Organic Coffee: What Does it Mean?

Terms like “organic” are often thrown around without much thought, nor explanation as to what it actually means. We’re here to break down what organic coffee means to us–and ultimately you as a consumer. 

First, the facts:

Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use directly accounts for 18.4% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to OurWorldinData.

Things like deforestation, preparing large swaths of land for crops (and therefore degrading the soil’s natural nutrients), nitrogen fertilizers, and crop burning are all leading factors in agriculture’s contribution to rising greenhouse gas emissions.

What does large-scale (think Big Names in the industry) coffee farming look like?

Coffee beans are traditionally grown under the shade of larger, canopy trees in a forest. With the rise of big industry coffee, the product was so valuable that trees have been cleared to make room for more crops. 

When shade is removed, more fresh water is necessary to keep the plants cool and happy. Plus, the degradation of forest ecology means complex root systems have been torn away. This leaves the soil nutritionally bare and ripe for flooding. 

These factors lead to the overuse of synthetic and toxic fertilizers.

How do our farming partners do things differently?

Our farming partners use traditional techniques, often passed down from Indiginous ancestors, to cultivate their coffee crops. Some farmers prefer to grow their plants in small “microlot” batches to keep the soil healthy, while others have larger operations under the forest floor. Plus, our farming partners aren’t exposed to fertilizers and pesticides themselves, which creates a safer environment for them and their families.

Did you know some of our partners are currently using sustainable techniques to actively heal their land from past practices? Cooperative Coffees has a few initiatives in place to encourage best practices all around, such as the Cool Farm Tool–a carbon sequestration calculator.

How does Desert Sun and Coop Coffees contribute?

First and foremost, Cooperative Coffees is a collection of like-minded coffee roasters, farmers, and businesspeople who have shared goals to provide the most sustainable coffee possible to consumers. (See how Desert Sun fits into Cooperative Coffees.)

Cooperative Coffees contributes to the groundwork farmers are doing using our Impact Fund, an environmental service fund that invests directly in our coffee producing partners. The money is collected through a 3 cent per pound voluntary fee paid by all roaster-members on coffees imported through the Coop. In 2020, Cooperative Coffees directed $130,000 towards COVID-19 relief in our farming communities.

And most recently, the Impact Fund was used to help reforestation efforts in Honduras.

What does all of this mean for you?

Well, to put it shortly, switching to ethical and sustainable coffees from Desert Sun means you're supporting carbon responsible initiatives that are working to solve climate change. When people just like you buy from small businesses like Desert Sun, it enables us to continue making an impact with our farming partners in Central and South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

We firmly believe that when small people come together, they can make a large impact–and that’s why the roasters and farmers of Cooperative Coffees do what we do!

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