During the Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure’s 400-mile spring ride down The Natchez Trace Parkway March 14-23, Bill Harris likely will become a favorite among his three dozen fellow cyclists.
That’s because the fair-trade coffee roaster that Harris founded in 1997, Cafe Campesino, is the official coffee provider for the spring ride from Nashville, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi.
“A lot of bike folks like to get started early in the mornings,” Harris said. “They’re the kind of personalities who love to get a good cup of coffee.”
Harris knows a lot about both cycling and coffee. In 1993, he rode 4,400 miles to raise money for Habitat for Humanity and went on a similar fundraising ride in Botswana in 1996.
“I love bicycling, and my involvement with housing issues kind of started with a bike ride way back when,” he said. “For me, helping a housing organization, I have fond memories of riding a bike and raising money. I’ve wanted to do The Fuller Center ride, but didn’t have the ability to do it in the past. But this year, I had the time and wanted to do it.
“Cafe Campesino has been involved with bike rides ever since we started,” he added of his more caffeinated contribution to the ride. “We’ve provided coffee for the Bike Ride Across Georgia for 14 years. We’ve done a few other bike events, and we also do Paddle Across Georgia events. So, we love connecting coffee to people who get outdoors, people who are active, biking.”
A portion of that 4,400-mile ride 21 years ago took Harris and three others up The Natchez Trace Parkway, a route perfect for cyclists with a maximum speed limit of 50 miles per hour for vehicles, no traffic lights or stop signs and no commercial traffic allowed. In addition to the light motorized traffic, the scenery is another draw for cyclists as the route is devoid of utility poles, billboards and large buildings — just a lot of forest land, waterways and beautiful vistas.
“Most of the time we were on main roads, so we were always dealing with traffic, but on The Natchez Trace there was not much traffic,” Harris recalled of the 1993 ride, during which he went the opposite way on the parkway. “And the traffic that you have is bike-friendly traffic. It was gorgeous.”
Cafe Campesino’s vision is a world in which “all trade is based on the tenets of The Golden Rule and in which Fair Trade is the norm rather than a niche in the global economy. Our Fair Trade world provides working women and men with equal opportunity, a fair price for the goods and services they produce, the ability to meet their basic needs, and a clean, healthy environment in which to build a more secure, dynamic future based on a respect for basic human rights, free enterprise and liberty”
That kind of motivation makes Cafe Campesino a natural partner for The Fuller Center. Harris has described late Habitat and Fuller Center founder Millard Fuller as a mentor, fully supporting the recent decision in Americus to rename Spring Street that runs in front of Cafe Campesino to Millard Fuller Boulevard.
Harris has designated the money he raises during the ride to go toward The Fuller Center’s work in Peru. He said Cafe Campesino buys coffee from 12 countries, and a few of those are countries where The Fuller Center works.
I’m leading a Cafe Campesino team to Peru in July this year to visit coffee farmers, and at the end of that we hope to join The Fuller Center project (in La Florida) and work on houses for a couple of days,” he said. “I hope that I’ll get a chance to actually spend some of the money that I raise buying materials down in Peru.”
“I’m really excited to have Bill riding with us this spring,” said Melissa Merrill, leader of the Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure. “Not only is he a fun guy to have around, but he’s also done awesome work with fair-trade coffee that I’m excited for all the riders to learn about — and taste!”