Rio Coco Beans - Established 2004
Michael & Laura were living and working among a Central American indigenous group known as the “Miskitos” in the eastern Caribbean coast of Honduras and Nicaragua. Michael came in 1984 during the Sandinista war years, and in 1986, along with a few others, began a primary school project in the refugee villages which they named “Project Ezra”.
Laura joined him in 1988. In 1990, the war ended in Nicaragua, and gradually all the refugees moved across the Coco River into Nicaragua. Project Ezra crossed the Coco River to the Nicaraguan side, and became the “official government school” in the many villages along the lower Coco River. After three decades, the project continues today with over 1600 students in eight communities along one of the most remote corners of Central America, accessible only by boat.
In their travels in Nicaragua, they met a couple of Young Life missionaries who had a youth camp high in the mountains above Matagalpa, where they also grew coffee, which they sold to companies in the United States.
In early 2004, Michael began having a thought about exporting coffee to the U.S. and having it roasted, and then selling it to make some money for the school project. One of his friends from Cary North Carolina, Mike Remedios, visited Nicaragua with a mission team that summer and told Michael that he knew a guy in Raleigh who roasted coffee. That October they met with Larry Larson, of Larry’s Coffee, who volunteered to help them roast and import coffee. Mike had a graphic designer friend named Leesa, who designed the Rio Coco Beans logo. Another friend Scott Snyder, helped organize a Rio Coco Beans website.
By December, Larry started roasting Rio Coco Beans Coffee. Soon, Rio Coco Beans were being shipped to many places in the U.S and Hawaii.
In 2008, Michael purchased a 12 kilo Diedrich roaster and coerced Lucas Broadhurst, a friend from Maui, to bring his wife Carlie to Vero Beach and help start our coffee business. Luke became a very good roaster, and they both began selling Rio Coco Bean Coffee at the various Farmers Markets around Vero Beach.
In 2011, Rio Coco Beans rented warehouse space at the Vero Beach Airport, and opened the Rio Coco Café and Roastery on December 5th.
A few years ago, Michael was serving coffee at the Surf Expo in Orlando Florida. Where he was able to share the story of Rio Coco Beans and Project Ezra to many. One man asked after hearing the story, “How do you know that those guys that you give your money to spend it on education and not something else?’
Michael replied: “Good Question! Fortunately, I am one of the founders of the school project and president of the non-profit corporation that administrates the school project. I send the money to Nicaragua every month, get the monthly reports, and often visit our schools and meet with our teachers, all of whom were our former students from years past. So, you could say that my wife Laura, who is president of Rio Coco Inc., gives the money to me and I give it to guys we have been working with for over 30 years.”
This story is filled with many “God-Incidences” and other details which might be of interest. If you want, take a few moments and read the longer version, which was written after a good cup of Ethiopia Harrar light roasted coffee!
Above: The Bagby family opening the Rio Coco Cafe in 2011
Below: The Bagby family celebrating 6 years of serving at the Rio Coco Cafe