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Standing Stone Coffee Company Reflections


What a Goodnight!

Posted on Monday, January 23rd, 2012 by John


This past Saturday morning I feared I might not make it to work. The snow kept coming down, which kept the coffee shop quiet for the afternoon. So when I returned later that evening to see JD Eicher and the Goodnights, I was shocked to see the place packed.

JD Eicher and the Goodnights

JD Eicher and the Goodnights with a full house.

“What a good night!” fellow barista Lisa Hershey exclaimed to me. “They are the Goodnights.”

Yes, the four-man crew out of Pittsburgh made it through the storm, along with many guests, to fill the cold night with warmth.

An energetic set on a cold night.

An energetic set on a cold night.

The show was a lively one, and we were happy to share all the energy and goodwill that the Goodnights brought to Huntingdon—it flowed from both their music and lyrics.

One minute JD would be strumming a blues riff on his electric guitar and then follow it up with a acoustic rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” One minute the band would rock out a heavy mix of guitar and drums and then bust out into the Beatle’s “Penny Lane,” a cover that fit them well.

Jazzy piano solos, orchestral cymbal crescendos—I tried to pin down the musical style, but the speed at which they changed styles matched their quick tempo.

But one thing strung a thread throughout their songs—JD’s lyrics. He wrote one song, entitled ”Mr. Misery,” about a grumpy friend of his that was a good guy but got on his nerves for being “a negative one,” as JD put it. If his friend is Mr. Misery, then JD is Mr. Optimism. His lyrics were full of hope and peace, telling listeners “love is gonna find you,” and “I’ll be your calm.”

In short, he asked us to view our coffee mugs as half-full.

The crowd indulging the band's quirky antics.

The crowd indulging the band's quirky antics.

Not to mention that the band involved the guests with a few original activities, such as taking a picture of the crowd to later post online and raffling off a cd to all that signed up for their mailing list.

 

 

 

JD Eicher and the Goodnights kicked off Standing Stone’s spring music series. Catch all of the upcoming shows by checking out our calendar.

And if you’d like to know more about JD Eicher and the Goodnights, visit their website: jdeicherandthegoodnights.com

Dropping Temperatures and Rising Costs: The Challenge of Heating Homes

Posted on Monday, January 16th, 2012 by Lisa


Sobering statistics: At the end of 2011, the Center for Community Action spent $2000 more than 2010, but was able to assist fewer families.

After being spoiled with an exceptionally warm December, the reality of winter weather is finally upon us.  The dropping temperatures was a common conversation point today at Standing Stone Coffee Co. as guests gratefully clutched their lattes, teas, and hot chocolates, enjoying the respite of warmth before braving the 16° morning.

With the freezing thermometers comes Standing Stone Coffee Company’s second annual fundraising event for the Fuel Assistance Program through the Center for Community Action.  As we move into the second year of our Community Development Program, we have the advantage of a developing record.  However, this month reflects a sobering trend.  At the end of 2010, the Center for Community Action reported spending $13,800 to assist 49 families with heating fuel.  At the end of this year, 2011, the Center for Community Action spent $2000 more, but was able to assist fewer families ($15,700 for 47 families).

The program primarily depends on individual gifts.  Last year, 87% of the Fuel Assistance came from personal donations, either directly or through the Forum of Churches.  Consider making a donation to this vital program and help ensure your neighbors are warm and safe this winter!

Donation information

+ Checks payable to: Center for Community Action

+ Designation: Fuel Assistance

+ Send your donation to Center for Community Action, 207 Fifth St. Huntingdon, PA 16652

+ Come to Standing Stone Coffee Company on Monday, January 23rd for our Fuel Assistance Benefit Day.  15% of our total sales on that day will go directly to the Fuel Assistance Program!

 Through January, SSCC Community Development is highlighting the Fuel Assistance Program through the Center for Community Action.  If you are interested in learning more about the community development program, please contact Lisa Hershey, Coordinator of Community Development, at hershey.lisa@gmail.com.

