Arbor Day Foundation Visits Peruvian Coffee Farmers

Jared Carlson—Director of Innovation and Business Development— and Ryan Hatt —Business Development Manager—recently returned from a visit to Peru, where they met with some of the coffee farmers who grow our Arbor Day Specialty Coffee.  The following is a recap of their adventures, as recorded by Ryan.  

table  peruAfter a long journey, we arrived in Moyobamba —a city located in northeastern Peru in the center of the Amazon jungle.  This being our first trip to Moyobamba, the first thing we noticed was the lush jungle and oppressive humidity.

Our first morning we met with the member farmers of the up-and-coming Aproeco coffee co-op. Although Aproeco is a newer organization, their passion for growing high-quality coffee and protecting the environment was evident through their efforts in educating farmers on sustainable farming practices, among others.

mushroom peruOne of the farmers, Benedigto Montanero Mellan, gave us a tour of his shade-grown coffee farm. A mix of young and mature trees native to the area covered the farm. Protecting the coffee and the land was very important to Benedigto since he, like many other farmers, depend on both for his livelihood.

While touring Benedigto’s farm, we came across mushrooms growing among the coffee called “orejas” because they look like ears. He picked them, welcomed us into his home, started a wood fire and began cooking. As Benedigto prepared a meal of orejas and plantains for dinner, we explained the mission of the Arbor Day Foundation and the importance of farmers growing shade-grown coffee to protect the environment and provide habitat to rare plant and animal species.

flag peruOur trip to the rain forest was eye-opening. We realize that in addition to visiting the farms, it is important to thank the farmers in person for their work and to encourage them to continue their sustainable farming practices. In many cases, we were the first people from the U.S. that the farmers had ever met—all because they are growing coffee in the shade. Please tell us what you enjoy about Arbor Day Specialty Coffee.

We plant the trees. You wear the love.

Jungle LoveJust in time for the holidays, we’re offering a new 12 month membership that plants 10 trees in a threatened rain forest and includes our new Rain Forest Rescue t-shirt for free. This is a great membership option for those who want to help preserve our precious rain forests.

Our earth’s rain forests cover only 2% of the planet. Yet they are home to more than half of the world’s plant and animal species, including 70% of the plants used for medicines that fight cancer. Your donation will help restore our earth’s rain forests for future generations.

Tell Me More!

Similar to our other memberships, you’ll receive a free subscription to our bimonthly newsletter, Arbor Day. Arbor Day is a gardener’s handbook and tree information guide in one. You will also receive a 33% discount on more than 100 trees and shrubs, and a copy of The Tree Book— our catalog with planting and care instructions.

The Arbor Day Foundation and our partners have now engaged in 59 Rain Forest Rescue projects in eight countries. The pleasure knowing that your donation will help to provide valuable education and sustainable economic incentives for farmers to preserve and restore rain forests through green agroforestry initiatives — such as shade-grown Arbor Day Specialty Coffee production, for one example — is remarkable.

In addition, Rain Forest Rescue is supporting an effort in Madagascar to reverse the destruction of forest habitat that is home to critically endangered lemurs and other wildlife species found nowhere else on earth.

women of madagascarOne of these initiatives employs a group of single mothers who earn income through weeding in the nurseries, preparing compost, and transplanting seedlings into the areas of reforestation.

The Ready Women,” as they call themselves, are transforming entire communities. One such example is that of Suzanne Boahariva, the mother of seven children who can now send her youngest to school with the income earned from the reforestation project.  Additionally, the reforestation project is restoring habitat for lemurs, and other animals that depend on the rain forest.

With the generous support of Arbor Day Foundation members, we’ve made a commitment to plant 250,000 trees in Madagascar each year.

Moreover, your membership donation helps fund programs like Tree City USA, Nature Explore and Replanting our National Forests.

amazon rain forestYou can sign up by mail, online, or by phone when you call our member service department at 1-888-448-7337. To sweeten the deal, we’ll send a free red maple tree with any order from the tree book.

With your membership donation of $20 or more you can help restore a tropical rain forest and receive a free Rain Forest Rescue t-shirt.

We plant the trees. You wear the love. Become an Arbor Day Foundation member today.


Arbor Day Specialty Coffee is A Unique and Memorable Holiday Gift that Gives Back

Did You Know  Every Cup Saves Irreplaceable Rain Forest and Supports Coffee Farming Families?

Celebrate this year’s holiday season with friends and loved ones while supporting conservation and tree planting with the help of the Arbor Day Foundation.

The Arbor Day Foundation offers a unique holiday giving opportunity with conservation benefits that will endure for generations, all made possible through the purchase of quality, sustainable, shade-grown Arbor Day Specialty Coffee.figure-shade-grown[1]

Protecting rain forests and farmers, Arbor Day Specialty Coffee is part of the Arbor Day Foundation Rain Forest Rescue program. Each cup helps to preserve irreplaceable rain forests that are home to many plant and animal species which are vital to our way of life. In addition, the purchase of Arbor Day Specialty Coffee helps to ensure a fair wage and access to healthcare and education for the coffee farming families in Latin America.

One example of rain forest farmers and families benefitting from Arbor Day Specialty coffee is that of Artemia Rojas Castillo. Artemia supports her Peruvian family by farming shade-grown coffee. She began growing coffee with her husband on their tree-covered farm at the foot of a mountain in Cajones, Peru, more than two decades ago. They worked hard together building their farm and nurturing their coffee plants in the shade of the rain forest so the crop could sustain them and their five children.

figure-artemia[1]When her husband passed away, Artemia continued on with coffee farming. Because of the higher price she earns for the superior shade-grown crop, she is able to support her family. “For us, it is a very important plant,” she said. “It brings us everything. We have all seen this. To take care of our children and educate them. It is the most important plant that we have.”

She sees coffee not only as a way to support her family. It is also vital to her community. “For all of the community, for them it is life. It is the plant that does everything for us. It’s food, it’s happiness–all of it. It is life.”

Artemia has a clear appreciation for the role the rain forest trees play in her coffee farm–shielding the plants from the harsh summer sun, providing nutrients and allowing the coffee to mature slowly for a richer flavor. She also understands the need to maintain the rain forest from a larger ecological standpoint as well. She spoke of the importance of conserving the trees and how her land is rich with birds that she enjoys hearing while she farms.

Two of Artemia’s children remain with her today, working beside her in the coffee fields. They will carry on the tradition of growing coffee under the canopy of the rain forest.

Arbor Day Specialty Coffee helps protect the planet’s critical remaining rain forests and the communities that call them home. Arbor Day Specialty Coffee makes a measureable difference to people and the planet.

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. 

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.