Shirin Demirdag -Big dreams and green beans
I am sometimes met with hesitation when I tell people what it is I want to do. I have not been in the coffee industry very long and there is a lot left to experience and learn. I work hard, but self-doubt and imposter syndrome often linger and become equal parts hinderance and motivation to try even harder.
I want to produce coffee.
Spending every spare waking moment researching coffee production in front of a computer screen only gets you so far. On a recent trip to visit my family in the Philippines I was fortunate enough to expand my pursuit of knowledge to include the exploration of some of the coffee plantations in the region known as Bukidnon, Mindanao. Living up to its name (‘bukid’ literally means mountain), generously littered with steep green, lush, volcanic mountains, the region revealed itself as a home for many landowners and coffee producers looking to take advantage of its high elevation, its fertile soil and year-round rainfall.
But, Philippines? You would be forgiven for thinking of the country as anything other than a coffee producing country. In the late 1800s the Philippines was one most prolific coffee producers in the world, exporting their coffee internationally after waves of coffee-rust destroyed crops in Brazil, Africa and Indonesia. Their success however, was short-lived. Coffee rust eventually made its way to the Philippines too, and in 1889 it forced farmers to abandon their crops in favour other viable options. A lot has changed since. There is recent interest in reviving the coffee industry in the Philippines, with the intention of utilizing education and agriculture to better the circumstances of farmers and remote communities nationwide. I care about my family, and their communities, and purely because of the fortune of the birthright lottery, I was born in Australia with the means to contribute something to the people and place where I feel most at home.
Pursuing coffee is not just a hobby for me, it is a long term investment and the potential means through which the lives of entire communities might be bettered. To brandish the learning curve involved as gargantuan would be to grossly understate the work ahead. But I have big dreams, the privilege and optimism to pursue them (!), and an opportunity to combine all of my passions and drive in one place. I am THRILLED to be part of the coffee community.