Chris Treter, owner of Higher Grounds Trading Company, recently formed On The Ground (OTG), a non-profit aimed at tackling the most fundamental elements of poverty in coffee growing regions including access to potable water, health care and education.
Rather than start with building support for its cause and then launching projects, On The Ground came out swinging with "Run Across Ethiopia" (RAE)
— a long distance marathon with a tour component aimed at raising over $100,000 to build schools in Ethiopia. When I questioned Chris on why Ethiopia, he responded with "As Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and the capital of the world in marathon running, it seemed to be the right idea to draw attention to the issues at hand. Being a marathon and ultra marathon runner, I felt that by doing a huge run we would have the ability to grab people's attention to these very important issues."
And grab attention RAE did. In the Traverse City area, May Erlewine and Seth Bernard, Food For Thought, and WANT Expeditions jumped at the chance to collaborate on this event. On a larger scale, OTG has managed to partner with Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union, the Tesfa Foundation, Dr. Bronner's and more. On May 14, OTG held a launch party and concert and generated over $2,000 for RAE. Treter said that OTG is about a third of the way to its fundraising goal, and the next leg of its campaign will be launched soon. Monies donated to this cause will go toward construction of the first school, its classroom, water systems and a lunch program for 50 students.