How California farms are leading the way to innovative methods of growing coffee.
Coffee is an irreplaceable part of our global culinary culture, widely known as the drink of choice for late-night office workers and college students alike.
Whether you seek it out for a boost in energy or a savory addition to a sweet dessert, you have probably had at least one cup of coffee within the last year. In which case, you’re about 440 cups behind the average American. It’s clear that our coffee addiction is here to stay, but satisfying this urge in a sustainable way is quite another matter.
An issue that is becoming a more pressing concern as demands increase, California coffee growers have stepped up to take on this challenge and change our approach to the coffee industry.
California is the last place you would expect coffee to be grown. A crop that grows almost exclusively in tropical climates with high rainfall, coffee-producing countries often fit into a strip of land around the earth’s equator known as the ‘coffee belt.’
In the Americas, this area ranges from the top of Mexico to the bottom of Brazil, narrowly missing the United States. For a long time, one of the only coffee-producing states was Hawaii, well within the coffee belt and benefiting from heavy and consistent island rains.
However, many farmers in California have tried their hand in coffee since the state’s early days. Most quickly realized the difficulties and pulled back from the venture, while others simply dabbled in smaller productions, refraining from investing too heavily in the industry. In theory, the raising of coffee crops is a scientific matter and can be achieved anywhere if you are willing to pay the right price. With this in mind, coffee growers set out to tackle California’s climate and water scarcity issues.
They sought to balance the cost of specialized equipment with cost-effective and innovative agricultural solutions to these problems.
Over the past few decades, these initiatives have amounted to several incredibly efficient methods of growing coffee crops in California. Along with these insights, farmers on this frontier also carved out a space and market for the coffee industry in California. From this foundation, many others are beginning to follow their lead and help develop the industry further.
California coffee is, on average, much more sustainable than coffee grown elsewhere.
California coffee is, on average, much more sustainable than coffee grown elsewhere. One of the primary reasons for this is the fact that, as a developed nation with consistently enforced regulations, California farmers have some of the highest standards to satisfy in the world. Other nations in the coffee belt may struggle with lighter regulations or exploitation.
Another major factor in this product’s sustainability is the fact that crops grown locally travel a much shorter distance from farm to plate. This means they contribute fewer carbon emissions from lengthy shipping. California coffee is often processed and consumed locally, giving it an edge in sustainability. Speaking of its market, California has definitely found an advantage there as well.
Aside from being avid coffee drinkers themselves, Californians also benefit from a much higher average income than other states. This means the average Californian has more disposable income to spend wherever they would like, and luckily for coffee growers, their spending indicates they are more than willing to spend more on quality coffee products.
While California coffee growers have managed to limit the cost of their coffee, it is still undoubtedly a more costly alternative than coffee grown elsewhere. Although this may be a bigger disadvantage in other regions, Californians appreciate a higher-end product with local roots.
Other cash crops have proven to be too much for California farmers to handle. The avocado industry brought a boom to the state for decades, but Mexican farmers have managed to drive down prices and outcompete locals for quite some time now.
But those aging avocado trees that are struggling to produce the high yields of their Mexican counterparts may be the next golden ticket. California coffee farmers have begun using these avocado plantations as an innovative way to canopy their coffee crops with just enough shade to compensate for California’s climate. These innovative ideas, and other opportunities, means California coffee has a secure future.
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