Made in the shade

Cafe Campesino fair trade coffee

In his write-up of our Small Business Saturday jaunt to Americus, Brad mentioned a coffee shop worthy of its own post. That’s an understatement.

We went to Café Campesino for the fair-trade, organic coffee but came away with a welcome reminder that businesses can, in fact, profit while paying workers a living wage and taking a stand on environmental justice.

Walking up to the counter, we asked the barista if we could take a couple of behind-the-scene photos as she ground my water-processed decaf beans. (Call me crazy, but I prefer my coffee sans synthetic ethyl acetate.)

Not only did she oblige the weirdos with a camera, but she asked owner and founder Bill Harris to give us an impromptu tour.

Bill founded Café Campesino in 1998, after building a Habitat for Humanity house in Guatemala. It was there that he discovered the cycle of poverty among coffee farmers, who often live on less than $2 a day since they can’t sell the beans for more than it costs to grow them. Returning to the States, he opened the Café and established Cooperative Coffees, which develops long-term relationships with farmers across the globe, paying them a fair price for their product and treating them with respect and dignity.

But don’t take my word for it. Farmers’ contracts are kept online to ensure transparency.

Cafe Campesino fair trade coffee

The cooperative takes it a step further, only importing coffees that are 100% organic and shade grown. Over the last four decades, large-scale coffee farms have destroyed millions of acres of tropical forest. That increased sun exposure has resulted in higher yields, but it’s also damaged soil, bumped up demand for synthetic fertilizers, and decimated biodiversity. Just one example: 90% fewer bird species live in sun coffee areas compared with shade coffee farms.

Want to support small-scale farmers, preserve tropical forests, and protect wildlife — all for the bargain price of $12.95? Buy a pound of shade-grown coffee.

And if you want to see the impact of fair-trade practices firsthand, join the Campesinos for their upcoming Coffee and Culture Tour. Darn you, Bill Harris, for filling my head with visions of quetzals and caracaras. Now if only I could eek out an extra week of vacation next year…

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