Cal Lutheran Alumni

30,000 strong

All Roads Lead to Family (and Coffee!)

Cal Lutheran introduces alumnus to a new extended family - and leads him back to a time-honored family business.

For 2017 Outstanding Alumnus, Michael Adinew ’94, California Lutheran University was the beginning of a life in America, an adventure that has taken him home to Ethiopia and returned him back to California many times over. The third generation of coffee grower in his family, Michael introduced a new aspect to the industry when he co-founded a sustainable coffee operation, Rift Valley Trading, LLC (, with offices in Bonn, Germany, and South Pasadena, California.

Michael has great appreciation for Cal Lutheran parents Bob and Jackie Boynton; they helped realize his dream of a college education by funding the first Ethiopian student scholarship fund (now known as The Boynton Family Scholarship). The family’s gift helped both Michael and his sister, Fana (Adinew ’86) Oldfield, to attend Cal Lutheran after both of their daughters graduated from the University in 1986 and 1998.

As an undergraduate, Michael majored in Marketing and Advertising and minored in International Business. He was an active student and participated in many activities outside of the classroom, serving as president of the International Student Club and co-founder of the Entrepreneurship Club.

After graduation and for over 22 years, Michael worked at several Fortune 500 companies in sales, strategic marketing and project management. While finding the expertise gained worthwhile, Michael eventually turned his attention to joining the family business and starting a U.S. based coffee company. He quickly gained expertise in the growing, importing, sales, development and management of the company. Rift Valley, LLC is a fair-trade organization, a designation awarded to companies that adhere to standards for better trading conditions and sustainability. Their slogan is “Your Partner for Reliable and Sustainable Sourcing”, and their operations are bird-friendly and approved by the Rain Forest Alliance. The company is also a member of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) of America.

Living in the United States since 1988, Michael continues to develop business opportunities for his family's coffee operations in North America, Asia and Europe. He now works closely with industry associations such as the SCA and the Coffee Quality Institute in his home country, Ethiopia, and in the U.S. to make sure that best practices are employed at all levels of his family’s business.  This extends to discarding less plant matter than other coffee operations, applying principles of resource conservation, and ensuring ethical and socially responsible practices.

Michael also continues to research innovative farming techniques with the assistance of the University of California, and recently started a project in Myanmar to aid in implementing sustainable coffee-growing, quality control and fair employment practices. He also currently serves on the board of The Chain Collaborative, a non-profit organization that helps to implement socially responsible projects in coffee-growing regions worldwide. Michael feels honored when he can help small farms achieve worldwide visibility and recognition for their fine products. He is passionate about encouraging sustainable and transparent business practices, and in assisting farmers and their communities for the betterment of the coffee industry. Not only do the best coffees come from the best beans, he believes, but also from the happiest farmers.