Foundation development manager recounts meeting coffee farmers and families in Peru, Part II

Editor’s note: Earlier this month, Arbor Day Foundation development manager Jared Carlson traveled to Peru to meet many of the people who grow the beans that become our award-winning shade-grown coffee. He was in Costa Rica in January to look at the potential for new sources, a trip we described here. Below is part two of Jared’s first-person account about his most recent travels. Part one ran last week here. -SB

Day Four

Did you ever wonder as a child what it would be like to be a famous musician, actor or athlete?  I always thought I would be the same person, real and down to earth, but would I really? I had a small glimpse as I visited the small town of Las Mercedes, altitude 5,400 feet.

Within a few minutes of arrival, the town became alive with activity. School teachers lined up their students in their uniforms and the whole town decided to come out for the program. Along with the people came the paparazzi….or in this case, anyone in the town who had a camera. But I learned that they were there not to take pictures of the program, but to take pictures of me.

I found out later that I was the first North American to ever visit their town. I felt very humbled to be their first real impression of the United States. To say the least, I can think of many other people that would have been a better choice, but I was grateful that I could be there in that moment.

The town of Las Mercedes produces two containers of coffee a year and we were fortunate enough to be able to purchase them this year. I was moved by their charity, friendship and how caring of a people they were. The coffee is amazing and so are the people. I hope you enjoy it.

Day Five and Six

I got up early on my last day and headed to the airport in Chiclayo.

I arrived back in Lima in the morning and made my way to the offices of our exporters. We discussed some of the problems facing farmers and how a recent co-op had been caught paper trading coffee certifications. The co-op had claimed falsely that its coffee was  rain forest certified. Acts like these only taint the name of certifications that are making a real difference for the environment and the lives of farmers.

The Foundation has built several checks and balances – including tracking receipts – into the system to make sure that we don’t run into the same issues. We also put in place a flavor profile matching system to ensure that the coffee that we ultimately receive is from the same farms. Beyond that, every crop is cupped before shipping, upon arrival in the U.S. and then again before it is shipped to the customer.

Following a whirlwind tour of Lima, I headed back to the airport to take my red-eye flight back to the United States.

Meeting these farmers in-person during this trip, I am confident that they are doing the things we want them to do for the right reasons/ I feel the same way about our suppliers and distributors too. Our farmers love their trees and forests and can name you almost every species they have on their farms. They are delighted that they can grow their coffee under the rain forest  and still provide a good living for their families. It was very energizing to think of the impact that Arbor Day Specialty coffee is having on their lives.

All photos courtesy of Jared Carlson. 

East Coast members and readers: Stay safe

As we write from Lincoln this morning, Hurricane Sandy is already producing sustained winds at 90 miles-per-hour and has made its way toward the New Jersey Coast. The Federal Government in Washington, DC, has closed, and New York City public transportation systems are being halted.

The National Weather Service is a good resource for up-to-date information.

A handful of Foundation programs and events have been affected. In consultation with university officials, we chose to cancel a Tree Campus USA planting ceremony scheduled for tomorrow morning at Delaware State University. We have also postponed our Wednesday tree planting event at LaSalle University in Philadelphia. Customers of Pepco, Delmarva Power and Atlantic City Electric hoping to participate in the Energy-Saving Trees program will likely encounter delays as utilities direct their focus toward limiting outages.

Our biggest concern is for the safety and well-being of our members and readers.

As we pointed out in the aftermath of heavy storms in June, aging and poorly-maintained trees can quickly become a threat to safety and property. We strongly encourage residents in the eye of the storm to stay alert for updates from local officials and utilities about all hazards.

Our focus at the Foundation continues to be making sure municipalities, utility providers and residents have the resources and plans in place to effectively manage and care for urban trees, in order to be as prepared as possible for future disasters. Routine pruning can and does prevent damage during disasters, while preserving the enormous benefits of street trees that would be lost if they were removed altogether.

In the meantime, we’re keeping our friends on the East Coast in our thoughts.

Foundation development manager recounts meeting coffee farmers and families in Peru

Editor’s note: Earlier this month, Arbor Day Foundation development manager Jared Carlson traveled to Peru to meet many of the people who grow the beans that become our award-winning shade-grown coffee. He was in Costa Rica in January to look at the potential for new sources, a trip we described here. Below is part one of Jared’s first-person account about his most recent travels. Part two will run later early next week. -SB

Day One and Two

It was still dark outside as I boarded my flight out of Lima, but the horizon was starting to lighten up with the emerging sun.

As we lifted up into the air, I caught some of my first glimpses of Lima and the surrounding area. Due to the colder waters of the Pacific Ocean and the easterly trade winds, the moisture is carried away from the city instead of inwards. The result is a city of 8 million people living in a beautiful desert.

I arrived in Chiclayo to a small regional airport. I had rented a truck with a driver and quickly headed towards the Andes Mountains. Winding our way up through the mountain passes and above the cloud level, I saw surreal views and some interesting local customs. After six hours of traveling, we arrived in the city of Jaen, where I toured a new processing plant in the final weeks of completion and met with our co-op to discuss past performance and future goals. It was uplifting to see the passion that they have as stewards of the land.

