Coffee and the Environment - Organic Trade Association
Organic Trade Association
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Coffee and the Environment


A Unique Responsibility

All organic growers are committed to maintaining the health of our environment and the fertility of our soil, but organic coffee growers have a unique responsibility. A shade-loving, tropical rainforest plant, coffee is grown on fragile soils, and often on steep terrain highly susceptible to erosion. And, coffee growing regions contain some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world.


Not So Far From Home

Deforestation presents one of the greatest threats to the fragile rainforest ecosystems where coffee is grown. Over the past forty years, Central America and Mexico have lost approximately two-thirds of their rainforest. And while these regions can seem far removed, they are linked to North America in vital ways. During the winter months, over 200 of our migratory bird species nest in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean, often finding refuge in the multi-layered habitat created by organic coffee farms.


Fostering Diversity

An organic coffee farm would look much like the tropical jungle surrounding it. Because coffee is by nature an “understory” shrub, it grows best in the shade of taller trees. Some organic coffee growers introduce coffee bushes into existing forest; some create a multi-layered coffee “garden” which includes other useful crop species such as banana, guava, macadamia, and palm.


This rich diversity produces exciting, positive results-it ensures economic security for the farmer, protects against soil erosion and offers habitat for a variety of insects, birds and mammals. In some areas, bird diversity has actually increased, and some previously threatened orchid species have been rediscovered alive and well in organic coffee farms.


Organic coffee production offers an uplifting example of how the goals of conservation and food production can co-exist side-by-side. Organic farmers of all crops are making an important contribution to saving our planet. Your contribution is just as important-when you shop, choose organic.


Organic Coffee Growers:

  • Improve and maintain soil fertility through composting and other natural methods such as the planting of nitrogen-fixing tree or applications of animal or “green” manures.
  • Use ecological methods to control pests and disease rather than chemical pesticides or fungicides.
  • Provide much needed refuge for migratory birds and other wildlife.
  • Protect plant diversity by propagating different species of native trees.
  • Minimize soil erosion and compaction by “reforesting” or maintaining forested areas.
  • Provide economic security in rural regions by offering jobs at labor-intensive times such as harvest, and by growing a variety of useful food crops.
  • Minimize pollution from coffee processing wastewater by reducing water use, recirculating water whenever possible, and employing anaerobic digestion systems to clean water after use.
  • Follow stringent organic standards in order to produce a quality crop and to meet organic certification requirements.
  • Protect and further a traditional agriculture, building on centuries-old knowledge of farming in harmony with nature.

When You Buy Organic Coffee:

  • You’re supporting farmers who are committed to maintaining the long-term health of our environment.
  • You’re supporting family farms and marketing cooperatives which help to ensure economic independence in rural areas.
  • You’re helping to preserve biodiversity- the variety and multitude of plant and animal species on the planet.
  • And don’t forget- you’re getting a great tasting cup of coffee, too!
2014 Annual Fund

Research and Promotion 2012