The following was written by Carly Kadlec, Green Coffee Buyer
“We have to change how we treat our soil, though, and that starts with agriculture. Our current model is broken: Great swaths of natural, carbon-absorbing prairies have been converted into monocultures dependent on tilling, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Modern industrial farming is now responsible for 70 percent of the world’s water use and emits more carbon dioxide than all of our cars, planes and trains combined. The soil beneath these monocultures is all but robbed of its natural resilience and ability to support life.”
–Yvon Chouinard from the recent Patagonia publication on prairie restoration partnerships
While Yvon Chouinard is talking about prairies and their link to a healthy ecosystem in this particular excerpt, the principles apply to the coffee farmers in our supply chain who grow coffee in mountainous tropical forests. Coffee farmers in the Equal Exchange supply chain are pursuing an idea of regenerative agriculture with a strong focus on recovering soil health.
During a trip to Riosucio, Caldas, Colombia in July, Beth Ann Caspersen, Equal Exchange coffee quality manager, and I got to experience some of the regenerative soil action that is happening in organic coffee production first hand. Fredy Pérez Zelaya, a farmer and member of Café Orgánico Marcala S.A. (COMSA) in Marcala, Honduras, traveled with us to participate in ASPROCAFE Ingrumá’s annual farmer fair, and shared his experience with microorganisms. Fredy trained and studied as an agronomist in a very traditional program that emphasized conventional agricultural practices and interventions to maximize productivity. However, he had a powerful shift of life philosophy in the early 2000s and was a founding member of COMSA, an association of coffee growers who share the belief that organic agriculture was the only option to truly prosper and progress as coffee farmers.
As the members of COMSA experimented on their farms and exchanged ideas with other growers, their organic philosophy grew and grew. Today, they emphasize the 5 Ms: organic Material, Microorganisms, Minerals, living Molecules, and gray Matter (or brain power) as the foundation for their organic vision. Microorganisms are the billions of bacteria, fungi, yeast, etc. that live in soil and have a positive impact on decomposing organic matter and building healthy soil. All five of the Ms relate fundamentally to soil health and that brings us back to the wonderful words of Yvon Chouinard about how we must double down and focus on soil if we want to talk about regenerative and organic agriculture.
Read more here.