Rohan Marley, a son of reggae legend Bob Marley, arrived unfashionably late for an interview on Friday. "He has his own timeline," an employee at the Marley Coffee exhibit explains. Ah, Jamaican time, of course, which has absolutely nothing to do with real time.
Rohan was in town to introduce visitors to his coffee and tea drinks at the Natural Foods Expo East at the Baltimore Convention Center. His coffee company features Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee grown on his farm there as well as fair-trade beans from local farmers all over the world.
The former University of Miami linebacker didn't set out to be a coffee farmer, he tells me when he arrives almost an hour and a half past our scheduled meeting time. "It wasn't the plan," he says, with his megawatt smile, mischievous eyes, and thick dreadlocks.
He's so charming that it's hard to be irked about his lateness, especially when I find out he blew off a CNN interview earlier in the morning.
He's mellow, Mon, as a stream of people come up to him at the exhibit, asking to have their photos taken with him or to get his autograph. Grown women gawk and gush as they approach him. He clearly enjoys the fandom.
But Rohan is quite earnest when he talks about his desire to employ organic and sustainable practices in his business endeavors as he carries on his father's legacy. "Our first responsibility is to the earth and social consciousness," he says.
Rohan began his foray into the world of coffee when he fell in love with a 52-acre plot of land in Chepstowe, Portland, Jamaica, atop the Blue Mountains. "I purchased the farm because of the beautiful river, " he says, referring to the meandering Spanish River.
But after he bought the property, he felt committed to the workers toiling the fields of the coffee farm. He didn't want them to be out of work. "The key was to keep it going," he says. And he did.
Rohan, 40, who was a professional Canadian football player after college, also is involved in the Marley Beverage Company, which promotes healthy natural drinks. "It's a young company, young and passionate," says Kevin McClafferty, the fledgling beverage company's president, as he hangs close to Rohan at the exhibit. "It has the potential to be one of the biggest enterprises in the country."
Growth is important for another reason. A portion of the coffee company's proceeds benefits Kicks for Cause, a foundation that builds soccer fields and soccer camps for the children of coffee-producing communities.
There's an additional component to Rohan's mission, too: the House of Marley, which produces sustainable audio products. In fact, after the Baltimore expo ended on Saturday, Rohan headed to Austin, Texas, for a House of Marley event.
When I asked him what he did while he was in Baltimore, he said he watched a lot of football, being coy about specifics. But he seemed genuinely pleased to be here.
"I love Baltimore," he says. "My best friends live in Baltimore."
I have a feeling everyone thinks they are his friend.
Photos by me