Regenerative Agriculture: Coffee's Sustainable Future
As we approach Earth Day this year, we want to touch on something important to us as coffee roasters, but also, as people who just love to drink coffee – how coffee is grown. With over 165 million (!) 60kg bags of green coffee produced in 2021/22, the consumption and demand for coffee isn’t slowing down anytime soon. With such an incredible volume, the impact of how this coffee is produced is enormously important - not only to the health of the environment, but also to everyone across the planet who depends on coffee for their livelihoods (us at 49th included).
The present challenges being faced by farmers at large are equally enormous. Water scarcity, rising temperatures, volatile economic markets and political instability all mean that it’s harder than ever for people to earn a stable, profitable living as farmers.
Ironically, due to these pressures, farmers can be incentivized to practice agricultural methods that, while profitable in the short term, can lead to negative outcomes in the long term for both the financial and environmental health of the farm.
One way of combatting these problems is regenerative agriculture. In short, regenerative agriculture is an umbrella term referring to several sustainable practices undertaken in farming, all of which have the following goals in mind.
- Commitment to improvement of soil health and ground water retention
- Promotion of biodiversity, both in the soil and around the farm
- Management of water usage and water quality
- Progression towards the elimination of inputs such as pesticides, fungicides and synthetic fertilizer
The potential benefits for producers who adapt to regenerative growing methods are numerous – more consistent, higher quality crops grown with less water, less pest management and little or no fertilizer inputs. All of which can lower the cost of production and the environmental footprint of the farm, while also reinforcing the farm to be more resilient against environmental problems such as drought or disease.
Also, by introducing biodiversity on farms (such as livestock and shade trees,) producers gain access to diverse sources of income. helping to create further financial stability for the farm. But most importantly, regenerative practices promote true long-term sustainability, both economically and environmentally, that means we’ll all be able to enjoy a cup of coffee in the decades to come.
We’re happy to say that many of our producing partners are keenly aware of all these issues and have already taken massive strides in undertaking regenerative practices, some for many years. Most recently, we were excited to hear about the continual improvements made by our partners in Brazil, Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (or FAF), which you can read about here. Or, you can try some coffee from Zelcafe, our partners in Antigua, Guatemala who are currently transitioning their production to regenerative practices here.