Grounds Café & Raleigh Coffee Company – Building Relationships with Coffee Farmers

Casey Marburger (Grounds Cafe) & Joe Bland (Raleigh Coffee Company)

When you go into a coffee shop do you ever wonder where their coffee comes from? Not just where it was roasted, but where the coffee beans were farmed, how it was grown, and who picked it? Most of us don’t give it much thought, but the story of how your morning coffee makes its way to your cup actually affects a lot of lives along the way. For people like Casey Marburger, owner and operator of Grounds Café in Wendell Falls, the relationship between cafe owner and coffee farmer is important. That is why Casey is working with Joe Bland, owner of Raleigh Coffee Company, to partner with a family run coffee farm in Guatemala to source coffee beans for use at Grounds and her coffee catering business Event Espresso.

Grounds Cafe in Wendell Falls

Together the two are working with Dos Ninas Coffee Importers as part of their “Seed to Cup” program. By doing so they know exactly where their coffee beans are coming from (right down to exact the location on the farm). They are also ensuring that the coffee they are getting is being farmed in an environmentally sustainable manner by a coffee farm that treats its workers fairly and and gives back to the community.

This partnership is important to Joe because Raleigh Coffee Company strives to develop relationships between its customers and the greater coffee farming community. It is also important to Casey because as she explains it, transparency regarding where the coffee used in her shop comes from is important to her, along with ensuring that it is grown with love and comes from a place of positive energy that supports the community.


Finca San Luis El Volcancito Coffee Farm – Guatemala

By entering into this partnership Raleigh Coffee Company and Grounds know they are getting a high quality coffee that they can trace from bean to cup. They have access to detailed information from each step in the process down to the soil ph of the soil it was grown from on the farm. By establishing this relationship with Dos Ninas they provide the farm with a commitment to purchase a certain amount of coffee each year providing a guaranteed revenue stream that the farm can count on and use to invest in their operation and give back to their local coffee community.


Coffee Cherries

Dos Niñas Coffee was founded by the Schippers sisters. The two are fourth generation farmers and spent much of their childhood growing up in the Guatemalan Countryside on their family’s farm, Finca San Luis El Volcancito. After moving to the United States, the sisters have dedicated themselves to the work of introducing roasters across the US to the exceptional coffee their family farm produces.

What makes Dos Niñas standout in the world of coffee is their dedication to three core values: family, quality & traceability. Nestled in between the Guatemalan mountains, Finca San Luis El Volcancito resides in Pueblo Nuevo Viñas, in the region of Santa Rosa. The farm’s origins date back to 1881, with the family buying the land in 1998. The coffee is farmed from extremely fertile land thanks to the farm’s own private volcano which results in very productive soils. From its seedling stage in the nursery, to its last drying step the coffee is cared for with great attention to detail.


School on the Farm

They are not only committed to producing great quality coffee, but also to making a change in their community and its employees. The farm is home to 11 families, who are also the farm workers. Each family is provided with land for their personal coffee cropland the farm has constructed a school for the children and renovated an existing church to serve the community.

They are also in the process of building each family a house on the farm. Currently, the school supports pre-kinder through the 6th grade and there are plans to expand the building and gain personnel in order to add a high school to complete the children’s education.  Dos Niñas takes pride in knowing that every hand that labors alongside their family is compensated fairly, their community is supported, and the land that they farm is treated with love.


Raleigh Coffee Company Bean Roaster

If you would like to learn more about the Dos Ninas “bean to cup” program visit their website here. I also recommend paying a visit to Grounds Cafe the next time you are in Wendell. They have a wonderful location inside the Farmhouse located at the new Wendell Falls Community. And of course you can always purchase coffee directly from Raleigh Coffee Company through their online store.

No matter where you enjoy your next cup of coffee, take a moment to think about where it comes from and the lives it has touched. When the coffee farmer, roaster, and cafe owner work together to provide quality coffee that embodies respect and reverence for land and labor everyone wins.

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A Reimagined Cinderella Delights at DPAC!


The Company of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella
(Courtesy Carol Rosegg)

The touring production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella opened last night at the DPAC in Durham. It is only in town through this Sunday and based on the performance last night I highly recommend you see this wonderful show while it is in town. Cinderella started out as a made for TV musical back in 1957 and has been made over several times over the years, but this most recent version breathes new life into the story and brings it into the 21st century with empowering women and an inspiring message that will motivate you to fight for your dreams.


Brian Liebson, Leslie Jackson and Tatyana Lubov in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella
(Courtesy Carol Rosegg)

The story of Cinderella in this production presents characters that have the power to take charge of their lives and go after what they want. Cinderella may be a peasant girl mistreated by her stepmother and sisters, but in this reimagined version she has a strength and determination about her. With a little help from her fairy godmother she realizes that nothing is impossible and she has the ability within in herself to fight for her dreams and that anything is possible if you believe in yourself.

Likewise, while this is still a fairytale with romance, the Prince is not there to save Cinderella. In fact he has his own struggles trying to find his confidence to be a fair and just ruler of his kingdom. Cinderella is the one who calls on the Prince to listen to the concerns of his people gives him the push he needs to find his courage to rule. In this story, Cinderella does not lose her glass slipper. She purposely gives it to the Prince. She is taking charge of her story and controlling the narrative. In process Cinderella and the Prince both find their inner strength make choices to change their lives that bring them together and achieve their goals together.


The Company of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella
(Courtesy Carol Rosegg)

This production is top notch in every way and probably one of the most impressive shows I have had the pleasure of seeing at DPAC this year. The cast is extremely talented and the sets are simply stunning, transforming that stage into scenes from the magical woodlands, to the regal backdrop of the castle and ballroom in a blink of an eye. The use of colors and lighting make every detail stand out and draws you into the scene. The Technicolor costumes of the ballroom gowns during the dancing scenes make the ensemble pop on stage. The costumes are so beautiful it is almost easy to become distracted and miss just how skilled and graceful the dancing is of the cast.

