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Senior Zack Schultz owns a coffee-growing business in Haiti. Zack Schultz | Courtesy
Senior Zack Schultz owns a coffee-growing business in Haiti. Zack Schultz | Courtesy

Coffee fuels bil­lions of people globally each morning, and is acces­sible at almost every fast food restaurant, home, and business around the world. Senior Zack Schultz isn’t just fueled by it, he owns a coffee business in Haiti, and knows about every­thing from planting the seeds to the final pack­aging.

Schultz first dis­covered the coffee industry through mis­sionary work he did in Haiti with his family. They helped at tent-city relo­cation spots, where rural fam­ilies gathered for free food and tents offered by non­govern­mental orga­ni­za­tions.

“So many people were sleeping in the streets that the gov­ernment had to close half of them down,” Schultz said.

The gov­ernment worked with churches and food dis­tri­b­ution pro­grams to relocate these people to less-pop­u­lated areas. For six weeks, Schultz helped build short-term relo­cation homes and developed rela­tion­ships with these people.

“Haiti was orig­i­nally a French slave colony,” Schultz said. “The French love their coffee, so they brought over their best beans to plan­ta­tions. When Haiti became a free state in 1804, the people kept France’s coffee, which is con­sidered the gold standard of coffee.”

Founded in 1991, Mission Dis­covery aims to “meet the physical and spir­itual needs of the world’s poor” according to its mission statement. It offers con­struction, min­istry, and medical aid trips to Africa, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Hon­duras, Jamaica, Mexico, and the United States.

“Our main effort is to inspire hope and help the Haitian com­munity as best we can,” Mission Dis­covery sec­retary Katie Oliver said. “Together, our staff and par­tic­i­pants have built several churches and con­tinue to con­struct and set foun­da­tions for future church buildings. We have drilled water wells and led medical mission trips as well.”

Schultz said he realized the biggest tool for intro­ducing people to Christ is by meeting a need.

“If they are hungry, they won’t listen to anyone. Being there, I saw their problem was that they didn’t have jobs because they didn’t have working knowledge to start oper­a­tions,” said Schultz.

Schultz and one of his Haitian friends, Ancias Joseph, met with Rebo Coffee Company, the largest Haitian coffee pro­ducer, over Christmas break in 2015. Rebo told Schultz they only sell domes­ti­cally because they don’t have the supply to meet global demand.

Growing up in Haiti, Joseph watched people defor­esting Haitian land until it was barren in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Notwith­standing, Schultz and Joseph still found buyers for their coffee, as well as a seed sup­plier. Joseph’s family had land in Haiti they weren’t using, so the two planted seeds on it.

They taught farmers about the growing process, which the farmers applied to the 5,000 trees planted. After the first harvest this coming June, the farmers will gather and replant the seeds in the spring to use all 24 acres.

While building short-term relo­cation homes, Zack found another morning moti­vator in addition to his serving heart: he developed a taste for coffee, and he reached out to local friends and farmers to find out more about Haiti’s coffee business.

“When democracy came to Haiti, people were allowed to do whatever they wanted with their land. Before, you had to go to the mayor’s office to get a permit to cut a tree down on your land. This brought dev­as­tating effects to the coun­tryside,” Schultz said.

Central gov­ernment control sup­pressed entre­pre­neurism within “private property,” dis­cour­aging busi­nesses like Rebo Coffee Company.

Haitians live mostly at sub­sis­tence living, but are dis­con­nected from most markets, both foreign and domestic. Schultz and Joseph’s business said they aimed to “connect the dots of the market,” according to Schultz, by dis­trib­uting their seeds to other local farmers who were inter­ested in joining their coffee-growing business.

“It is dev­as­tating to Amer­icans to see the third world in general, but most under­stand that it is the third world because … people don’t know how to make money well,” Schultz said. “Amer­icans can just bring know-how, what little I have, to learn more about coffee, to educate myself and them­selves, and to connect the channels between the people in the city to the coun­tryside farmers who have land.”

The two are cur­rently working with eight to 10 farmers holding 10 hectares, which is 24.7 acres. They are looking into export, import, and trans­portation value into the U.S. The two plan to reinvest their seeds back into their company to expo­nen­tially increase their product, pos­sibly to sell through a private label, because their 5,000 seeds don’t even fill their whole land.

“I would prefer a coalition of farmers working together to create a higher standing of living for their kids, and to increase the lifespan for future gen­er­a­tions. It’s much less about the financial gain,” Schultz  said. “What’s most important is these people’s lives that can be greatly impacted by an idea. I feel blessed for this oppor­tunity, and to go into business in a dif­ferent country.”

Schultz said that the hardest part for him was the physical dis­tance from the project, as well as inex­pe­rience.

“Working and going to school leaves me with no time to check on our site,” Schultz said. “I’m 21, I have no back­ground in inter­na­tional business. I’m just learning as I go.”