Coffee in Latin America (Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Peru)

UTIA has partnered with institutions in Mexico, Peru, and Costa Rica to conduct research and teaching activities related to small-scale coffee farmers affiliated with cooperatives. UTIA faculty and staff members involved include Carlos Trejo-Pech, Margarita Velandia, Chris Stripling, Adam Willcox, Sara Mulville, and David Ader. Foreign partners include Fernando Sáenz Segura, Roselia Servín Juárez, Benigno Rodríguez Padrón, María Franco Escobar.


Since 2018


Dr. Carlos Trejo-Pech


ColPos Córdoba, Veracruz; La Central, Perú, and CINPE, Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica.


100,000 Strong Partners of America, US Department of State, Smith Center Seed Grant and Irwin International Travel Endowment


  • UT taught a one-credit hour pilot course at Colegio de Postgraduados Campus Córdoba, in Mexico, in the mini-winter term of 2022. (Testimonials of students below).
  • Hosted ColPos students and faculty at UT in Spring 2023 to develop coffee-focused research projects. The ColPos team visited organic farms in East Tennessee, local farming operations and UT’s East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center, Organic Crops Unit. 
  • Visiting scientists and professionals shared a seminar on June 8, 2023, “Coffee Cooperatives in Latin America,” hosted by the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and the Smith Center. Scientists and professionals working on coffee research and cooperatives presented findings and field experiences from Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. (A video featuring the presentations is below.)

2024 Increase and Diversify Education Abroad for U.S. Students (IDEAS) Program Announcement Award

Extending Teaching and Research Capacity of International Programs in an Agricultural Institute

The overall goal of this project is to extend the international teaching and pedagogy research capacity of agricultural-focused higher education institutions in Mexico and the U.S. Our multidisciplinary team will achieve this goal through the following objectives: (1) create programming for undergraduate students in underrepresented majors within the UTIA. Specifically, create and teach a new experiential learning faculty-led course focusing on economic development and environmental resources of small-scale coffee farmers in Mexico, and (2) strengthen collaborations with coffee expert researchers, coffee cooperative leaders, and other stakeholders in Mexico. Building these long-term partnerships will be essential to the sustainability of this course.

The two major activities of this project are: (1) to create a 3-hour credit coffee-related faculty-led course and lead UTIA undergraduates on this study abroad course to Mexico, and (2) to conduct collaborative pedagogy-related research―involving UTIA faculty and counterparts in Mexico―on economic and environmental issues faced by small-scale coffee farmers. As a result, students will gain knowledge on the intersection of economic and environmental issues through an immersive, experiential learning experience that will prepare them to pursue internationally-oriented professional opportunities after graduation. Faculty and staff will gain the capacity and expertise to scale this program or create new study abroad programming and expand their research collaborations by developing coffee-related teaching case studies for joint publication.

UTIA faculty visited Peru and interviewed coffee stakeholders in August 2023.

ColPos visits UT
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Ecological house where the External Relations Department and the permaculture project are located in Colpos Cordoba (credit: Roselia Servin-Juarez). 


Grace Powell

I really enjoyed meeting all of the different people that are involved in the process of marketing Mexico’s coffee. You can learn about anything in a classroom but actually going out to the farms, cooperatives, and research farms and seeing the people that work in the fields makes the information that they are giving you so much more powerful and meaningful. I was able to get to know the producers on such a personal level and really see the rewarding and struggling times of farming for them. There is so much history and tradition rooted in to farming that no one realizes until you go and meet the people. Go into this knowing that this is going to be a trip that you will remember for a lifetime. And if you don’t know Spanish very well you will by the end of the course.
Grace Powell
Freshman, Animal Science & Family and Consumer Sciences,

Stephen Monroe

I most enjoyed learning about the production of coffee and seeing how it is in Mexico versus in the rest of the world. My advice for students taking the class in the future is enjoy the experience and think about how it is applicable to life after it’s over. This could be changing your coffee habits or seeing how the production of coffee is similar or different to other crops.
Senior, Supply Chain Management

Fleming Mabry

I loved getting to see the origins of where our coffee comes from and what genuinely great coffee is. I have a newfound appreciation for the amount of time it takes to cultivate quality coffee and sell it worldwide by getting to see the faces behind coffee production in México. The entirety of AGNR 491 is a short amount of time compared to the huge amounts of insight gained from the experience. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone who wants to experience foreign culture and explore the background of a seemingly simple household commodity– more people should see where their coffee comes from and know its impact on economies, natural resources, and people worldwide.
Fleming Mabry
Sophomore, Modern Foreign Languages

Ashlyn Anderson

The experience of studying abroad in Veracruz allowed me a deep dive into the world of coffee from bean to cup. We learned from highly qualified and distinguished faculty about the agriculture, processing, and business of this specialty crop in the context of a top-producing country. The experience I enjoyed the most was interacting directly with farmers, producers, and researchers in a hands-on environment; hearing about their life stories and what brought them to cultivate coffee. Plus, I enjoyed a taste of all the delicious food, culture, and music that Veracuz has to offer as a very historic and important state in Mexico’s history. I highly recommend this course for any student to enhance their learning of international food and agriculture systems, while simultaneously learning more about our role as consumers and neighbors to Mexico in fostering beneficial relationships. Mexico has a plethora of resources and opportunities for students to continue their studies and work with incredible faculty, so going on this trip can plant those seeds for growth in your field of interest. Not only is the program an immersive and worthwhile experience in the short term, it can help propel your future trajectory to be global citizens and change-agents. 
Ashlyn Anderson
President | Student Basic Needs Coalition
Haslam Scholar | Leadership Knoxville Scholar | College Scholar

The May 2021 edition of the UT Agricultural and Resource Economics Department’s Econogram provides more information on pages 12-13.