Crafting Our Staff’s Creative Side

Posted on Monday, December 19th, 2011 by John


Recently, we celebrated the advent season at Standing Stone with two Christmas parties, one publicized, one not. The Christmas party we hosted at the shop Saturday the 10th featured Dreams & Bones–a local band. We hoped to give a little back and celebrate as a community this charming and spiritual time of year.

Dreams & Bones

Dreams & Bones performing at the Christmas party

The following day we closed a little early for our annual staff Christmas party. The entire staff gathering together is rare and so always welcome. It gives everyone a chance to catch up in a relaxed and fun environment.

Staff members Candice, Ally, and Lisa

Staff members Candice, Ally, and Lisa

For this particular evening, it also gave us a chance to work our creative muscles; our Christmas party always includes an open mic. We have already shared on our facebook page some songs from our Bottle Choir, but here is another coffee-related song, written and performed by Lisa Hershey to the song “Hey Soul Sister,” by Train.

 

Seasonal Select: Fair Trade Peru

Posted on Monday, December 12th, 2011 by Kim


Standing Stone Coffee’s Seasonal Select has been green graded, sample roasted, finalized and is ready for brewing!  This time around Greg and I have chosen a fair trade organic (FTO) Peru.  A light-to-medium roast, this coffee will be great for a winter day.  Quite complex, it offers aromatics of hazelnut and vanilla.  With a light fruit and raisin taste, it is finished with smooth buttery chocolate and a peppered bite.

It is true that often times our coffees here at SSCC come from cooperatives. These co-ops are made up of small, independent farms/farmers, owning 10-12 acres of land that work together to sell their coffee to a larger market.  Cenfrocafe is one of the strongest, most capable co-ops in Peru.  They are known for having excellent farmers and cuppers, not to mention their ability to select and build excellent lots of coffee.

These particular beans come from the Cajamarca region, growing on trees between the altitudes of 1200-1600 meters.  They are fully washed, pulped and sun dried.  Although fully washed beans usually only carry a small number of characteristics, this is unique holding several aromatics and flavors.

Be sure to stop in to try this limited time only coffee.  If the baristas have not chosen to have Peru as an option for drip brew, ask to have it served as an aeropress or pour over.

Student Loan Payments: A Monthly Opportunity for Thankfulness

Posted on Monday, December 12th, 2011 by Lisa


"Microloan recipients can take pride in knowing that their own hard work has made the difference between poverty and provision." From HOPE International

As Thanksgiving gives way to Christmas trees, poinsettias, Santa hats and holiday music, I am challenged to carry a heart of gratefulness through this season and into the New Year.  The feasting and merriment of the holidays quickly bring to mind the blessings of family, food and shelter.  I am also thankful for a bachelor’s degree, a full tank of oil for heating my home and a dependable Honda Civic.  Thus, I must breathe a prayer of thanksgiving for my student loans, my savings account and my monthly car payment as well.

Monthly loan payments rarely evoke positive emotions, yet if not for loans, credit ratings and secure banks most of us would have no resources to attend college, purchase a vehicle, save for vacation, start a business or invest in a home.  We frequently take these opportunities for granted and even lament high interest rates.  However, in many parts of the world, individuals’ only loan option is with a weekly interest rate of 20 percent. If they choose to save, people in developing countries are forced to pay for the privilege.  The lack of opportunities to save, receive loans and build credit leaves many people in a perpetual cycle of poverty.

HOPE International visits SSCC on the 15% Benefit Day on December 12th

One organization that has seen and responded to this global need is HOPE International, a Christian faith-based, nonprofit.  Through microenterprise development, HOPE International provides secure and accessible financial opportunities for the world’s poor.  Microloans of $100-$2000 empower men, women and families to start sustainable businesses that provide steady income, create local employment and boost the nation’s economy.

