Biodiversity on a Fair Trade Coffee Farm in Costa Rica
On a recent visit to Monteverde, Costa Rica, I met Victor, a small coffee farmer and member of the Coopesanta Elena. Made up of 75 small coffee producers, the cooperative members are committed to growing their crops in harmony with nature.
Victor’s farm is in fact teeming with biodiversity. From sloths hanging out in trees to a baby hummingbird nest in the middle of a row of arabica coffee plants, the farm feels alive and in-sync with the larger ecosystem around it.
Stingless honeybees come to pollinate the crops and nest in a decomposing log. Victor’s farm also is home to a multitude of tree species, banana plants, vegetable crops and wildflowers. Grass-fed dairy cows keep the weeds in check by rotating around the farm. These cows also provide Victor with extra fertilizer for his soil.
The coffee berries are even hand picked at harvest time to ensure that only the best coffee goes to market. Although it may seem labor-intensive, hand picking also increases the farm’s crop yield as not all berries mature at the same time. It would be impossible for a machine to separate the ripe from the unripe, leaving a lot of waste behind.
Everything in Victor’s farm adds to the overall well-being of the eco-system. He even has an old tree, 30 feet or larger, in the center of a row of his coffee that is giving too much shade to all the plants around. Since preserving the habitat is so important, Victor leaves it standing and deals with the lower yield in that section of his farm.
The Café Monteverde produced from Victor’s coffee plants and the other growers in the cooperative was the first sustainable coffee project in Costa Rica (1989). Sixty percent of Coopesanta Elena’s coffee is exported as whole beans, while the remaining product is roasted, packaged and sold locally in Monteverde and throughout Costa Rica. The coffee is fair trade certified.