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An Interview with Ira Lippke

An Interview With Ira Lippke

I recently got a chance to spend about 30 minutes on the phone with Ira Lippke. For those that may not follow us on Twitter or Facebook – or possibly just missed the messages we’ve sent, Ira is responsible for much of the photography you see on CICR’s website and some literature. He also plays a big role in the photography found on Agros’ website. Ira is a gifted photographer who is passionate about fair trade and ethical coffee.

I wanted to share a large excerpt of our conversation with you all…

Dan: What started your love for photography?

Ira: One day I was at the Stanwood (Washington) library. We had just picked up some pictures from the local photo lab and while my parents went in, I was sitting in the car looking through these family snapshots. I was 14 at the time, and I realized a couple things while looking through those pictures:

  • I realized that I had so much to be grateful for. There was so much beauty everywhere surrounding me. Looking at the pictures enabled me to objectively stand outside of my life and realize I had a lot to be grateful for.
  • Photography is such a powerful medium.
  • Our photos weren’t very good. It seemed that most of the photos I ever saw were dark, grainy, and lacking detail and quality. I wanted to know how to take a good picture, so I ended up going in to the library and checked out a couple books on photography. My father let me borrow his old Olympus camera and I was set.

I would often go with my friend David and take pictures just for the fun of it. Our main goal was just to take interesting photos of things we would see everyday. I ended up attending Biola University and I got the job as the university photographer. At the time, I was studying History, Philosophy, and Literature – I was working towards a Humanities Degree. During my years at Biola, I was able to pay my way through school with photography. I became known as “the photographer” among many at school. My Junior year, I took a break and started my business while living in Warm Beach (Washington). I did a lot of photography for bands at the time and shot various album cover pictures.

Dan: Did you go back to school after starting your business and finish your degree?
Ira: Yes, I finished my education at Biola and received my degree in Humanities – Which I feel adds a little more substance and content to my photography rather than if I had studied photography itself. My pictures are about these same dramas and questions that literature, history and philosophy are about. I love telling stories and showing the human element. It’s been 10 years since I started my business and I now have two locations… first in Los Angeles and one in New York.

Dan: What photography style would you say is your “main” style?
Ira: I describe what i do as “Fine Art Documentary Photography”. It’s a photography approach that tells stories, but with an awareness of the elements of fine art (line, color, texture and form). These days I’ve been shooting some of the top weddings in the world, and also documenting humanitarian issues internationally. I go from shooting tragic issues in remote areas and then several days later find myself photographing VIPs in Beverly Hills, Italy, Pebble Beach, or the Turks & Caicos. This creates a really telling contrast. I’ve shot some remarkably exquisite weddings – but then I go to these really grounding areas which really fills out the human element for me.

Dan: How did you hear about Agros?
Ira: I’m good friends with Sean Dimond at Agros. I knew Sean before he worked for Agros and he has always been involved in humanitarian work. He told me about Agros and not long after got a job there. He is now the Director of Communications for Agros.

Dan: How many trips have you been on with Agros and where to?
Ira: I’ve gone on a total of 4 trips with Agros and have visited Honduras, Nicaragua, Chiapas, and Guatemala.

Dan: What was it that made you decide that Agros was a fit for you?
Ira: I always refer to Agros as my favorite charity. As I’ve travelled to Africa 4 times, Indonesia 2 times, the Middle East, India and quite a few other places, I often find myself in areas where humanitarian groups are working. Typically, solutions involve the West giving charity away to these areas but, unfortunately that is often times damaging to the local economy and the local sense of dignity. Charity of that nature can create a culture of dependence and undercut the local economy.

When I was recently in Southern Malawi I asked the chief of one of the tribes where I could go to take documentary photos. He sent me to his home village that, it turned out, he sends all visiting humanitarian groups. While I was there, people kept telling me how they needed more help for this and that and they were continuously asking for money. The generosity of the West had created a dependance there. Agros villages are the exact opposite. They are proud of what they’ve done and they are so generous. They don’t ask for money, but instead they often come up to me with big smiles and plates of food. It’s a different experience from other models I’ve experienced.

What I love about Agros is that they empower those in need to help themselves – and does it through the local economy rather than by undercutting it. It’s so much more sustainable that way. It shows that the solution is through hard work, and not handouts. Agros’ work is so humane and dignifying. It’s been an honor to get to know and document these extraordinary people living in Agros Villages. Honestly, these hard-working, hope filled Agros villagers are my heroes.

I had a great conversation with Ira. One thing that is hard to relay in type, is passion. Ira is definitely passionate about his love of Agros and their work.

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed doing the interview and putting it together for you!