Standing Stone Coffee Company is currently raising funds to provide two microloans for entrepreneurs in Peru through HOPE International.  If you are interested in donating to the cause beyond the 15% Benefit Day on December 12th, please contact Greg Anderson at (814)643-4545 or stop by the shop!

Through December, SSCC Community Development is highlighting microenterprise and the work of HOPE International.  If you are interested in learning more about this issue, how you can get involved or the community development program, please contact Lisa Hershey, Coordinator of Community Development, at hershey.lisa@gmail.com.

Culture Making with Coffee – Part 4

Posted on Tuesday, December 6th, 2011 by Greg


Picking coffee cherries in Nicaragua

Picking coffee cherries in Nicaragua

In this 4 part series I’ve been asking the question “what does it mean to be truly human?”  In other words what are the things that make us tick, that make us thrive, that make our culture we live in?  I’m using coffee as a tool to aid in our conversation.  In Part 1 and 2 I talked

about Creativity, Stewardship of Resources and Community as a fundamentally human characteristic.  I also began talking about what happens when we don’t thrive as humans, which continued in Part 3.  And now we finish the series with both hope and action . . .

There is a concept of Social Entrepreneurship that has been increasing in popularity throughout the 90’s and 00’s where maybe the drive in the business sector simply to make a high profit and minimize loss may not be the best or most sustainable model for all involved, the environment included.  But what does it mean to ensure a balance of caring for our guests in the coffee shop that they get quality and a price they can afford.  Caring for the employees to earn sustainable wages and feel valued that the work they do has meaning.  And care for our vendors to ensure they earn what they need and deserve, but not in excess.  And care for the environment with hopes that generations to follow won’t have to deal with our mess, but rather work even more toward flourishing.  And care for our neighbors who may never step foot into our shop for one reason or another, but simply because they are a valuable part of our community.

Lisa hanging out with a couple new friends in Nicaragua

Lisa hanging out with a couple new friends in Nicaragua

Yeah, OK, it sounds a little utopic.  But I believe that’s what I’m called to do because of my faith and what I’ve seen in the world.  And

you know what, that coffee culture of Creativity, Stewardship and Community isn’t unique to us.  One of the exciting things Jessie and I found as we began interacting in our larger industry was that many are working toward these same values along side of us in their communities.

 

Ripe coffee cherries ready for picking

Ripe coffee cherries ready for picking

One final story.  When we were at the coffee estate in Nicaragua that we work with the owner, Mausi, was telling us about how one of her buyers came and said they noticed some particular tangy citrus hints showing up in their coffee that year and they really liked it.  Mausi looked at her records and saw that they had received their coffee from one particular lot on the estate.  As they

Bags of Nicaraguan coffee ready to roast at SSCC

Bags of Nicaraguan coffee ready to roast at SSCC

reflected on what they did with this certain lot they remembered that there was a canopy of lemon trees over the coffee trees.  That year on that lot they let the

lemons stay on the ground and decompose to add nitrates to the soil.  That lemon

flavor showed up in the coffee the next year.

Jess and I came home with that story and told the staff about it.  At our next all staff meeting we ran our Nicaragua through 4 different brewing methods. As we tasted each one, different featured notes were highlighted depending on the brew method.  In one of them we found the lemon, in another less lemon and more chocolate, in another a deep earthy taste with a lemon finish, and so on.  And by now some of the staff, and even some of our guests have traveled with us to Nicaragua to experience it first hand, meet the workers, pick coffee, learn about the process, and widen their community.  That, I would say is creativity, stewardship and community, ie. coffee culture at its finest.

Empty cups and the resulting saddness

Empty cups and the sadness to follow

 

A Celebration of Community Transformation

Posted on Friday, December 2nd, 2011 by Lisa


We at Standing Stone Coffee Company extend our deepest thanks to Laura White and Henry Thurston-Griswold, recipients of Standing Stone Coffee Company’s Community Development Award, for their investment in the Huntingdon community, the ingenuity they bring to community projects and their commitment to holistic and long-lasting transformation.