As mentioned above, the cast in this production is very strong. Tatyana Lubov is lovely as Cinderella and brings a confidence to the character that is refreshing. Hayden Stanes is equally impressive as the handsome but naïve Prince Topher. When they are on stage together there is great chemistry and their duets during the numbers “Ten Minutes Ago” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” are magical and touching.


Tatyana Lubov and Hayden Stones in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella
(Courtesy Carol Rosegg)

Two other standout performances are delivered by Leslie Jackson. She is fantastic as the Fairy Godmother as is Vincent Davis Lord Pinkleton they are both accomplished opera singers and their vocals steal the show whenever they are on stage. Rounding out the leads is Sarah Primmer as the stepmother Madame, Mimi Robinson as stepsister Gabrielle and Joanna Johnson as stepsister Charlotte. You’ll notice these characters are more likeable than in the original version. Less evil and more comical. Joanna Johnson is particularly hysterical and has some great one liners that had the audience roaring with laughter.

I can’t forget to mention how  much the consumes of Tony  Award Winning costume designer William Ivey Long contribute to the show. Long’s work creates the magic in the show. You will be blown away by some of the costume transformations that occur on stage right in front of your eyes instantly transforming the rag-clad beggar woman into a stunning Fairy Godmother and Cinderella from her peasant garb into a  sparkling white gown and tiara. I saw it with my own eyes and I still don’t know how they did it. It’s simply amazing to see!

Cinderella is at the DPAC for a limited engagement playing now through this Sunday. There are still great seats available for the 8pm New Year’s Eve Show. For tickets visit the DPAC website here.

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New Year’s Eve Picks!

There are numerous Triangle restaurants and bars holding special New Year’s Eve dinners and celebrations. At this point you should probably have already made your reservations, but just in case here is a great list of restaurants that may be still taking reservations by Andrea Weigl at the News & Observer. In addition to eating and drinking here are the three local events that top my list for ringing in the new year!

Raleigh First Night
Celebrating its twenty-sixth year, First Night Raleigh is North Carolina’s largest New Year’s Eve celebration. Tens of thousands of people flock to downtown Raleigh for the family-friendly community celebration of art, presented by Artsplosure. The festivities will run from 2pm until midnight. With over 100 performances and activities in nearly 35 venues spread across downtown Raleigh. And of course the Acorn Drop and fireworks will cap off the event at midnight. All day admission passes are $10 in advance. For a complete schedule or more information, or to purchase an admission pass online, visit

Chinese Lantern Festival & New Year’s Eve Fireworks
The N.C. Chinese Lantern Festival and Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary will light up the night with a New Year’s Eve fireworks display. Kicking off at 9:30 p.m. the fireworks will be launched over Symphony Lake. The fireworks display is included in the price of admission for the lantern festival. Tickets can be purchased through or Booth Amphitheatre Box Office. The Lantern Festival runs through January 15th with hours of 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. Fireworks will only be a part of the event on New Year’s Eve.

Cinderella at DPAC
The touring production at Cinderella will be at the DPAC this weekend including an 8pm show on New Year’s Eve. You can catch the show and still go out afterwards in downtown Durham and toast the New Year. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting


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Help the Western Wake Farmers Market Secure a Permanent Home

One of the great things about living in the Triangle is access to great local products and produce at local farmers markets. However, as development pressure grows some of these markets have found themselves in search of space for a permanent location so they can continue to serve the community. The Western Wake Farmers Market is one such market, and they need your help to raise funds for a permanent home in Morrisville. Please visit their Generosity by Indiegogo campaign to donate. Every little bit helps!

Western Wake Farmers Market (WWFM) and the Town of Morrisville are working together to create a new farmers market site that is not threatened by development. WWFM needs to raise $50,000 more to complete this $900,000 project, and open the new site in 2017.


WWFM’s new, forever home will be located along Town Hall Drive, just past the new fire house and Chamber of Commerce building in Morrisville, NC. The campaign funds will pay for things like bringing electricity to the vendor stalls, water to the garden, grass, landscaping, and more.

WWFM is a 501(C)(3) non-profit and all donations are tax deductible. For more information and to make donations to this community farmers market, please visit the Generosity campaign website.

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Tar Heel 10 Miler Discount Code


The Tar Heel 10 miler is a great local race with a course that showcases downtown Chapel Hill, the UNC Campus and some nice surrounding historic neighborhoods. This year the race will take place on Saturday, April 22nd. The registration fee is currently $50 and will increase to $55 on January 1st. You can also use the discount code TH10JOHN and save an additional $5 on your race registration.

I ran the Tar Heel 10 Miler back in 2013 and I’m looking forward to doing it again in 2017. A ten mile race is a great distance to train for especially if you are looking for something a bit longer than a 5k. A 10-miler is long enough that it is challenging yet not so far that you need months and months to prepare like you might with a full or half marathon. There is also a 4 mile option if you are looking for a shorter distance race. The course is really nice and you will have lots of support along the way. Keep an eye out for the guy playing the Alpenhorn!

Of course there are some hills, but that comes with the territory when running in a place named Chapel Hill. Last year there were approximately 6,400 runners making it a nice size race with good energy. This is one of the premiere races in the Triangle and a must do if you area a local runner. Hope to see you out there on the course this April!

Race Details:
Date: Saturday April 22, 2017
Tar Heel 10 Miler Discount Code: TH10JOHN (Saves you $5)
Race Website:


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