Dan Ericson
“Coffee Guru”

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An Ethical Coffee Meeting with Agros International

An Ethical Coffee Meeting with Agros International

This past Wednesday, Dan and I had the opportunity to visit Agros HQ in Seattle. It was a great time and they were very hospitable to us.  We were able to share some of the new things CICR has been working on.  Many new faces (for me at least) were there for the meeting.

Our customers all know of our close relationship with Agros as we talk about it all the time.  Just as it’s important for us to communicate to you the changes you create through being members of our Coffee Lover’s Club, it’s also important for us to spend time communicating our focus on ethical coffee with Agros as well.  For us, giving Agros a check from our Coffee Lover’s Club orders is only a sustainable act if we can also communicate with Agros and allow them to communicate back.  Knowing of Agros’ future goals is part of responsible giving and ethical coffee.  Allowing Agros to communicate their goals back is part of responsible receiving.  We’re so happy to have a wonderful relationship with Agros.

Dan brought his camera and took a few pictures in between making Frozen X-plosion’s and serving brewed coffee.

The table we sat at had a wonderfully colorful tablecloth.  Emily at Agros provided Dan and I very delicious sandwiches! Shannon grabbed Dan’s camera when he came out with the Frozen X-plosion’s for everyone and took a couple great pictures: Here are a few of the Agros workers enjoying Frozen X-plosion’s. The purpose of our visit was for me to share CICR’s vision for ethical coffee with Agros and “update” them on the things happening around CICR. All-in-all, we had a great time celebrating ethical coffee and sustainability.

Jeff – CICR

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If you could change the world on your own…

Why Do You Donate To Charity?

If you could change the world on your own, what would you change? Why would you change it? I ask myself that question often.

It baffles me that the new “richest man in the world” comes from a nation with many poor individuals. Using the current idea of “charity” in America, to most of us it would seem like “the right thing to do” would be for an individual with a lot to give to those with nothing. That idea, however, is exactly the opposite of what would help those in need. You see, giving to those in need is a great idea and will help them in the moment. Unfortunately, for being such a “great idea”, it actually can make things worse by causing a dependency. The long term, however, is left untouched which brings them back to the same problems they had in the beginning.

I personally give to Agros because of one reason alone. I believe in sustainability. Not just the buzz-word that seems to be tossed around. No, I believe in something much more than being a “good neighbor” or being “generous”. I’d much rather give $5 to something that will create change for more than a day than $50,000 into something that will change lives for 1 day and allow them to fall back into poverty as soon as the money is gone.

Here’s an interesting fact. For only $10,000, Agros is able to break the cycle of generational poverty for one family. Why donate to something that will grant dreams for a moment when you can contribute to something that will grant dreams for a lifetime?

It’s so easy – Purchase our ethical coffee and enjoy the wonderful flavor of creating sustainable change!


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What is True Success for a Coffee Roasting Business?

We’re happy to report another record year for CICR in 2009. In spite of a rocky economy, our customers have realized that there is more to purchasing coffee than just enjoying a delicious hot cup of coffee. Our success is a direct reflection on our customers’ desire not only to enjoy the finest coffee available but also to create positive changes worldwide. Our shade grown, organic, fairly traded coffee may be enough to keep us afloat in rough times, but if our outreach weren’t intact, it wouldn’t be a contributing factor to the successes of the third-world farmers that grow the coffee.

We talk a lot about our “mission” as a business as well as the quality of our coffee. Many of you may be becoming used to our constant championing of our customers and the change they create. That is good as far as we are concerned! It means you’re relating the purchase of our ethical coffee to the change it creates and ultimately, understanding the entire purpose of our company.

Just remember, it’s far more valuable to support third-world farmers through your purchase of the product they grow and your support of Agros than it is to support a charity that just throws money and support at people who need more than just a “gimme”. Of course if you can do all that and support a great ethical coffee roasting company at the same time, you get the rare pleasure of enjoying the perfect mix!



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Is it time to ReThink Your Organization’s Coffee Program?

ReThink Coffee – Sustainable Coffee Program for Organizations and Churches

We wanted to take this opportunity to announce our newest venture with Agros. ReThink coffee is a new way to look at your organization or church missions program. Instead of purchasing coffee that keeps people in a cycle of poverty and then giving money out to various missions, ReThink coffee offers a better way to do real missions work.

Many people do not understand that coffee is the second largest commodity in the world… next to oil. While we can’t make much of a difference with our oil purchases – we can all make a huge difference in our coffee purchases. If every coffee drinker were to be more responsible in their coffee purchases – poverty in many of the world’s rural areas would be overcome.

We use the term “The coffee that helps you sleep at night” because every time you purchase coffee… you know that you are helping third-world farmers on their path to sustainability. This work allows us to truly “Teach a man to fish” instead of “giving a man a fish”. When we help a family through loans and education to first own their own land this gives them the opportunity to have hope for their future and as a direct result of our support for the products they grow they now have life. When we give them a handout or a short-term fix, fear is created because they don’t know who to go to tomorrow.

