Cup of Joe

By Karey Burek

There has been a lot of talk about organic foods lately. Is it good for the environment and what, if any, are the benefits of eating it?  The National Wildlife Federation has discovered the potency of organically grown coffee.  Below is an excerpt from their Web site on why it is a good idea to support the growth of organic coffee.  Like many people, I like my cup of joe in the morning, but I am not about to destroy the environment for it.

As the world market gets flooded with inexpensive, low-quality coffee from places like Vietnam and Brazil, driving the price of coffee down, traditional coffee farmers — who produce much smaller crops — can’t compete and are often left to abandon their farms or convert their fields into full-sun coffee plantations. Due to this recent "coffee crisis," half of the region’s traditional coffee farms have been converted to full-sun plantations.

It is important to support organic coffee cooperatives who are helping wildlife by keeping a variety of trees intact, providing a much-needed stopover for migratory birds, and avoiding pesticide use.

For hundreds of years, coffee plants were grown using organic practices: inter-planting coffee with shade trees, composting, and eliminating harmful chemicals. These traditional, "sustainable" plantations often yield the best tasting variety of coffee, according to industry experts.

So why isn’t all coffee grown this way? Because farmers can produce more coffee and cheaper coffee in "full sun" fields. Unfortunately, those fields carry a hefty environmental price.

Deforestation of traditional coffee plantations in Central America and Mexico adds to the loss of tropical forests that is already occurring at an alarming rate in this region.

• Loss of forest habitat in this region is directly linked to a shrinking migratory songbird population worldwide.

• When trees are cleared, natural predators that keep insects in check are no longer present, so farmers turn to powerful pesticides that harm people and wildlife.

• Sustainable coffee plantations often contain more tree species per acre than an acre of North American forest?

Green Mountain and National Wildlife Federation now provide organic coffee.  You can help sustain the forests and wildlife by purchasing their coffee.

For more information on this topic and on how to get that tasty coffee, visit the NWF Web site.

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