Coffee is certified organic using a third party certification organization; most commonly, organic growers use the Organic Crop Improvement Association. There is a cost involved, cutting into the profits of the small producers that often make this type of coffee. In addition, organic coffee is “shade grown”, which reduces yield and also adds to the cost of this type of coffee. Most organic coffee is also considered “fair trade coffee” and a special certification is required for that status. Fair trade coffee is traded in such a way as to bypass the coffee trader, allowing better profits to the producer, in general.
The third party certification organization that certifies fair trade coffee is called TransFair USA.
Organic coffee traded using fair trade methods involves an agreement by coffee importers and small farmers that says the importers will purchase their organic coffee from smaller farmers listed in the International Fair Trade Coffee Register. Organic growers are guaranteed a minimum “fair trade price” for their coffee and importers provide a certain amount of credit to growers against future sales, keeping farmers out of debt. The middle man is cut out of this process.
It is also important in organic coffee farming that the farming be sustainable. While the definition of “sustainable” varies, it basically means that the growth of the organic coffee is healthy for the environment and the people who grow and buy it. Sustainable organic farming doesn’t destroy the land the product is grown on and uses very little external energy
in the production of the organic product.
A sustainable organic farm is designed to give back to the land as much as it receives from it. Non-renewable resources are avoided and pollution in the farming process is minimized as much as possible. Sustainable organic farming thinks of the health and welfare of the employees as well. One example of using sustainable farming is to reuse the organic coffee
husks as heating fuel rather than using petroleum or natural gas heating. New trees are grown to make up for those used in heating.
Sustainable organic coffee growing takes steps to avoid excess energy added to the system. For example, a solar coffee drying system is used instead of commercial coffee bean dryers. Water consumption is minimized in sustainable organic coffee growing and the water used is kept clean. Water from the coffee fermentation tanks is never dumped in rivers or lakes but is filtered naturally through the earth before being used for irrigation.
Sustainable organic farms will spread organic fertilizer like composted coffee pulp under and between the coffee trees. Yields are increased and the mineral content in the soil is maximized. All in all, organic coffee farming is safe, healthy and good for the environment. Consumers can buy these products in cooperatives, health food stores and some supermarkets.