Development Work

There is a beautiful bit from Sarah Allen’s interview of respected coffee buyer Geoff Watts in the February – March 2016 issue of Barista Magazine. Watts gives advice for a coffee buyer just starting out:

“One piece of advice I would give anyone who aspires to get into green-coffee buying is to rid themselves of the myth that coffee buying is like treasure hunting. It is not. Occasionally you may stumble upon a treasure, and get a moment’s exhilaration, but really, this is development work. It is an investment in people and in ideas, and it takes a long time and an enormous amount of consistent effort for it to pay off”.

Treasure hunting implies that all one has to do, say for music, is get the right gig or connection to garner respect and success. The distinction Watts makes and the language he uses is key. Where his work lies is not in making a quick buck but in long term investment.

When we are involved within a music scene, we are in development work. We invest in the owners of the house we regularly perform, the bandmates we create and share so much with, the fellow musicians who both inspire and encourage, the listeners who engage and participate in our work, and the countless others who play a part.

All of these people in turn invest in us and our endeavors. Development work forms a nurturing network that is the base of creative music work.

This interview is a delight to read in full. It only seems right to let Geoff Watts bring home the idea of development work:”The real successes of a coffee buyer are measured over many years, not in snapshots, and only have meaning when they result in the empowerment and enrichment of others”.


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