Here are the stories of their contributions to Huntingdon and those who call it home.

Multi-dimensional Sustainability: The Huntingdon Farmers’ Market Bucks Program seeks a holistic response to our need for food

In the spring of 2010, a collective of organizations and individuals launched an initiative called Huntingdon Farmers’ Market Bucks. The goals of the project are:

  • To encourage us all to eat more fresh, nutritious, locally-grown food
  •  To increase access to market produce for folks who otherwise could not afford it
  • To support and strengthen the market, its farmers and our local food system
  • To boost our local economy, by keeping a larger share of the money we spend on food circulating close to home
Laura White receives the Standing Stone Coffee Company Community Development Award for initiating and coordinating the Market Bucks Program at the Huntingdon Farmers’ Market

The highlight of the initiative to date was the implementation of an EBT machine this past season.  Funded by a USDA grant, this machine allows persons who receive government food assistance to use their EBT cards at the farmers’ market.  Customers can now pay with credit and debit cards as well.  The USDA grant also provided funding for the Center for Community Action to contract Pat Shope to workon the EBT project, particularly in marketing and promoting.

Many folks have invested time, energy, ideas and resources in this project.  One such individual worthy of recognition is Laura White.  Committed to this initiative from its infancy, Laura has spearheaded and coordinated various aspects of this project and continues to volunteer her time for its ongoing development.

Laura was initially attracted to this project because of its emphasis on sustainability.  Laura’s pursuit of sustainable systems has a long history.  As a student of conservation biology and later working with endangered aquatic species, she was increasingly disheartened by how our society’s systems negatively impact environmental habitats.  While Laura’s background is environmental, her commitment to sustainability is robust and holistic, taking all systems into consideration.  The evidence of this is reflected in her work on the Market Bucks Program and its goals which seek economic, social and environmental sustainability for the Huntingdon community.

Thank you, Laura, for your vision of a community that cares for and knows their neighbor and stewards the environment!

If you are interested in connecting to this project, contact Laura White at laura.jamie@gmail.com.  Learn more about the Huntingdon Farmers’ Market at www.facebook.com/pages/Huntingdon-Farmers-Market

 

An International Connection: An inspiring partnership between two unlikely communities

Huntingdon is a small, Pennsylvania town, nestled in the Allegheny Mountains, undisturbed by major highways or airports.  The occasional train whistle is one of the few reminders of what exists beyond the Juniata River.  Home to 7,000 English-speaking Americans one might wonder what this town could have in common with a large Guatemalan city, 2000 miles away.

Thanks to Henry Thurston-Griswold, the small town of Huntingdon and the bustling city of Xelas, Guatemala have a distinct commonality—a group of folks invested in the education and lives of 300 Guatemalan children who attend Miguel Angel Asturias Academy.

Henry Thurston-Griswold receives the Standing Stone Coffee Company Community Development Award for building and fostering a relationship between the Huntingdon community and Colegio Miguel Angel Asturias in Xela, Guatemala

Since 1990, when he and his wife Joanne visited the country for the first time, Henry dreamed of connecting with Guatemala through a long lasting and mutually beneficial partnership.  Henry’s dream was realized in January 1999 through a partnership between Stone Church of the Brethren and Miguel Angel Asturias Academy in Xelas, Guatemala.  Through this partnership, Henry and Stone Church of the Brethren have coordinated service trips to Xelas, raised $60,000 for a new school and established the Scott Grugran Memorial Guatemala Scholarship for student tuition.

However, the work being done in and for Asturias Academy is only half the story.  The impact this partnership has on Huntingdon is equally significant.  Approximately 100 members of the Huntingdon and Juniata community have traveled to Xelas, Guatemala and returned with a new understanding of our world, cultures and shared humanity.  Children in our community who are adopted from Guatemala have had (or will have) the opportunity to connect with their heritage through this relationship.  Those committed to this partnership are inspired on a regular basis as they witness their Guatemalan friends doing much work with little resources because of their tenacious commitment to quality education for their Guatemalan neighbors.

