Coffee farms are capable of producing more than just coffee. An ideal coffee farm has rich soil, ideal rainfall, and ample space—Why not make multiple uses of the land?
As coffee farmers experience climate-threatening disasters like hurricanes, drought, and frost, they're forced to reconcile with the ability to grow coffee full-time to make a living. However, this does not mean that they have to give up growing coffee completely. Rather, they need back up "in case of an emergency." By investing in their communities and properties, coffee farmers can make sure the crop stays around forever. At the same time, they can also rely on multiple income opportunities to balance a sustainable lifestyle.
Many people who grow Arabica coffee know that the plants are like house plants. They prefer shade or indirect sunlight, paired with cool and tropical temperatures. This is unlike Robusta, which is not only disease-resistant but sun-loving as well.
There are many plants, however, that need as much indirect sunlight as possible. For this reason, coffee farms can grow certain plants to create shade for other coffee plants. One type of plant that many farmers will grow are fruit trees, like lemon and orange ones. These are sturdy and strong, with large leaves that will shield coffee plants, which are much shorter in comparison.
Permaculture is important because it promotes biodiversity in the ecosystem, which supports the health of the environment around it. Many farms act selfishly in using pesticides and generating waste that affects their environment. Permaculture, however, supports the living organisms and plant life of the land that the farm operates in.
One small coffee farm that practices this is Ecológico Santuario in Costa Rica. In addition to growing coffee, they also grow a variety of fruits and vegetables that peacefully grow alongside coffee plants. When growing other plants, coffee farmers should pay careful attention to which ones can be in the same areas. Like garden beds, not all plants can be together, so it is helpful to study which ones would pair best.
In growing other fruits, vegetables, and plants, coffee farmers not only support the shade necessities of their Arabica. They also have food for their families, and can sell their produce too.
In conjunction with biodiversity, promoting beekeeping is also a win-win situation for coffee farmers. In fact, many coffee farms practice beekeeping because bees are pollinators. Robusta plants rely heavily on bees to grow efficiently. They pollinate the coffee flowers and can also be stored to make honey. With bees on a coffee farm, farmers can expect to see 40%+ more productivity on their plants thanks to these climate-resistant beings.
Beekeeping, like growing produce, is also another income source of its own. Honey, unlike coffee, has much more consistent prices that farmers can rely on. Other types of products that bees contribute are responsible for are beeswax, which can be used for candles and other wax-based products. They also produce ingredients found in protein supplements and beauty products. Many may be familiar with the ingredient "royal jelly" in items like lotions and skin masks. Lastly, bees produce propolis, which is a natural anti-microbial medicine.
A lot of areas that grow coffee also grow cacao, which others better recognize as chocolate! Many phrases like single-origin and micro lots also apply to the cacao-growing world. Farmers pay just as much attention to producing beautiful, traceable chocolates as they do to growing delicate Arabicas.
Cacao grows in similar areas as coffee, enjoying ample rainfall and plentiful shade. For this reason, plants like palm and banana are also planted alongside them. They are grown on small farms, often time like specialty coffee.
Cacao plants are not only responsible for producing chocolate bars. They are also incorporated into countless cocoa products like hot chocolate, ice cream, cocoa butter, and also beauty products. For this reason, growing and selling cacao could be yet another way for a farmer to make income outside of coffee, and they do not need a lot of space to do it!
Chicken and Egg Production
Although we know how space-consuming certain animals can be, having a small set of chickens can be beneficial to making money in two ways.
Eggs: Egg-producing requires little to no work for a coffee farmer. Hens do most of the work, laying at least 1 egg a day, usually in the mornings and evenings. During warmer and colder months, they will produce even more at a time. Coffee farmers mostly need to make sure to collect these regularly so they do not crack or spoil. Farmers can sell these eggs at local markets for additional income.
Chickens: Chickens are small, and do not require much space. Organic markets and buyers also deem smaller chickens as higher quality, those that are not pumped with steroids and food that harmfully enlarges them. Chickens are also perfect for having on coffee farms because of what they like to eat. They enjoy eating insects, certain weeds, and certain food scraps. Just think of them as the more natural waste remover for a farm. Selling chickens as poultry is additional income, and using them as waste removal is beneficial too.
Being business-minded is difficult when coffee farmers have been working their trade for decades. By committing a little bit of extra time to learning the trades of these other practices, the rewards can prove to be just as outstanding as the incredible coffee plants themselves.