I left the US on 5/13/09 for a usual Finca La Paz follow up visit [see here for that report].  I wanted to check to progress of the coffee and a few short cycle crops in development. As per my usual rate of speed in the US I hadn’t paid much attention to fundamentals, and paid much attention to details.  For example, what time does my flight leave? Is it on time? Will I make the flight even though the bank took 40 minutes when I scheduled 5 minutes?  I made my flight. After only a couple days in Los Frios my heart rate had returned to its Dominican pace and I felt more at peace with the world.  I often walk through the town thinking, what more can I do?

I’ve received lofty complements on what I have already done for Los Frios from the community members, but I feel like I have done very little. One thing Dominicans have figured out is that people are the point.  Making friends is worth more than doing tasks. I have made many many friends, hence they see me as very productive. One night while journaling I was able to write down my feelings and it was simple. What are my priorities? How can I better serve Los Frios?

Finca La Paz is mine.  I own the land and the crops.  Sure I’m trying to develop a quality driven production chain from the DR to the US, which could benefit every coffee farmer in town.  As this is a long term goal, it will be years before this is well established. And my lack of patience has driven me to try harder in the short term.  I did receive an answer to my second question: finish the earth bag house.  Almost every person I talked to asked me the following questions in this order: how are you? how is your famliy? and your father? and mother and sisters? and your friends Claire, Gray and Max? when are you going to work on the earth bag house? [note: people then tasks]

Even people 14km away asked immediately about the house! Los Frios has spoken.  They want to see this house.  They have seen coffee.  They have yet to see the prices I talk about, but they might some day. In order to do the earth bag house I need to raise another $1,500 just to finish it, then go there on a short trip when it isn’t raining. It will take another $1,000USD to equip the house so the eco-tourism guides can use it. The money should be easy.  The rain is actually harder to manage.  Better said, the rain can’t be managed.

I will cross my fingers for no rain in early August. I will cross my fingers that I have the money in June so they can start getting the rest of the materials ready. I will cross my fingers that my full time job will allow me to take about 8 work days to get the house off the foundation.

Calle #2 (the one we cut) and the house site tucked behind the banana tree

Calle #2 (the one we cut) and the house site tucked behind the banana tree

Dearest Young Tree Community Supporters,

Many of you have sent Young Tree Community good thoughts if not money as well. Keeping with our founders’ standards of blatant transparency we would like to update you all on the status of Young Tree Community.

After several wonderful meetings and discussions about development between Andrew Harris, Claire Thomas, Gray Reilly and Byron Holcomb we charted a course towards sustainable development in Los Frios, Dominican Republic. On August 15th 2008, Claire and I left the US to evaluate the possibilities of work in Los Frios. Two weeks later Gray Reilly joined us for four more weeks. Claire and Gray made friends instantly in Los Frios. It was especially impressive how quickly Claire learned the names of many kids and taught them child’s games i.e. Duck-Duck-Goose, with very limited Spanish. Gray was teaching guitar within a week and became my right-hand-man on the farm. Everyone spent many an hour working on Finca La Paz learning the rhythm of life in Los Frios. Great strides were made in establishing a non-profit in the Dominican Republic. The rainy weather during our trip provided some serious setbacks. However, we were able cut a road to the site of the earth bag house and poured the foundation of the earth bag house. The community is very excited about learning how to make their own sand bag house. It was one of the first questions people asked Byron on his last trip in late January, 2009.

We all had many solid ideas for Los Frios. We all came back motivated to do more in our communities. After the dust settled in October 2008, we all looked at each other checked our pulses and we have decided to stay in our current communities. Claire has applied to the Peace Corps and will make an amazing volunteer. Gray is working in Washington DC and will continue to support Young Tree Community. Byron still travels Los Frios often (4x per year), and will continue to work in quality coffee both in the DR (Young Tree Coffee) and in the US (Counter Culture Coffee).

As we look to the future, we see our progress in Young Tree Community as positive progress for Los Frios. If the right person showed sincere interest and commitment, we would be happy to pass the reins over to them so they could pick up from here.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact Byron at byron@youngtreecoffee.com


Andrew Harris
Claire Thomas
Gray Reilly
Byron Holcomb

Ecotourism House

December 25, 2008

We have returned back to the States safe and sound after an educational and inspirational seven week visit to Los Frios.  While there we conducted interviews, meetings, and surveys to see what the community needs and wants that we can provide.  We also began the production of the Sandbag house, which will be used as a meeting and storage space for the local ecotourism group.  We also hope that the Sandbag house, which is all environmentally friendly and relatively inexpensive, will act as a model home for the people of Los Frios.  


