Shade Grown Organic Coffee

With shade grown organic coffee the consumer gets healthy organic coffee and the grower preserves the natural environment. First of all shade grown organic coffee is a return to historic and time tested growing techniques. Natural coffee strains grow best in partial or total shade. In fact, many plants dry out and die if planted in full sun. Thus coffee has traditionally been grown under a canopy of trees. This method of planting on hillsides helps prevent erosion as is still seen in regions of Colombia, Panama, and other parts of the world where coffee is grown on steep slopes. However, new sun tolerant coffee strains were introduced over the last two generations. These plants thrive in full sunlight and are capable of producing up to three times as many coffee beans as traditional coffee plants in a shaded environment. Unfortunately, in order to boost production rates growers use synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides to protect the monoculture of coffee that they plant. By taking coffee out of its more normal habitat growers subject it to the same risks as other field crops and orchards in which individual infective pests can enter and destroy a crop. Considering that it can take a decade for coffee plants to mature an infection or infestation that destroys plants can be devastating. Thus the coffee planter who ceases to produce shade grown organic coffee can find himself trapped in a never ending cycle of herbicide, pesticide, and synthetic fertilizer use. The consumers of this coffee pay the price.

Here are a few facts about organic coffee, especially the shade grown variety. Shade grown organic coffee has historically been grown in a mixed species forest that includes fruit and hardwood trees as well as other bushes and plants. Researchers have found up to forty different species of trees on traditional, organic coffee plantations. This mixture of trees helps maintain soil quality and provides habitat for numerous smaller plants as well as animals and birds. A mature plantation producing shade grown organic coffee is a mature ecosystem that is virtually self-sustaining. It does not require insecticides as birds and other animals living in the coffee forest consume the pests. It does not require large amount of synthetic fertilizers as the natural products of plant decomposition slowly leach into the soil to fertilize new plants and do not poison downstream water or the water table.

Small traditional farms produce shade grown organic coffee by planting coffee plants in existing forest. Likewise small growers will selectively clear forest in order to retain the canopy while providing room for coffee. Many planters starting with bare ground will plant plantain among coffee plants, letting the two species mature together. Both crops can be harvested and the plantain provides shade for the coffee. An additional benefit of planting multiple crops on the same ground is that the grower is not totally dependent on coffee prices for his income. In order to be assured that the coffee on the breakfast is table is organic coffee the consumer should look for proof of organic coffee certification. The USDA certifies coffee that is grown according to sustainable agricultural techniques. USDA shade grown organic coffee is labeled as such and provides the consumer with the reassurance that the organic coffee antioxidants in the morning cup of coffee are not contaminated with pesticide residue or traces of dangerous herbicides.

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