World Coffee Research (WCR) has appointed Dr Jennifer “Vern” Long as the new Chief Executive Officer of the organisation.
Long most recently held the position of Director of the Office of Agricultural Research and Policy at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
“Vern is joining WCR at a time of strong momentum. What was once a fledgling organisation has surpassed everyone’s expectations and created a capacity we now recognise the coffee industry can’t do without, says Michael Keown, Chair of the WCR board of directors.
“We are thrilled to welcome her and look forward to all that’s to come.”
A plant breeder by training, Vern brings 25 years of experience in international agricultural research with a focus on smallholders to WCR. With USAID, she managed a global program portfolio of more than US$140 million per year.
WCR says Vern has substantial experience convening diverse stakeholders — from industry, governments, international agricultural research centres, university scientists, and farmers — to formulate a shared crop research agenda to improve productivity among smallholder farmers.
Her work has spanned low- and middle-income countries in diverse geographies including Central America, West Africa, East and Southern Africa, and South Asia. She has served on various multi-donor working groups, including as Chair of the Agricultural Research Working Group of the Global Donor Platform on Rural Development based in Bonn, Germany.
“I am humbled and excited to join an organisation as dynamic, focused, and innovative as WCR. Coffee production faces numerous challenges in the coming years, which agricultural research and development are uniquely positioned to address. I am eager to build on [Founder and outgoing CEO Dr Timothy Schilling’s] success in establishing WCR as one of the leading coffee organizations in the world,” Vern says.
“I look forward to engaging across the coffee community to grow WCR, so together we can position coffee production to be sustainable in the long term, particularly for the farmers who make the business of coffee possible.”
Timothy will work side-by-side with Vern through the end of the year, then step into a new role as President of WCR’s European subsidiary branch and a member of the board of directors.
Vern will take the helm of WCR on 1 June.
“With Vern, WCR is in exceptionally capable hands.” Timothy says. “She is deeply knowledgeable and passionate about international agricultural research, a natural leader and entrepreneurial thinker, and an experienced organisation builder. She’s the perfect fit. The coffee world doesn’t know her yet, but it will.”
Vern will lead a maturing organisation that has grown since its founding in 2012 to a team of 36 people based in 13 countries with an annual budget of more than US$4.4 million worldwide. In order to achieve its mission to grow, protect, and enhance supplies of quality coffee while improving the livelihoods of the families who produce it, WCR aims to achieve stable funding of US$10 million by 2022. The organisation currently has offices in Marseilles, France; Portland, Oregon; Kigali, Rwanda; and Santa Ana, El Salvador.
WCR says Timothy galvanised the world coffee industry, worth US$174 billion dollars per year, to recognise the potentially disastrous vulnerabilities it faced due to the lack of functional, global, open-source research and development programs that create new knowledge and technologies for the benefit of farmers.
“Our industry likes to talk about sustainability a lot. But in WCR, we have brought into being a global organisation that is charging ahead to address some of the fundamental problems stopping us from achieving it, especially low profitability for farmers,” says Mario Cerutti, President of ECF/Chief Institutional Relations and Sustainability Officer at Lavazza.
“Farmer-focused agricultural innovation is fundamental. We cannot be a sustainable industry in the long term without it. It is why so many international companies, like Lavazza, have joined this precompetitive effort. We are so excited to watch this organisation grow to realise its full potential under Vern’s leadership.”