Continuing to add organic coffees to our lineup is a small contribution to the organic coffee world but we feel good about supporting farms that go the extra mile. With coffee being a commodity, farmers are quick to react when demand changes. If no one is purchasing certified organic coffees, farmers will ditch some of the more regulatory practices to cut costs but on the other side of that coin, if demand is high for organics, farmers and producers will put more effort into holding onto a certification. Sometimes, though, a certification doesn't make sense or isn't financially viable for a small farm without a coop backing. Even though they can't afford the official certification process, you'll still find many noncertified farms using organic practices.
Certification aside, many farms already utilize organic practices out of necessity and tradition rather than regulation. Walk onto a successful coffee farm and you will see the byproduct of coffee processing being turned into composte and mixed with animal waste for a natural fertilizer. Many farmers are aware of the dangers associated with artificial pesticides for their environment and their community. Coffee as a crop needs ample rain to grow which makes using pesticides that can runoff into drinking water not ideal. Artificial pesticides and fertilizers are added costs as well and not all farms have easy access. While we don't work with farms in Burundi, it is a great example for a country with limited access to inputs needed. Fertilizers in Burundi are government controlled and need to be applied and paid in advance for making it a less viable for farmers there.
When you buy our Team Crafty Signature Roast or our Guatemala Union Cantinil, you are telling a whole fleet of small farms in South America that what they are doing is worth it; not only for you and them but the planet.
Enjoy the Shade (Grown Coffee)
A stand out practice that contributes to an organic farm is the use of the naturalfauna. Shade-grown coffee comes in a couple different forms but is beneficial on many fronts. Although it was the natural way to sustain a coffee farm once-upon-a-time, demand for higher and faster yields gave way to sun-grown coffee
that is destructive to the natural environment surrounding the farm. Sunlight speeds up ripening and increases yield, allowing more coffee to be harvested faster unlike shade-growing which slows the ripening process making a sweeter and more complex bean.
The loss of the shade trees on such a large scale also caused an estimated 20% decline in migratory bird populations due to habitat loss and the diminished songbird population has been noted as far away as 1500 miles from the coffee growing regions. I could go on and on about the effects of migratory birds on these coffee plantations but the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center's website has more information than I could cover here so I highly recommend checking them out.
The biodiversity found on these shade-grown farms is completely a league of its own. While natural fauna is widely used, farmers utilize other plants that will produce a product that can be harvested or sold (think fruits and cocoa) making shade-grown a little more profitable as a whole.
Today, shade-grown coffees are on the rise again because of consumer awareness and interest. Shade-grown coffee is good for all parties involved: farmers, communities, migratory birds, and consumers. Although it'll be a couple months until his new crop arrives, our friend Pablo del Cid is proud of his farm that is completely shaded down in Guatemala. Our current dark roast offering, Mexico el Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, is another coffee that comes from a shade grown farm from the Chiapas region of Mexico where it is common practice to preserve as much wildlife as possible.
The Years to Come
So far working with these farms and offering their coffees on as high of a pedestal as we can has been a delight. We are in the process of making as many as our offerings certified organic as we can but also looking out for farms that implement the practices to the best of their abilities, even if they can't afford the certifications. As the worlds second most traded commodity, there is no reason that it can't be a gold mine for environmental change and justice and we look forward to seeing what new innovations and passion help get us there. From a socio-economic and one-world view, todays coffee farmers and coops are teaching the future generations what it means to grow and operate farms in a way that is sustainable for the Earth and their communities. It is easy to chase short term profits that do long term harm, but recognizing that everything we do has an affect and passing that to todays youth is invaluable.