As Americans, we must change our thinking from “is this the best price for coffee?” to “will this small amount of money be multiplied to create the most good in the lives of the people who earn it?”

For more information please go to and remember whenever you purchase your next package of coffee, make sure it is certified organic…shade grown…and fairly traded.

Thanks for coming along with us on this journey of responsible consumerism – and remember next time you are re-thinking your coffee selection…there is really a coffee that helps you sleep at night.

If you’re interested in getting coffee for your organization or you are looking for a new church coffee program, please visit ReThink Coffee’s website to buy ethical coffee.

Jeff – CICR


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Trace Bundy – An Agros Supporter and Camano Coffee Drinker

A few months ago, we had a younger gentleman and his wife show up at the Camano Island Coffee roasting building to enjoy some coffee. As a geek, and a mac user (sorry PC people), I immediately smiled seeing both of them pull out Mac computers and iPhones. I walked up to them and chatted with them a bit. Turns out, they had heard about us (and tried our coffee) from Agros and they were Agros supporters. After the round of introductions, I found out that Trace’s latest CD was inspired from a trip he and his wife, Becca took with Agros.

Being the geek that I am, I looked up his facebook page and myspace page. Then I found his website. I totally fell in love with his music. Trace plays “finger-style acoustic guitar” and uses “digital looping” to create an effect similar to many guitars playing different parts all at once. The catch is, he’s is the only one playing. I bought his CD (from itunes) immediately and am listening to it as I type this post and listen to it frequently… it’s good music to work to!

Recently, I received an email from Emily Bergstrom with Agros. I wanted to share a couple small excerpts from that email with you all:

“Trace and Becca Bundy said to say hello to you all and thanks for the coffee beans (which they plan to enjoy this great Sunday morning!)”

I checked out his facebook site and found a link for you to check out if you’d like to see about his upcoming concerts. “Note: brewing and serving our aromatic coffee was a great way to get folks over to the table and talking about village productive initiatives. Many took home the Camano Island brochures for future purchases, and many more wished they could have bought a bag on the spot… to consider for your future events :)”

Not only was Trace this really awesome musician I got to meet in person, but he is talking about CICR’s Coffee and our mission and supporting Agros. His support of Agros really makes him stand out from a lot of other musicians out there, in my mind.

That all said, I wanted to introduce you to him and encourage you to check out his music. I’ve linked to his sites throughout this article but wanted to provide a quick list of some great Trace Bundy links to learn more about him.

YouTube – Recommended 🙂 MySpace

Ok, that’s it for now. Thanks for reading and I hope you discovered a musical gem as we here at CICR have!

Dan – CICR


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Ethical Coffee and Agros: Land, Hope, Life.

Most of our customers are aware of our commitment to ethical coffee and our relationship with Agros.  One of the questions we are asked frequently is, “What does Agros do to create this change?” or (slightly summarized) “How does Agros work?.” Well, I wanted to take a second to share with you a quick glimpse of ethical coffee and Agros International.

Ethical Coffee and Agros states what they are on the front page in a nutshell:

“Agros International is committed to breaking the cycle of povery for rural families in Central America and Mexico by enabling landless communities to achieve land ownership and economic stability. Having learned that the root causes of poverty extend across communities and are passed down from generation to generation, the Agros development model is holistic, sustainable, and focused on long term results. This commitment to the long-term sustainability of a whole community serves to break the cycle of poverty in all its forms.”

By applying this same philosophy to sourcing coffee — we create ethical coffee. Ethical coffee is only Organic, Shade-Grown, and Fairly Traded.

Why organic coffee? By only purchasing USDA Certified Organic, our farmer’s are encouraged to make the safe choice for themselves and their families.

Why Shade-Grown? By only purchasing 100% shade-grown coffee we’re encouraging our farmer’s to prevent soil erosion and ensure the sustainability of their land.

By only purchasing our coffee at upwards of three times the price of fair trade coffee we are making a commitment to ethical coffee. 

What makes Agros work is also what makes their organization a perfect fit for our Coffee Lover’s Club members. Agros is NOT an organization that makes a habit of giving out cash, services, or goods to “help” a needy family. They believe, as does CICR, that that doesn’t solve anything. Agros believes that giving a handout causes a dependancy that isn’t healthy and doesn’t promote self-sustainability. We believe ethical coffee comes from forming a stronger long-term partnership with coffee farmers. This ensures a helping hand not simply an unsustainable handout. Ethical coffee must be sustainable.