The entire construction of the 46 meter square building cost $2000. Currently we have raised $1200 and are looking for an additional $800 to finish the project.  If you are interested in contributing to our cause, please send a check to DevelopNET Iganga, 1217 Berkeley Rd, Avondale Estates, GA 30002 for tax-deductible donations.  We appreciate all your support as does the community of Los Frios.


My New Home

September 25, 2008

I arrived safe and sound in Los Frios, which is 5000 feet about sealevel and absolutely gorgous.  I live with a couple who feeds me very good food, I sleep under a mosiqiote net, and I wake up each morning to the sound of roosters, motos, and other homes waking up.  The view from my front porch is amazing.  There are huge rolling hills and mountians for 180 degrees with a small lake in one of the valleys.  It is seriously one of, if not the most, beautiful places I have ever seen.


I have meet the majorioty of the community, as it is only a couple of hundred, and you have to shake hands and say hello to everyone you pass.   I have really become close with the children here, and they all seem to know my name, even ones I have never met.  Days when I am not working we all play together.  I have taught a fair amount of the Los Frios kids Red Roover and Duck Duck Goose.  We also race, play hand clap games, and some spanish games which I rarely understand.  I dance with the preteen girls next door every other night and they have taught me Bachata and Meringue.  


When I am not playing I am working at the farm or on the house which we are buildin g as a model for Green Construction and for the Ecotour Guides to use as a meeting and storage place.   I also watched the road be built by 40 community members which will lead to the house.  I have sat in on a few meetings, and although I can understand a fair amount of Spanish now, am still struggling to speak it well. 


I am extremely content here.  I love it.  Life is so simple and beautiful.  


Visiting Los Frios

August 17, 2008

The one thing I have noticed most about being in the DR are that my senses are heighten to the tenth power.  The sounds, sights, and smells here constantly suprise and excite me as I first arrived in the capital and later spent a few days in San Juan.  We arrived in a tropical storm which was fine, just alot of rain.  We toured the capital and then took a two hour bus ride to San Juan, the biggest city near Los Frios and the only place to get electricity and internet.  It is a two hour ride in the back of an open bed truck up a mountain to Los Frios.  We will be leaving today, as the road was washed out the day before.  It is amazing here.



We need your help. . .

August 3, 2008

Dear Friends,

From 2003-2005, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic in a small remote village named Los Fríos. Los Fríos can’t be found on most maps, but I will never forget serving that community. The community has no electricity, water comes once a day, the road is by most definitions a trail, and education opportunities for the young people are few. Yet my Dominican friends still dream of a better life.

Young Tree Community is an aspiring non-profit which hopes to fulfill these dreams for farming families in the village of Los Fríos, Dominican Republic. Our mission: To provide efficacy, opportunity, and resources to farming families in Los Fríos.

Since leaving in 2005, I have visited Los Fríos several times. Two of my Peace Corps projects are still in motion: eco-tourism guiding program and family planning. In July of 2007, I purchased a coffee farm in Los Fríos, which I hope serves as a sustainable business model to my farmer friends. My personal investment into this community is rooted in respect and a desire to help and does not fit into any budgets.

In order to effectively serve the community, Young Tree Community will conduct an investigatory visit to Los Fríos from August 15th-October 8th. During this time, the Project Directors (Byron Holcomb, Claire Thomas and Gray Reilly) will collect data and opinions of the community in order to best serve the families that reside there. We hope to build two houses using environmentally sustainable techniques as part of the Green Construction Project, which would provide local tradesman with a new skill, while creating a more economical and sustainable option for housing in the community. The Education Fund was started last year as a way to provide local youth with opportunity for education and we are always looking to amplify the amount we can give.

This August ‘08, we are looking for $5,000 dollars to build two houses, grow the education fund and do some preliminary project design. Through your support Young Tree Community can begin to grow. Your gift can provide farming family with an opportunity to learn or help construct a “green-material house” in the community. By giving to Young Tree Community, you show your support and commitment to changing the lives of families in Los Fríos.

We want to thank you for taking the time to learn about Young Tree Community. Your support, through gifts, service, or just by spreading the word about what we are doing, is greatly appreciated. We hope that you will join us as we strive to make the dreams of Los Fríos families a reality.

For more information please visit: youngtreecoffee.com and youngtreecommunity.wordpress.com

Thank you,

Byron Holcomb
Young Tree Community

Tax-deductible donations can be sent to:
DevelopNET Iganga*
1217 Berkeley Rd
Avondale Estates, GA 30002
*D’NET provides the non-profit tax deduction while Young Tree Community applies

Investigatory Trip

July 30, 2008

The team will be taking a trip to Los Frios in August   to begin a community survey and start the Green Construction project.  We are hoping to build two homes during that time,as well as learn more about the community and their desires for the future.  It should be an amazing trip and we will be sure to keep everyone posted.