Over the past several years the Specialty Coffee industry has seen an increased demand on farmers for sustainable and socially responsible growing practices coming from coffee roasters and consumers alike. With the growing changes to our climate that can lead to diminished yield and quality, there has been an industry mindset shift to use more biodiverse farming practices. It is important that this consumer expectation is strong so that the investment into regenerative agroforestry becomes viable for coffee farmers and the future generations of coffee growers.
Though many farmers are eager to nourish their land and return to the soil as much as they get out of it, it takes a significant amount of patience, planning, and resources to convert a legacy estate from the perils of monocropping. Many coffee growers are considered lucky if they can
- Make enough to invest in seedlings for their nursery program and fertilizers for the next harvest season
- 2) Can provide fair and equitable wages
- 3) Be profitable after all is said and done.
But, if we plan to see coffee as we know it flourishing for the next 50 years we need to begin investing in that future today.
What is regenerative agriculture?
Regenerative agriculture is a holistic approach to farming that focuses on building and maintaining healthy soil, enhancing biodiversity, and improving the overall health of the ecosystem. This approach has a number of benefits for specialty coffee growers and can lead to higher quality coffee for consumers.
According to the Rodale Institute, a leading resource in organic and regenerative farming techniques, "regenerative agriculture is a holistic approach to farming that focuses on building and maintaining healthy soil, enhancing biodiversity, and improving the overall health of the ecosystem." This approach has been shown to improve soil health, increase resilience to climate change and pests, and enhance the quality of coffee.
One of the key benefits of regenerative agriculture for specialty coffee growers is improved soil health. Healthy soil is essential for growing high-quality coffee because it provides the necessary nutrients and structure for the coffee plants to thrive. By using regenerative agriculture techniques, such as cover cropping, composting, and minimal tillage, farmers can improve the structure and fertility of their soil, leading to healthier coffee plants and higher yields.
Our farming partner, Jorge Vasquez Ureña, has been using regenerative practices for growing coffee since the farm’s renaissance in 2018 and they are a shining example of how these farming techniques can improve both quality and yield. They began by reducing the use of fertilizers by diverting to natural forest decomposition of organic matter using leaves and fungi, using organic waste like coffee pulp to feed the worm population in order to produce organic fertilizer, introducing more natural fertilizers like calcium sulfate to amend and condition the soil, and reusing water from the washed fermentation process to irrigate nearby pastures and corn crops so as not to pollute the natural water sources running alongside Finca Cedral Alto.
They also allow sheep, cattle, pigs, and chickens to roam as a form of biodiverse weed control and soil micronutrient restoration. They have planted a variety of vegetation like avocados, beans, vegetables, corn and berries for animal grazing and crop cover trees like peach, orange, apple and lemon to increase local bird populations as a natural pesticide.
Roble Negro has been a partner of ours since 2019 and each year we have seen a vast increase in both yield and quality.
Another benefit of regenerative agriculture for specialty coffee growers is increased resilience to climate change. As the climate continues to change, coffee farmers are facing increased challenges such as extreme weather events and fluctuations in temperature and rainfall. By implementing regenerative agriculture practices, farmers can create more resilient systems that are better able to withstand these challenges and continue to produce high-quality coffee.
The rate of consumption through 2050 is expected to increase the demand on coffee producers by 2.5 times, which would lead to further deforestation and monocropping to keep up. If we don’t make changes to our expectations today this future could lead to more expensive coffee at a much lower quality in the typical consumer’s home.
What is the impact for us as consumers?
In addition to benefiting growers, regenerative agriculture also matters to consumers of specialty coffee. By focusing on soil health and ecosystem health, regenerative agriculture can lead to coffee that is not only higher in quality, but is also believed to be more flavorful and nutrient-rich. For example, research has shown that coffee grown using regenerative agriculture techniques has higher levels of antioxidants, which are beneficial for human health.
To ensure that regenerative agriculture can be a profitable business model for producers, consumers need to be bought in on the necessity of the future of specialty coffee and the benefits it has on our health.
Regenerative agroforestry offers a number of benefits for specialty coffee growers, including improved soil health, increased resilience to climate change, and higher quality coffee. This approach also matters to consumers of specialty coffee, as it can lead to coffee that is not only higher in quality, but also more flavorful and nutrient-rich. By supporting regenerative agriculture, both growers and consumers can play a role in promoting sustainable and responsible farming practices.