Day Three

The day began at 6am with a short trip back towards the town of Chiclayo and then a trek off the paved road to get to the farm of the Vera family.

To reach the farm, we had to hike up the side of the mountain. After 45 minutes and my calves burning, I realized why they had brought the pack animals.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by Luis Vera (pictured above) and his family, who were to be our hosts for the day. There were also other farmers from the region that had come in for a committee meeting.

The main part of the harvest had already taken place, but I still had arrived early enough to catch the final harvest. The farmers were so proud of their shade trees and made sure that they pointed out and named all the species.

The farms are a shining example of how to work within the environment to produce crops. Not only were they growing coffee, but they had pineapple, mango, oranges, plantains, bananas and limes to help feed themselves during the months between harvests.

After walking through the farms, we decided to hike to a nearby waterfall. While “nearby” actually constituted an hour of hiking, I was thrilled to get the exercise in such a paradise. We crossed a handful of small streams along the way and saw many different species of birds. Once we arrived, the view was breathtaking. Imagine what a waterfall in the jungles of Peru looks like… and that is exactly how it appeared. Water cascaded down the rocks into a nice shimmering pool below, bringing with it a refreshing mist.

Later in the day, we audited the books to verify where the money had been spent and the money paid to the workers. The numbers vary from farmer to farmer, but we do have several requirements that need to be monitored and verified on multiple levels. We make a lot of claims about what our coffee represents and this is a part that we take very seriously.

One of the requirements is that all of the workers on the farms are required to be paid at least minimum wage, which is 15 soles a day. At the farms I observed, workers were paid 25 soles a day, or roughly 67 percent higher than minimum wage. (This is the worker on the farm, not the farmer himself, who also typically picks and processes the beans). They are also required to pay men and women the same amount for their labor, and all workers have to have access to health care.

Although we think it is a given, they are also required to provide potable drinking water for the workers and cannot require them to work over eight hours a day, which includes at least a 30 minute break.

We also require farmers to protect the surrounding water supplies, as well as to replant in areas that have been cut down or burned. They are prohibited from cutting down or burning any existing forests. Education is critical to these requirements being met.

Overall, the farms I visited hover between 10 to 12 percent of their gross sales going toward education. They also spend another 10 to 12 percent of their gross sales to improve infrastructure and better the living conditions for their workers.

Children greet Jared with signs reading "welcome to the Arbor Day delegation" and "we care for our forests." All photos courtesy of Jared Carlson.

Two fall Tree Campus USA events down, three left to go

Earlier this month, the Foundation was in Boulder, where students and staff at the University of Colorado experienced the challenges and opportunities of urban forestry first-hand, planting 40 laurel oaks along the interface between the campus and a major city thoroughfare.

On Monday, we were in the Valley Glen neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley to plant trees at Los Angeles Valley College, the first community college and first Southern California institution to participate in the Tree Campus USA program.

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, or AASHE, helped with the event, which resulted in 30 new trees on the north mall of the urban campus.

The Foundation will be in Dover, Delaware, for a tree planting at Delaware State University on Tuesday, October 30. LaSalle University in Philadelphia will plant trees on November 1, and Georgia State University in Atlanta will hold their event November 10.

These events are terrific way for current or future Tree Campus USA participants to step up their commitment to conservation and give service-minded students a chance to roll up their sleeves and do something positive for the campus community. We appreciate having Toyota as a continued partner in our effort to grow the next generation of environmental stewards.

We hope, too, that these events will inspire even more colleges and universities to take the steps needed to qualify for Tree Campus USA as we begin accepting applications for 2012.

Information on First-year applications and recertifications is available here.

We put this video about the University of Pennsylvania together after an event there in 2010.

Leading urban design expert says tree canopy “makes all the difference” for fighting climate change

America’s cities have many tools for combating climate change and reducing the heat island effect – but leading urban designer and author Peter Calthorpe told the PBS NewsHour that nothing comes close to cooling effect of well-maintained street trees.

“You can do white roofs and green roofs, but believe me, it’s that street canopy that makes all the difference,” Calthorpe (right) said, in a wide-ranging interview on cities, conducted during the Aspen Environment Forum.

Speaking more broadly about trends in urban design, Calthorpe said that we are “returning to some timeless qualities,” with demographic and cultural shifts causing Americans to take another look at more urban lifestyle.

Policies over the last several decades helped build the middle class, but also fueled dependence on the automobile and increased suburban sprawl, Calthorpe says, and some of those trends have begun to reverse as a result of the housing bubble bursting.

“It’s not that everybody is going to move back to the city. That’s a little bit of a misnomer that people get very excited about,” he said, adding: “We need to rethink how we build our cities, so it can’t be this ‘one-size-fits-all’ paradigm that we’ve had for so long.”

