Many of our favorite birds who nest in the Southeast United States in the summer spend their winters in the warmer climates of Central and South America. As development and large-scale farming expands in that part of the world, valuable habitat is lost. Coffee that is grown in the traditional way, as part of the understory in the shade of taller trees,creates habitat that can be used by migratory and year-round birds.
Shade-grown coffee has other benefits as well. As part of a healthy ecosystem, coffee benefits from the nutrients from the overstory trees and the birds that live in them. This means that the farmers are less reliant on fertilizers to maintain coffee production. Tree roots help to trap runoff water, reducing erosion and contributing to cleaner water. The forest canopy extracts carbon from the atmosphere as part of the growth process, which moderates climate change by helping to balance carbon emissions.
Most coffee is grown on small farms of less than 10 acres. A healthy forest supports greater diversity in the plants that thrive there, giving small farmers the possibility of multiple sources of income. It also preserves plant species that local communities rely on for food, medicine, and shelter. Through cooperatives and Fair Trade initiatives, these small farmers are able to sell shade-grown coffee for a fair price, improving their family’s welfare, as well as the welfare of the birds and other wildlife that depend on a healthy forest.
How can you make a difference? Buy Atlanta Audubon Society coffee.
Through a partnership with Cafe Campesino, a Georgia-based coffee roaster and retail company that only sells organic, Fair Trade, shadegrown coffee, AAS has it’s own coffee blend. Composed of coffee beans from cooperatives in Guatemala, Peru and Columbia, it’s a robust coffee that benefits Atlanta Audubon Society and our migratory birds.
Many national retail chains and local sources now carry at least one brand of genuine shade-grown coffee. If not, buy coffee marked “Organic," as these beans are likely grown under bird-friendly conditions. If your favorite shop has none of these, ask the management to look into marketing shade-grown and/or organic coffees and let them know why you made your choice — it’s for the birds!