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SHADE for a healthy ECOLOGY

With hybrid coffees, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, mono-cultural farming (growing only one type of crop) beneath full-sun is a routine. Full-sun farming is detrimental to the ecology and the natural species that live in the coffee growing regions.




"Shade-grown" coffee is also called "bird-friendly" coffee. (These are general terms and do not indicate that the coffee is certified "Bird FriendlyŽ" by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.)

Coffees that are called "shade-grown" come from farms that provide good, forest-like habitat for birds. The many shade trees provide a forest-like setting which creates a healthy environment for many indigenous species. ...............................................................................
Shade-grown coffee is not always organic.

Shade grown coffee is not always Fair Trade Certified.

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There are differing opinions about the need to improve the "shade-grown" definition and its use on labels.

Shade-trees are usually other types of compatible crops which help to naturally replenish nutrients within the soil as well as provide a protective canopy for the maturing coffee beans.

Shade trees protect and promote the health of the ecology on the coffee farm. This encourages natural habitat and species to thrive. An extra bonus is that shade-grown coffees tend to taste better than full-sun coffees. This is because shade coffee beans ripen more slowly, resulting in a richer flavor.

Traditionally, coffee grows beneath the forest canopy as part of a larger ecosystem. Different layers of vegetation provide food and shelter for animals and insects, soil replenishment through leaf litter, microclimate stabilization, and protection from soil erosion and water run-off. Under natural conditions, coffee is one of the most environmentally benign and ecologically stable cash crops in the world.




Scientists have corroborated the dramatic
differences in biodiversity between shaded
and unshaded coffee farms. Ivette Perfecto,
now at the University of Michigan, sampled
beetles, ants and other insects in Costa
Rican coffee farms. She found, for example,
126 species of beetles in a traditional farm
compared to only species in a "full-sun" farm.

Daniel Katz, Executive Director of the Rainforest
Alliance, says, "in the face of continuing
rainforest loss, the traditional coffee farms
become increasingly important refuges for wildlife."
Coffee is almost the only "forest" left on some
Caribbean islands and densely populated countries such as El Salvador. Miguel Eduardo Araujo,
formerly El Salvador's secretary of the
environment and now an author of the country's
plan for sustainable development, argues that
the republic still has an amazing array of
wildlife in large part due to the extensive
area in coffee.

But not all shade is equal. There is a broad
variety of shade coffee systems, ranging from
monocultures--a single species of shade tree--
to highly diverse polycultures with many species.
The greater the number and type of shade tree,
the greater the biodiversity of plant and animal
species in a given area.

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