Woman of the Year | The Women's Issue | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Coverage for Central Oregon, by Central Oregonians.
100% Local. No Paywalls.

Every day, the Source publishes a mix of locally reported stories on our website, keeping you up to date on developments in news, food, music and the arts. We’re committed to covering this city where we live, this city that we love, and we hear regularly from readers who appreciate our ability to put breaking news in context.

The Source has been a free publication for its 22 years. It has been free as a print version and continued that way when we began to publish online, on social media and through our newsletters.

But, as most of our readers know, times are different for local journalism. Tech giants are hoovering up small businesses and small-business advertising—which has been the staple for locally owned media. Without these resources, journalism struggles to bring coverage of community news, arts and entertainment that social media cannot deliver.

Please consider becoming a supporter of locally owned journalism through our Source Insider program. Learn more about our program’s benefits by clicking through today.

Support Us Here

Special Issues & Guides » The Women's Issue

Woman of the Year

Jesse Durham of Sisters Coffee once ran a marathon to raise funds to help an all-women coffee co-op improve production



Jesse Durham is a co-owner of Sisters Coffee Company—a brand started by her parents, Winfield and Joy Durham, in Sisters in 1989. Today, Jesse and her two brothers are at the helm of the company, which operates cafes in Sisters and Portland, as well as a wholesale business roasting and packaging 300,000 pounds of coffee per year. Last year, Jesse spearheaded an effort to convert their coffee bags to a new, biodegradable packaging made from sugar cane and wood pulp. For the company's 30th anniversary, Jesse designed and launched a coffee blend of which 10% of profits go to Partnership for Gender Equity. She also spearheaded the launch of Grow Together—an effort to make coffee and its supply chain more accessible to all who love the drink.

Jesse's tenacity in the business space and her commitment to women's empowerment were just a couple of the reasons the judges recognized her for the Woman of the Year award.

Jesse Durham, co-owner of Sisters Coffee Company, says her favorite part about coffee is the supply chain and finding ways to improve it. - MEGAN BAKER
  • Megan Baker
  • Jesse Durham, co-owner of Sisters Coffee Company, says her favorite part about coffee is the supply chain and finding ways to improve it.

Durham described to me how in 2015, she discovered that the Nyampinga Women's Cooperative, an all-women co-op in Rwanda, was spending excessive amounts of time hauling water from a river to its coffee washing station—holding the co-op back economically. Durham decided to raise funds for the co-op by signing up for the 2016 Kigali International Peace Marathon in Kigali, Rwanda, teaming up with 10 Barrel's Portland location to craft a coffee beer as a fundraiser. The funds raised went toward obtaining a water pump that would deliver clean water to the co-op's washing station.

That had a huge impact on the co-op, but also local customers. As she described, "For Sisters Coffee, one of the huge wins in that whole campaign and fundraiser was, we had a little jar out front that said, 'hey, help the co-op get a washing station—and that was a helpful tool because it got the customers thinking."

Here's more from our interview with Jesse Durham:

Source Weekly: I like to give every woman nominated in these awards, firstly, the opportunity to name someone who's impacted their own life. Who's that person for you?

Jesse Durham: The first person who comes to mind is my mom. She has this larger-than-life personality and it's one of those warm, jovial compassionate personalities that other people around her are really impacted by, but she's just being her.

SW: During the [judge's] interview I was intrigued by your description of the connection with the farms you work with. Can you share a bit more about that?

JD: This is my favorite part about coffee—the supply chain—I think mostly because there's so much that we can do. Sisters Coffee is a small business, but there's so much impact that we can have with the coffee that we buy, so it's really cool when you go travel to these countries to see how much it matters to them that we're buying their coffee, and our feedback on the coffee matters to them.

SW: What does being nominated for Woman of the Year mean to you?

JD: It's a huge honor. I think growing up in Central Oregon and seeing how Central Oregon has grown since I was a kid in the 1990s, and to see the direction that it has moved—Central Oregon has become such an incredible community throughout the course of my life and so many talented people have moved to Central Oregon because they want to live here. And they bring in a whole host of expertise and skill sets that I admire, and I aspire to cultivate in my own life, and so to be nominated for woman of the year, just makes me feel very honored that I get to be part of that community.

I think it inspires me to ask myself, well, how can I get more involved? When I was at the interview [with the judge's panel] I was looking across the room, and I was like, 'gosh, I want to be a leader.' I feel like in many ways I am a leader in the community, but it just begs the question, what more can I do? How can I get more involved?

About The Author

Nicole Vulcan

Nicole Vulcan has been editor of the Source since 2016. (Blame her for everything since then.) Favorite car: A Trek commuter bike. Favorite cat: An adopted dog who looks like a Jedi master. Favorite things, besides responding to your comments: Downton Abbey re-runs, Aretha Franklin albums, and pink wine.

Add a comment

More by Nicole Vulcan

Latest in The Women's Issue

More in The Women's Issue

  • Young Hero

    Young Hero

    Angie Acevedo, now a student at COCC, made a name for herself at Bend High, where she advocated for immigrants and people experiencing poverty
    • Mar 4, 2020
  • Advancing Women

    Advancing Women

    Karina Smith, a believer in the power of challenges to push people forward
    • Mar 4, 2020
  • Community Hero

    Community Hero

    Ruth Jones, supporting LatinX families through the JUNTOS program
    • Mar 4, 2020
  • Lifetime Achievement

    Lifetime Achievement

    Lawnae Hunter has had a remarkable career—but her passion lies in teaching and servant leadership
    • Mar 4, 2020
  • More »