Students come to the school from both the rural area and Taunton itself. It thus enjoys the dual benefits of a very pleasant learning environment and easy access to the town. In recent years, the school site has undergone considerable expansion to provide well-equipped facilities for our students and for the several hundred people who regularly use the site after school hours. These developments have included the Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre, a floodlit all-weather pitch, three new networked ICT suites and the post-16 SPACE Performing Arts Centre, as well as 20 new specialist classrooms. A specialist Autism Centre, incorporating a new school library, has recently been opened.

About the Movicac Co-op in the Dominican Republic

Movicac is the 3rd biggest exporter in the country and produces around 10,000 qq of green coffee beans (26 tonnes) in a year. 30 % of the coffee is exported (around 8 containers). 575 small and medium producers are members of the Co-operative which covers an area of 4,000 hectares of coffee fields in 4 Provinces: Barahona, Sierra Central (Cibao and Cibao Altura), Valdesia (Azua,Ocoa,Bani) and Neyba. In 2011, with new members having joined the cooperative, they produced 17 000 qq. – a contribution of 60% of the members giving 100% of their coffee to Movicac. The director is elected by the board every two years.

If you’re one of our customers and would like to have a coffee story featured on our blog – please do let us know – we would love to speak to you!