November 2007 Issue by Joe Maxwell, Belhaven College's journalist-in-residence.
In 1999, Randy Russ was president and CEO of Community Coffee, one of the largest family-owned coffee companies in America. Spurred by his Christian faith and by the discovery of a great-tasting specialty coffee in an area of Colombia wracked by civil war, Russ and his company began a relationship with 500 family farmers in the Toledo-Labateca region. They formed a cooperative of former rivals to ensure quality and delivery. Fair-trade prices have raised the standard of living, and an annual performance bonus is invested in social development projects. With support from key government and manufacturing groups, the farmers have built an agricultural high school, have invested in coffee processing equipment and have improved their food supply with fish farming. Local parish priests see the efforts as healing for the community. Today, Russ runs the Center for Marketplace Ministry and teaches marketing at Belhaven College in Jackson, Miss. He nurtures students' vision for Business As Missions (BAM). Ultimately the hope is that thousands more business people will be affirmed to use their talents and business skills in sharing the Good News through the marketplace, states Russ.