ethical coffee

The Agros Model to Ethical Coffee

  • Community Organization“Help families define a vision for a new community and develop the local leadership required to create a self-sustaining, thriving community.”
  • Land Ownership “Work with families to identify and purchase agricultural land on credit and use their payments to purchase land for other new communities.”
  • Community Education and Training“Create opportunities for adequate healthcare, education, adult literacy and spiritual growth.”
  • Housing and Infrastructure“Implement community and individual construction projects such as houses, schools, irrigation systems, latrines, infrastructure and community centers.”
  • Sustainable Economic Growth“Develop agricultural production and support income-generating activities through microenterprise loans and technical training.”
  • Passing on the Blessing“Give other communities the opportunity to own land through repaid loans and empower them to dream of a brighter future for their children.”

read more in depth information here

We feel it’s important that you — the Coffee Lover’s Club member — knows exactly what ethical coffee means. We feel you  should know what your purchases are doing to create hope for others.

Please check out Agros at the following links:, on Facebook, on Twitter and watch some of their videos on our YouTube channel or the video page on our blog.

Dan – CICR


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Give a man a fish: Redefining Charity in the 21st Century.

give a man a fish

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. We’ve all heard this saying. We’ve also heard, “Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Here at CICR we like to take this saying a step further. Let me show you.

“Give a man a fish? What if he could own the pond?

Western culture’s concept of charity is generally “Give a man a fish.” Some take this a step further, and “Teach a man to fish.”

Here at CICR, we’re a little more entrepreneurial than that. We want to, “Teach the man to own the pond!” If a man owns the pond he not only changes his life but the lives of his children and grandchildren. Land-ownership eliminates poverty — generationally.

Owning the pond: Sustainable Agriculture.
give a man a fish

Through our partnership with Agros we can help the man own the pond. Agros provides land-ownership programs to farmers in developing countries. Now, before you ask, Agros doesn’t just give them the land. No way. That’s “Give a man a fish.” That’s not sustainable. Instead Agros provides the financing to purchase the land — at low interest or no interest at all. Within 7 years whole villages of farmers have “deed burning” parties — celebrating their status as landowners.

As Agros supporters, we’ve seen the entrepreneurial results of dollars invested in these communities. It’s amazing to see how so much can be accomplished with so little. Check out to see for yourself.

While giving a person money is generous, it is not always wise. When you help people with the proper training and give them the opportunity to own their own land -watch out! The human spirit takes over and change happens!

But What Has This Got To Do With Ethical Coffee?

Give a man a fishFor every shipment of coffee we send out we give $1 back to Agros. By giving to Agros with every shipment we tie this model of charity directly to you — the consumer. You become part of this process. With something as simple and beautiful as a cup of coffee you can be a part of redefining charity in the 21st century. With every sip you generationally change farmer’s lives. That’s ethical coffee!

That’s why we would love for you to be a part of the process. Let’s face it. You’re going to buy coffee anyway. Why not be a part of a greater movement. Don’t just write a check during the Holidays! That’s like “Give a man a fish.” Be a part of sustainable agriculture in the developing world — “Teach him to own the pond!”

Thank you for your help!

Jeff – CICR

Want to do more than “Give a man a fish?”

Click below and we’ll send you a sample of free coffee to get you started.

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Do Ethics Matter in Business?

Do ethics matter

Do ethics matter After 8 years as President of Camano Island Coffee Roasters I am convinced that the goal of every business is to listen to their “community”, give their “customers” what they ask for, and enrich the “communities” they are a part of.

At CICR, each one our customers or “prosumers” as we call them, supports what we are doing by purchasing our ethical coffee. Our community is the thousands of people we roast for, the many churches, schools, and businesses who buy from us, as well as the countries around the globe we send product to. Without you, we could not help support the 39 villages who are now on the path to sustainability. We know these great people are the most important link in the coffee chain.

Do ethics matter?

We are asked by many, why it matters where they purchase their coffee from. They may add that they already give money to charity and they don’t need to worry about issues like charity when buying their coffee. Our current US economic climate proves my point. We must end the climate of welfare, both for the people and for business.

Do Ethics matter? Let’s look at the results.

True success comes when people are given the tools necessary to own their own destiny and the education necessary to be self reliant (and not have money thrown at them). Why wouldn’t everyone be responsible with their coffee purchases knowing that a fair price is being paid to the farmers who actually do the work?

All we need to do is help these hardworking people secure the money for their land, help them in organizing their village, and pay them a fair price for growing organic, shade-grown coffee. With the right amount of work and a little time, we will end this worldwide cycle of welfare and begin working in true partnerships with our “prosumers” around the globe and our farmers. Then we can enjoy a safe cup of ethical coffee and know that everyone benefited from our purchase.

Ethics DO matter in business; ethics also matter here at Camano Island Coffee Roasters. That’s why we say that at CICR, we only sell “Coffee that helps you sleep at night”.

Please check out for more info on the sustainable change we are a part of.

Jeff – CICR

Do ethics matter