Seed to Shelf

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Seed to Shelf

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  • Deconstruct the myths and discover the realities of fair trade.
  • Get your hands dirty cultivating coffee alongside real campesinos on the side of an active volcano.
  • Immerse yourself in Guatemalan culture and hear about its history from former guerrillas who have traded their guns for farming tools.
  • Experience a sunrise above the clouds at the summit of one of Central America’s highest points!

Program Dates

February 18 – 26
Applications Closed!

March 11 – 19
Applications Closed!

Fees + Community Contribution 

$1,130 + $95
$1,255 + $105


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Sample Itinerary

*This itinerary is based on our previous experience with the region. Programs change every year based on the needs of our partners. This should give you a sense of what our program may look like.

Location: Guatemala City, Antigua
Accommodations: Hostal Antigueño

We begin our Guatemalan adventure at the front doors of La Aurora International Airport but quickly take our orientation to Antigua, where the group will acclimatize to the sights, smells, sounds, and smiles of the region. We’ll explore the cobblestone streets of Central America’s historical colonial capital as we orient ourselves to the country’s cultural and geographic landscape. Get ready to experience modern Mayan culture and relish in its delectable delights!

Coffee & Culture
Location: San Miguel Escobar
Accommodations: Hostal Antigueño

On our first full day we’ll dive right into explorations of Guatemala’s third largest export: coffee! We’ll head out to nearby San Miguel Escobar to explore the coffee chain from seed to shelf with De La Gente, a sustainable agricultural cooperative focused on direct trade. We will join founding members Filiberto and Timoteo on the slopes of Volcán Agua where we will learn to pick, process, and roast our coffee. We’ll then sit down with our hosts to share a traditional Guatemalan meal.

Brewing Justice
Location: Xela, Quetzaltenango
Accommodations: Hostal N’oj

In the ladino and indigenous metropolis of Xela, we’ll encounter one of the few urban centers where coffee shops are popular with locals.  We’ll join revolutionary-turned-reformer Willie at Café La Red Kat for a delicious meal and an insightful chat about the challenges facing campesinos, or small-scale farmers, and their struggle to integrate into the new socio-economic order.  In addition to being one of the principal coffee growing regions, the Xela Valley is also considered the vegetable basket of Guatemala and home to incredible markets that we’ll scavenge in the afternoon.  We’ll conclude the day with a traditional highland dinner and dance at Escuela La Paz.

Sunrises & Summits!
Location: Xela, Quetzaltenango
Accommodations: Hostal N’oj

No visit to the highlands is complete without a climb of one of its iconic peaks! We’ll get up bright and early as we take on an epic hike of Volcán Santa Maria or its more explosive younger sibling, Santiaguito. It’ll be an unforgettable journey as we push ourselves physically to be rewarded with an incomparable view above the clouds.

Coffee Revolutions
Location: Santa Anita, Colomba Costa Cuca
Accommodations: Homestay

After a brief journey north-west via chicken bus, our group will arrive in the community of Santa Anita and home of APCASA, a coffee association founded by former civil war combatants. These soldiers-turned-farmers perceive coffee differently: it is not just an exportable commodity but also a symbol of revolutionary solidarity. Staying in family homes, we’ll have the opportunity hear their stories and share our own while building friendships and deepening our understanding of the coffee revolution.

Growing Change
Location: Santa Anita, Colomba Costa Cuca
Accommodations: Homestay

The following day, we’ll share a day in the life of a Guatemalan coffee farmer. We’ll take to the fields to harvest ripe, red coffee fruit and collaborate on the construction of the community’s new beneficio or mill. It’s here that the community’s coffee will be washed, depulped, fermented, dried, and sorted – all in preparation for the international market.

Lago Livin’
Location: Lago Atitlan
Accommodations: The Hub

We will conclude our exploration at Operation Groundswell’s Hub, located on the shores of beautiful Lago Atitlan. The Hub is a physical embodiment of OG’s culture, philosophy, and mission. It is a place where solidarity is cultivated in and between people through conversations and collaborative projects. It is also a site where OG can test and develop new ways to create positive impact alongside our participants and our local partners. We will use our time here to experiment with alternative farming initiatives and tastes the fruits of our labour.

Location: Lago Atitlan
Accommodations: The Hub

After a whirlwind week, we’ll spend Day 8 resting our tired legs, refreshing in magical waters, and reflecting on our awesome adventure. We’ll have the chance to kayak on a volcanic lake or simply stroll along its waters. We will discuss lessons learned, assess our impact, and prepare for the journey home.

Location: Guatemala City

Finally on day 9, with hearts full of memories, we will return to Guatemala City where our group will say adios and adelante!

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What’s Included?

A comprehensive program itinerary and educational curriculum focused on the issues facing your specific region

Experienced and caring program leaders with you 24 hours a day

All lodging and accommodations throughout the program

Three local meals a day

All group tours, entrance fees, and excursions

All group transportation on the ground

Regular discussions and workshops to help you internalize and reflect on your experience

Support from OGHQ whenever you need it


With OG, you live like the locals.
This is not a vagabond’s adventure nor is it a five-star jetsetter’s cruise. We will be sleeping and eating as a team in hostels, homestays, and guesthouses that reflect a backpacker’s ethos. Grassroots travel and homestays will allow us to immerse in the local culture but living as Guatemalans do sometimes means living without some of the comforts to which we’re accustomed. Creepy crawlies are common while comfy beds can’t always be guaranteed – so come prepared! Be ready to share the wonderful simplicity of life in rural Guatemala.

Meet Our Regional Director

Christine Sanderson

Christine fell in love with Latin America’s cultures, landscapes, and language as a teenager living in Chile and couldn’t get enough. She continued her southern adventures working on an archeological dig in Peru and establishing a community library and youth music program in rural Nicaragua, before finally diving head first into the land of beans & corn tortillas (a.k.a. Guatemala).  Since then, she’s led two seasons of OG programs and after hiking in the highlands, experiencing fast-paced local transit, and becoming addicted to Guatemalan coffee, there’s no turning back!  She’s now living and working at the Hub full time as Guatemala’s Regional Director.  When she’s not in the office you can find her playing with the Hub dogs, Luna & Cappu, climbing another volcano, or out practicing her salsa moves.

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