Until the 1970s, coffee was grown as nature intended.
By The Conservation Committee of the Rye Garden Club
Until the 1970s, coffee was grown as nature intended. Plants lived beneath the canopy of rainforest trees. This agroforestry system allowed a bounty of plants and animals to inhabit the environment of the coffee farm. In the 1970s, a new form of coffee farming was introduced. Rainforests were clear-cut to make way for coffee planted in tight hedgerows. More beans could be produced this way, but this new method created a monoculture.
On a clear-cut coffee farm, the one and only living thing is the coffee plant. This farming system removed the natural pest controls of a balanced environment, requiring the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. The altering of the environment accelerated soil erosion, and the agrochemicals used washed into waterways and spread far beyond the coffee farm.
Enter the Rainforest Alliance and its partner Sustainable Agriculture Network in 1993. They demonstrated to the world that a productive coffee farm could co-exist with the rainforest and all its life. They began certifying farms that grew in the method of old — under sheltering forests. They partnered with farmers to help them enter premium markets and to learn sustainable farm-management.
Forested coffee farms are bio-diverse and home to many different kinds of trees and animal species. These farms serve the vital purpose of being rest stops for migrating birds, as well. Migratory birds, such as the Baltimore Oriole and ruby-throated hummingbird, are not only a delight to see in your yard, but are integral to the health of the environment as they pollinate flowers and disperse seeds.
When you buy coffee, look for the Rainforest Alliance or Bird Friendly Smithsonian seal. Searches online will help you find the great number of brands certified with the seals above, as will a trip down the Whole Foods coffee aisle. A few online purveyors of organic, ethically farmed coffee are Organic Coffee Cartel and CuppaJoeCoffee.com.
What a great way to start your day knowing your morning coffee has helped support a bio-diverse environment.