Specialty Coffee Cultivation: Sustainability Matters

Specialty coffee beans are top grade Arabica beans from the premier coffee growing regions of the world. True gourmet coffee is made from specialty coffee only, whether single origin or blend.

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Specialty coffee is cultivated primarily in small to medium size shade grown coffee farms owned by coffee farming families for several generations. Making a living from a coffee farm is expensive, risky and time demanding. So, small farmers rely on coffee federations, trade groups, coop organizations and other similar coffee growers’ communities help small farmers to succeed in today’s competitive domestic and international markets.

Adherence to sustainable practices is a proven way to guarantee a stable source of coffee revenue.

What are some of these practices? For example,

The coffee farm:

Coffee growers need access to financial credit to maintain, renew, and develop their coffee plantations. Also, access to markets, domestic and international, is a requirement to get added value for specialty gourmet coffee. Education and regular training drip coffee maker about sustainability and quality help growers utilize eco-friendly agricultural practices. These standards are good for the environment and help produce better quality beans. Consequently, each year, thousands of coffee growers participate in certification and verification procedures worldwide.

Coffee Community Programs:

Coffee cooperatives, trade organizations, federations or other similar groups rely on the democratic process with regularly scheduled elections to select individuals who represent the interests of the member coffee growers. The programs offered by these organizations include educational projects, technical and technological training, infrastructure maintenance, and health education. The idea is to implement practical projects that benefit the members in real ways such as building aqueducts, schools, roads, hospitals and health centers. Social awareness training is also offered to promote the coexistence of members of different ages, ethnic backgrounds, and gender. Within any one particular country there are many racial and cultural differences that cannot be ignored.

In remote and poor rural areas, social coffee programs can be the only way for survival. An example of this idea is the Café de la Reconciliación in Colombia. What is it? This program uses coffee projects that benefit endangered communities through special editions of Juan Valdez coffee. An example is Rionegro, Santander, where more than 50,000 local residents had been displaced from their lands during guerrilla wars. Following relocation, the residents united to put the past behind and rebuild their futures through the cultivation and promotion of high quality coffee.

Technology and Virtual Access:

Globalization is great for the specialty coffee grower, or it can be. The immediate surroundings are no longer a limitation to the small coffee farmer in remote coffee growing areas of Latin America, Ethiopia or Papua New Guinea. However, the farmers have to focus on cultivation and land management. They usually do not have the funds for personal computers or even access to virtual networks from their farm houses.

So, how is this problem solved? Coops, for example, work to install connectivity centers accessible to any of their members in convenient locations. This is a practical way to educate coffee growers in the use of information and communication technologies. As an example, the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) has developed one of the most reliable databases for geo-referenced coffee lots in the world. This access is very good because it provides updated information to develop segmented and niches programs. The segmentation ensures relevancy for the members who benefit from it.

Conservation of the environment:

Nothing happens in the coffee trade without healthy, rich and well maintained soils. Coffee cultivation is completely dependent upon the conservation and biodiversity of the coffee habitats. Certifying and verifying the consistent implementation of practices friendly with nature is one of the most important activities in a coffee community. Coffee growers know this is simply synonymous to survival. Bio-diversity conservation corridors need to exist throughout the coffee growing region. Such corridors include protected water basins and watersheds as well as re-forested lands where trees were cut or natural erosion caused damage.

Water conservation is also vital to coffee growers who learn how to reduce the water consumption in relation to the weight and volume of washed coffee. The adaptation of new coffee varietals to environments with different climate conditions and rainfall patterns is another way to establish new coffee habitats. Above all, beans that go from the farm to the cup must meet the top quality requirements of specialty coffee for gourmet coffee drinking consumer markets.

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