Calthorpe cites Sacramento as a city that is moving in the right direction, pointing in part to a tree canopy that reduces temperature in forested areas by as much as 10 degrees, a point few who have spent time in Sacramento would dispute.

Regardless of the local context, citizens and policymakers trying to bring people back into cities are encouraged to make urban forestry central to their cause.

“You can’t have a great street without street trees,” Calthorpe concluded.

100-year-old oak tree relocated instead of destroyed

The saying, “Out with the old, in with the new” usually signifies a refreshing change.  In some cases, however, the “old” should be treasured.

Photo Credit:

Instead of cutting down a hundred-year-old oak tree to make room for improvements, the city council in League City, Texas voted to relocate the tree 1,500 feet from its original location to neighboring parkland.

It took contractors just under a month to properly prepare and transport the 56-foot tree weighing nearly 260 tons to its new location.

The process involved pruning, fertilizing, and hydrating the oak tree, sampling soil, and creating a large, hand carved, planter-box at the base of the tree to contain and protect its roots.

Photo Credit:

Once the tree box was completed, four steel beams were placed underneath the box and two cranes lifted the apparatus onto a steel plate.  It took three bulldozers and two excavators to then pull and guide the oak tree along a grass corridor to its home.

Moving can cause a lot of stress for a tree but so far, the old oak tree has been doing well in its new location.

Older trees are often mistakenly labeled as hazard trees and subsequently chopped down.  In a public place such as a park, it is the responsibility of city officials or tree  managers to exercise care, good judgment, caution, and foresight when inspecting trees and determining them necessary for removal.

By relocating, instead of destroying a healthy, older tree, League City shows its commitment to its urban forest and has honored the value and history that trees bring to a community.

You can read more about moving the 100-year-old oak here.

Check out the incredible video of the moving process below.

Lied Lodge & Conference Center selected as readers’ favorite by Meetings Focus MidAmerica

Last month, we were delighted to learn that Lied Lodge & Conference Center at Arbor Day Farm was selected as a “Best of MidAmerica’ meeting venue by Meetings Focus readers for the fourth year in a row.

In addition to receiving the same honor in 2009, 2010 and 2011, Lied Lodge has also won the Enviro-Management Award from the American Hotel and Motel Association.

Lied Lodge is a growing destination for conservation-minded groups looking for an ideal, nature-filled setting to regroup, recharge and plan for the future. The U.S. Forest Service, the Society of Municipal Arborists and the Nature Conservancy, all long-time Foundation partners with a rich legacy of stewardship, have chosen Lied Lodge for gatherings.

The goal is for guests to leave seeking to make a difference, taking their conservation advocacy to new levels in support of sustainable forestry, clean air and water and community improvement.

Readers of Meetings Focus MidAmerica were tasked with choosing their favorite properties with consideration toward quality of meeting space, guest rooms, staff, service, food and beverage, amenities, activities and overall value.

Recognition like this – as well as from the inclusion of Arbor Day Farm in promotions like Passport Nebraska – have helped put Lied Lodge on the map, and we’re already seeing a difference. The number of visitors staying for conservation-related gatherings doubled in the past year.

We appreciate the recognition – and look forward to welcoming even more visitors in the years ahead. (Below is a short video we put together last year about meeting at Lied Lodge).


At the University of Colorado, students experience the challenges and opportunities of urban forestry up-close

I just returned from our first Tree Campus USA event this fall at the University of Colorado Boulder.

This was my second time attending a tree planting event on behalf of the Foundation – the first was at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers this past January.

It’s exciting to see how colleges and universities across the country are growing their community forests – and finding creative ways to improve the campus quality-of-life and student experience through tree planting and care.

At Florida Gulf Coast University, the 40 laurel oak trees were planted by students near the center of campus, adding much needed shade for students who break a sweat just getting to class in the humid air.

In Boulder, however, the planting we did was at the interface between the campus and the city, alongside a new bike path and a major highway just east of the Coors Event Center.

As senior grounds specialist Alan Nelson told us, the 35 gambel oak trees will do a lot for the edge of campus, creating a more inviting barrier. Planting in a confined space, on an incline, with speeding traffic on one side and chain-link fence separating us from construction on the other, this project was a terrific example of the realities of urban forestry.

Joining the participating students were a number of campus staff, as well as employees with the City of Boulder’s forestry and parks and recreation divisions, including City Forester Kathleen Alexander. Keith Wood, Community Forester with the Colorado Division of Forestry, also participated and made brief remarks.

We’re looking forward to the rest of our fall 2012 tree planting events – Los Angeles Valley College in Valley Glen, CA; Delaware State University in Dover, DE; LaSalle University in Philadelphia, PA; and Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA.

Speakers (left to right): Keith Wood, Colorado Division of Forestry; Sean Barry, Arbor Day Foundation; Dave Newport, Director, Environmental Center; Alan Nelson, Senior Grounds Specialist; (Not Pictured: Steve Thweatt, Executive Director, Facilities Management)