Small Family-Owned Farms Produce 80 Percent of World’s Coffee

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When enjoying a flavorful mug of coffee, people might not give much thought to its origin. Every cup begins with a farmer, of which there are three types, organic, high production, and small family-owned.

Globally, consumers drink over 400 billion cups every year — 2.25 billion cups a day. A mature plant yields about five pounds of berries; when dried, they weigh approximately one pound which brews 32 eight-ounce cups. Based on these stats, it is safe to assume the aromatic beverage is not going anywhere.

Small family-owned groves account for 80 percent of the world’s coffee. Many of these farms have produced excellent coffee for hundreds of years; they are handed down from generation to generation. The harvesting is done by hand and can take up to three months as only the ripe berries are picked.

farmGenerally, small farms adhere to the best practices throughout the entire process, planting, harvesting, and processing the cherries then drying and milling the beans, finally, exporting the coffee.

The farms provide employment within the region. Coffee is an important source of income in rural areas.

Ecologically speaking, growing coffee helps deter soil erosion, it lends itself to good watershed management. The farm’s trees also provide migratory birds and other animals with good habitats. Some of these small farms grow organic coffee using strict guidelines.

High-production farms account for 20 percent of coffee producers worldwide, they operate highly commercialized operations. These entities mass-produce low-grade Arabica coffee and utilize a mechanized, automated harvesting process. These farms’ coffee is commodity-grade.

Coffee was first cultivated in the 15th century, although no one really knows when it was discovered. Of course, there are legends. The trees grown worldwide can trace their ancestry back centuries to the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau. “The story goes that that Kaldi discovered coffee after he noticed that after eating the berries from a certain tree, his goats became so energetic that they did not want to sleep at night.”

Written by Cathy Milne-Ware


RUCI: The Importance of Coffee Farmers
International Coffee Organization: Production and Trade
DisturbMeNot: 33 Fascinating Coffee Statistics for Every Coffee Lover; by Hristina Nikolovska
NCA: The History of Coffee

Featured and Top Image by Marcelo Corrêa Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License
Inset Image by Lilibeth Serrano Courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife – Creative Commons License

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