As a leading source of income in the coffee growing regions and a highly valued commodity, coffee can be a powerful tool to bring about positive change for small farmers, the environment and our health. For us to drink coffee as cheaply as we do, growers must be paid below market value for their green beans so that the middleman can turn a profit at each step from the field to the commodities markets to the table. Bean North offers farmers an alternative... a "fair price" for the coffee they grow. See Transfair Canada.
After tobacco, cotton and coffee are the second and third most chemically treated crops. Both are sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. These chemicals are health and environmental hazards that affect not only the growers, their families, and the land and water, but also us - the consumer. Organic agriculture focuses on building healthy soil. Through composting, intercropping (shade trees) and natural pest controls, a whole system of compatible, sustainable agriculture is used to grow healthier crops.
The fair trade movement focuses on small scale farmers who in our mind are the best stewards of the land. These farmers grow their coffee under the forest canopy. This involves planting a mixture of nitrogen-fixing trees with other useful species to provide shade. Shade trees protect the coffee plants from rain and sun, help maintain soil quality, reduce the need for weeding, and aid in pest control. They also provide extra income and are an additional food source for the farmers. Sustainability is of great concern to the farmers and their families, cooperatively they will make a difference.