World Coffee Research names Jennifer “Vern” Long new CEO
The board of directors of World Coffee Research (WCR) has named Jennifer “Vern” Long as the new CEO of the organization.
Michael Keown, Chair of the WCR board of directors, says, “Vern is joining WCR at a time of strong momentum. What was once a fledgling organization has surpassed everyone’s expectations and created a capacity we now recognize the coffee industry can’t do without. We are thrilled to welcome her and look forward to all that’s to come.”
A plant breeder by training, Long brings 25 years of experience in international agricultural research with a focus on smallholders. Serving as the Director, Office of Agricultural Research and Policy at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), she managed a global program portfolio of >$140 million per year. Long has substantial experience convening diverse stakeholders — from industry, national governments, CGIAR international agricultural research centers, 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.
Dr. Tim Schilling, the founder and outgoing chief executive officer of WCR, will work side-by-side with Long 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. Long will take the helm of WCR on June 1.
“With Vern, WCR is in exceptionally capable hands.” Says Dr. Schilling. “She is deeply knowledgeable and passionate about international agricultural research, is a natural leader and entrepreneurial thinker, and is an experienced organization builder. She’s the perfect fit. The coffee world doesn’t know her yet, but it will.”
Farmer-focused agricultural innovation is fundamental. We cannot be a sustainable industry in the long term without it. - Mario Cerutti, Chief Sustainability Officer, Lavazza
Long will lead a maturing organization that has grown since
its founding in 2012 to a team of 36 people based in 13 countries with
an annual budget of over $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 $10 million by 2022. The organization
currently has offices in Marseilles, France; Portland, Oregon; Kigali,
Rwanda; and Santa Ana, El Salvador.
“I am humbled and excited
to join an organization as dynamic, focused, and innovative as World
Coffee Research. 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 Tim’s success in
establishing WCR as one of the leading coffee organizations in the
world,” says Long. “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.”
Dr. Schilling galvanized
the world coffee industry, worth US$174 billion dollars per year, to
recognize 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. In 2012, Schilling led the formation of World Coffee Research
to catalyze innovation in coffee agriculture. The ambitious research
agenda of WCR is executed collaboratively with coffee producing nations
and the private sector. One of the most important impacts of World
Coffee Research is that it allows the coffee industry for the first time
to invest in a global program of agricultural R&D, bringing
together companies that are otherwise competitors to invest
"Our industry likes to talk about
sustainability a lot. But in World Coffee Research, we have brought into
being a global organization 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, ECF/Chief
Institutional Relations and Sustainability Officer, 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 organization grow to realize its
full potential under Vern’s leadership."