The rich development of both Xelas and Huntingdon run deep through this unique and robust partnership.  Thank you, Henry Thurston-Griswold, for your vision of a community that is aware of global issues and participates in the global community!

If you are interested in connecting to this partnership, contact Henry Thurston-Griswold at thurston@juniata.edu.  Learn more about the partnership and school at http://jcsites.juniata.edu/faculty/thurston/ and www.asturiasacademy.org.

 

For more information about community awards provided by SSCC, check out SSCC’s Community Development Program, or contact Lisa Hershey, Coordinator of Community Development, at hershey.lisa@gmail.com.

 

The Art of Fair Trade

Posted on Monday, November 21st, 2011 by John


This holiday season Standing Stone will be providing a variety of SERRV International crafts. The nonprofit fair trade organization shares our commitments to equal wages and community development. We welcome the beautiful craftsmanship of our fellow laborers abroad and hope that our guests take time to admire the work.

Tree of Life

Tree of Life

In the organization’s own words, SERRV, “Is not an acronym. It is a word on its own, with a twist on the idea of service. SERRV is an act of enrichment. What we do is a way of making the world a better place for all of us.”

They go on to state on their webstie that, “For more than 60 years, SERRV has worked to eradicate poverty through our direct connections with low-income artisans and farmers. We market their crafts and foods, find joint solutions to their challenges, and help them grow and embrace the future. One of the first alternative trade organizations in the world, SERRV is a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization (formerly IFAT) and a founding member of the Fair Trade Federation (FTF).”

A rainbow of scarves

A rainbow of scarves

This mission, of providing a venue for others across the world to make a fair living, is something we take seriously at the coffee shop. And for SERRV to do so while also providing high-quality crafts that can be hard to find in our mass-produced Western society is an added bonus.

This next piece, a beautiful woven undersea collage, displays an interesting scene, but each part demonstrates the high level of skill in the needlework. The lines of motion of the fish and other undersea critters crisscross, lending a real sense of action. And the colors picked create a simple theme.

And just think, someone has cared for this piece of fabric every stitch of the way, up… down, plotting the positions of each seaweed branch, up… down, choosing the next brilliant color, up… down, tying the not to end a row.

That care, that humanity in every product, makes this artwork meaningful and connects us (in a small way, maybe a first step) to other communities abroad.

Stop by and take a closer look.

Fish!

Fish!

 

Culture Making with Coffee – Part 3

Posted on Friday, October 28th, 2011 by Greg


In this 4 part series I’m asking the question “what does it mean to be truly human?”  In other words what are the things that make us tick, that make us thrive, that make our culture we live in?  I’m using coffee as a tool to aid in our conversation.  In Part 1 and 2 I talked about Creativity, Stewardship of Resources and Community as a fundamentally human characteristic.  I also began talking about what happens when we don’t thrive as humans.  That’s where we pick up in Part 3 . . .

Land Slashed and Burned for Raising Coffee

Land Slashed and Burned for Raising Coffee

Abuse of Resources

The economics of speed and efficiency has also affected our use of resources.  Part of our human tendency is to view life only with a short-term, even immediate needs perspective.  We need cheaper fuel now?  Let’s dig here without taking time to look at long-term impact scenarios.  This happens in every area of business.  Coffee included.  One of the most popular techniques for raising coffee trees in the last 50 years has been to clear cut forests.  It makes it easier to access.  Other plants won’t take the natural resources that the coffee trees could use.  And it actually produces a higher yielding crop.  For a short period of time.  It takes about 3 to 7 years for a coffee tree to mature enough to produce a full harvest.  The tree will then survive, producing a high yield for up to 15 years before it depletes the soil of its resources and dies.  Then the soil takes at least a generation (60-100yrs) to recover well enough to be used again.  On a shade grown coffee farm the coffee trees are mixed in

