Harris Freeman & Company sources tea, herbs, and spices from different parts of the world, including the United States, India, Vietnam, Mexico, Argentina, Indonesia, and Africa. We wouldn’t be successful without the farming communities in the origin countries that grow our tea, herbs, and spices. We are committed to these farming communities for providing us with high-quality products that have helped us achieve a reputation for excellence.
With a simple vision of making a difference, we started the Harris Freeman Foundation, a section 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that provides philanthropic services and monetary donations to aid under-developed communities, victims of natural disasters, and other supporting advocacy organizations.
Our mission is to impact the lives of source farm communities through a multi-pronged approach, with focused commitment to three critical areas:
We support our farm communities through direct financial contributions and development projects, as well as sustainable production practices with respect for the environment.
Our field representatives visit the growing areas on a regular basis and witness the environment and living conditions of these farming communities. With the assistance of local communities, suppliers and other local organizations, we identify the prime needs of each area and work directly with key stakeholders to oversee the distribution of funds and progression of donations.
Kotagiri is a small town situated at an altitude of 5,800 feet in the picturesque Nilgiri region of Southern India. As a result of its optimal climate and rich top soil, this region produces high-quality black and green tea.
In 2008, we decided to partner with the Church of South India (C.S.I.) school, which serves nearly 850 students from 6th grade to the 12th grade. Many of the students in the school are the children of tea farm workers. The school explained to us that they needed more classrooms. We embarked on a project to build five new classrooms and a computer lab. We also raised funds to provide the classrooms with study desks and chairs.
We have worked closely with the C.S.I. school representatives to ensure that the five classrooms, computer lab, and furniture provided meet their needs. The classroom, computers, and furniture will provide students with additional learning sources and help them gain access to an improved curriculum.
Gia Nghĩa is a rural town located in the central highlands of Vietnam. Known for its rainy climate, it has also become an economic hub for Vietnam’s bustling pepper industry. Harris Freeman sources pepper from the region for some of the largest spice brands in the world.
As part of our commitment to facilitate quality education for the children of farm growers, Harris met with the local commission in 2010 to assess their needs. We were asked to help build a foundation and drainage system for the local Nguyễn Viết Xuân Primary School. The existing foundation and drainage system was prone to flooding, which would prevent the students from attending class and eventually deteriorate the existing classrooms. In October 2011, our project was completed and over 260 students ranging from 1st to 5th grade were welcomed to their new school. The new foundation not reduced absenteeism, but provided students with a playground and helped the school continue to provide affordable education.
Dos de Mayo is a tea and yerba mate growing region in Misiones, Argentina. Known for its proximity to Iguazú Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in the world, it is also home to one of Harris Freeman’s largest suppliers. Recognizing yet another shortage of classrooms available to the children of tea growers, we partnered with the Victoria Jean Navajas Foundation to help build a classroom for the local General San Martin School (School 417). Established in 1957, School 417 serves over 500 students from primary to 7th grade.
Mulanje is in southern Malawi, directly in the center of the country’s tea growing region. Harris Freeman’s UK Division, Keith Spicer, sources tea from this region for a major UK retailer. In an effort to provide the local tea farmers with the tools and training required to improve their tea yields and generate a sustainable income, the Harris Freeman Foundation & the retailer launched the SUKESA project in 2013.
We partnered with the local tea farmers association; the Sukambizi Association Trust (SAT), which is a collective of smallholder farmers and Lujeri Tea Estate, one of the main processors of black tea in Malawi.
•Built nurseries through which cuttings from the latest tea plants (purchased from the Malawi Tea Research Foundation) could be nurtured and then sold at cost to the smallholder farmers
• Trained 72 lead farmers and imparted over 1,300 hours of training to smallholders on the latest tea husbandry techniques
• Created 9 demonstration plots, in which the best plantation management practices are showcased for smallholder farmers to learn from
Combined, these nurseries, training sessions, and demonstration plots have helped us so far to distribute 2.9 million plants and train over 9,000 farmers. Over the next few years, we hope to increase our distribution to 3.2 million plants, which would translate to 530 acres of tea fields.
During the Vietnam War (1962-1971), 20 million gallons of “Agent Orange,” a chemical herbicide, were dropped in Vietnam. It was originally dropped to defoliate the jungle areas and stop the Viet Cong from using the jungle trails to transport supplies to the front line. Inadvertently, the ground water used by the local farming communities was poisoned. As a result, over 400,000 Vietnamese were poisoned or maimed and since then, over 500,000 children have been born with birth defects or abnormalities.
In the 1990s, the Vietnamese Army had successfully used the Hubbard method for Detoxification to build up the weak muscles of ex-service men who had been affected by Agent Orange. Convinced that this technique should be available to the masses, The Da Nang Association of Victims of Agent Orange (DAVA) wanted to set up a clinic that would use the Hubbard method to treat Da Nang citizens.
Harris Freeman felt compelled to partner with DAVA and help fund the clinic.
In 2014, the Harris Freeman Foundation built a 2-story, 180 square-meter clinic. The clinic includes:
• A steam room that utilizes the Hubbard method of Detoxification to detoxify 30 patients every 3 weeks
• A pharmacy to disperse medication and vitamins to patients and help them build up their immune systems
• An exercise room to help patients exercise their muscles
• A lab to help monitor the health of patients
• A staff of doctors and pharmacists trained specifically to treat patients affected by Agent Orange
Hundreds of applications have been submitted by patients. These applications are reviewed by a panel of doctors to ensure that the worst effected patients are given treatment first.
The project was inaugurated in April 2014 by senior officials from Harris Freeman, one of our key customers and the local province.
This 3 year project, which started in 2014, is funded by the Harris Freeman Foundation and by the Fair Development Fund, which was setup by a major UK Retailer and a majora UK Charity. The project also consists of 3 non-financial stakeholders. These are
• The Rungwe Smallholder Tea Growers Association (as the producer of the tea through a consortium of 11,000 small holder farmers)
• The Wakulima Tea Company (as the processor of the black tea produced by these small-holder farmers)
• Keith Spicer (as the buyer/blender/packer of the tea)
The objectives of the project are fourfold:
• Rehabilitation of a discreet 37 ha communal tea field owned by 126 smallholders which can also be used as a demonstration area.
• To increase efficiency and sustainability in production – through best practice agriculture husbandry training
• To enable farmers to achieve higher quality crops and rely less on commercial fertilizers
• To improve smallholder farmer livelihoods
To-date we have:
• Made a great start in rejuvenating the 37 ha plot and provided intensive training to the 126 farmers
• Trained 150 lead trainers who have in turn passed along and provided training to the 11,000 small holder farmers in the local tea growers association on the latest tea husbandry techniques
A major two-year Sustainable Pepper Initiative was started in February 2015, and is a project to help up to 500 smallholder Pepper farmers in Vietnam.
The project aims at implementing the standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), Good Agricultural Practices of Vietnam (VietGAP), and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) so as to ensure the social, economic and environmental sustainability of pepper cultivation.
Funds have come from the Foundation and a sustainable trade organization based in Holland which is supported by NGO’s, Government bodies and private companies.
The Foundation is working with the Research Institute for Biotechnology and Environment, part of Ho Chi Min University, to provide agronomy training and impart knowledge to farmers, with particular emphasis in the area of pesticides to reduce the risk to the farmers, the environment and to reduce the level of pesticides in the Pepper itself.
The project is managed by Harris Freeman employees based in Vietnam and India (the latter being our farming experts).
In 2016 we started a second similar project in the same province to help 500 farmers over three years. This time we have partnered with GIZ (ASEAN SAS Vietnam Team)More on this project here