In 1997, our first trade relationship was with a co-operative of coffee farmers in Colombia. That relationship, which is close to our hearts, remains today. These coffee beans, which you may know as our Colombia, Decaf, and French Roast, are not organic; we wanted to take the time to explain why.
Our Colombian coffee is not organic certified. We buy from small-scale farmers who grow coffee and other crops without pesticides, but they do use fertilizer to maximize plant health and yield.
What is the difference between Pesticides and Fertilizers?
Pesticides are used to eliminate and prevent pests and insects from farms. Pesticides include: insecticides, weed control and rodent poisons. Fertilizers, on the other hand, are organic or inorganic compounds that feed plants with required nutrients. The basic mentality difference between the two is that pesticides aim to kill, while fertilizers aim to grow.
When a farmer uses either pesticides or fertilizers, their crop cannot be certified organic.
Why don't the farmers switch their practice to organic?
Farmers choose fertilizer to maximize plant health and yield. In Colombia, coffee is a cash crop that many families rely on for income. Organic isn't about higher income for farming families. Often, organic is about sacrificing yield, which means lower income for families.
The journey towards organic is costly for farmers: third party inspectors need to visit, collect data and samples, and write a report card. Farmers have to follow standardized protocols and keep logs of everything they do. This is more than just a financial barrier for illiterate farmers.
The process of Fair Trade is never easy. In an effort to maintain relationships and support Colombian farming families, we're committed to continuing to purchase this coffee that we have been buying for 20 years!