Shade Grown Coffee

Shade Grown Coffee

with the natural rain forest, keeping the upper two levels of canopy for birds and

other species.  As a result the coffee trees will yield only about 70% what a clear-cut crop will yield.  But they will also produce fruit for 60 years, and you can be continually cycling in new trees because the soil always stays fertile.  Short-term perspective verses long-term perspective.  There are tons of examples like that that some farms are starting to transition to, seeing it as a more sustainable model.  From taking the sugar water produced in coffee processing and instead of dumping it in the streams and killing everything down stream, some farms are turning it into bio-gas to run the stoves in their kitchens, or composting their waste to produce fertilized soils for their trees.  But these farms remain vastly in the minority.

Dissolved Community

Lastly is our dissolving community.  Often times anyone along this chain can devalue their employees, cutting costs and minimizing wages, until in some cases its on the brink of slavery.  Also just as my barista had the joy of creating something good and seeing others enjoy it, many gifted workers around the world are turned into machines, not allowed to thrive or create, but must perform simple tasks repetitively rather than thinking of new or possibly better ways of doing things.  That is the black side of our invention of the assembly machine.  Increase

prodCoffee Pickers Beginning a Day of Workuctivity, loss of human creativity and valuing.

 

Coffee Pickers Beginning a Day of Work

There is also the global economic scale mentioned before as we in New York decide how much a worker is to be paid for the coffee they picked that day.  In the 1990’s the global coffee market dropped for no apparent reason, and in the course of one week 10 million farmers around the world lost 70% of their income.  From earning $10 a day, down to earning $3 a day.  Can you imagine that happening to your household?

 

Measuring the Day's Picking's

Measuring the Day's Pickings to Receive Payment

And also just as a cup of coffee can bring neighbors together, we can also choose not to know our neighbors, being too busy in our own lives and problems to think about them as well.  Or, they may just be a little too different from us to make us uncomfortable.  We’ll keep our coffee to ourselves.

 

All of these can result in international disputes, trade deficits, a loss of resources, employees unable to care for their families, useless land and divided communities.  In other words, a loss of our humanity.

But of course the story doesn’t have to stop with this juxtaposition between our potential human and community flourishing and human and community breakdown.  We do have choices we can make.

Click HERE to continue with Part 4 . . .

 

Landscapes, creatures, and hot rods

Posted on Monday, October 17th, 2011 by John


…These are some of Stewart Snyder’s beloved photographic subjects.

Whether he’s admiring the symmetry and gloss of a 1957 Chevrolet Townsman 210 Wagon or the erratic and colorful Valley Green path in Wissahickon Creek near Philadelphia, Stew points his lens and  lets the shutter fly open, able to find frame-worthy shots  in his collection of juxtaposed gems.

Stewart Snyder's photos at the shop

Stewart Snyder's photos at the shop

Stew is currently displaying his art at Standing Stone–a set of 21 images spanning his interests. The display will remain up until November 15.

As Stew writes in his blog Still Life Matters, “For most of my photography, I hope that what moves me to share an image will simply move someone else to understand, that is, think more deeply about a moment in time, or appreciate something in a way they hadn’t before.”

One image in particular, of a Blue Heron at the Churchville Nature Center, struck me in this way.
(^Due to the copyright restrictions on Mr. Snyder’s website I could not display the image in this post, but check out the link.)

The background resembled a waterfall. But no, it’s merely blurred, a reflection of the surrounding foliage, as if with its pensive gaze this bird draws all of nature into its aquatic universe. And its S-shaped neck, curving so gently compared to the crooks of the branch before it… This elegant creature rises above the rugged elements of the stream bed, even before it takes off in flight. In short, Stewart’s image captures something about this bird in its world, not simply a record of it being there.

More of Stew's work

Perhaps this or a different image will strike you in a similar way.

Check out Stew’s photograph collection at: http://stews.smugmug.com/
Or his blog at: http://www.still-life-matters.blogspot.com/