Aloha Cropshare Member,
As a highly regarded Kona Rainforest Coffee Cropshare member we value your input on the farm. One of our pressing dilemmas is the current battle facing coffee producers around the world. A fungus known as Coffee Leaf Rust and its spores attack the leaves of coffee trees. After several decades circumventing the globe, this blight has finally arrived on our home shores of Kona, Hawaii. All of the Hawaiian Islands are affected. The fungus is colloquially called “rust” due to the flaming orange markings that appear on the leaves of an affected tree. Simply put, rust attacks the plant often causing foliage loss. The usual resultant fruit (the coffee bean) is not produced by the tree due to the lack of leaves which provide the coffee beans many of their nutrients. Because the disease is airborne all farms on the islands are infected. Many small farmers are choosing to give up rather than fight yet another battle.
There are some natural anti-fungal products available that can significantly help in the fight against rust. A couple are certified for organic use in some countries, however, none of them are certified for organic use in Hawaii. The Coffee Farmers Association is working with the State to get these products approved for use in Hawaii, but the State is insisting on the normal certification process where the testing protocol can take three years, not helpful when we are facing the crisis today. Hawaii has approved one systemic fungicide that is working, but we are restricted to not utilize it because it is not certified organic, and with its use we would have to surrender our organic certification.
So, here is our dilemma – how hard do we fight the fight to stay organic when the entire farm production is at risk?
We exist as a farm with integrity as its foundation. We strive to be earth friendly, environmentally responsible, organically structured, and forthright with you. Our volcanic soil is rich and packed with natural nutrients. It is saturated with the good bugs and microbes that nature intended. The coffee you receive from us has not been exposed to any pesticides or chemicals, even to the point the tools we use daily have never been tainted by contact with any such compounds. If we must introduce a commonly approved fungicide in the future, we want you to know that no other organic practices we currently employ will change – no other fungicides, pesticides or harsh chemicals will be applied to our trees or soil.
We are fully dedicated to remaining organic in spirit and even extending our reach to become carbon neutral in the near future. We are fully and permanently committed to the health of our coffee, the ecosystem it is grown in and our planet as a whole. Our ultimate goal with our significant environmental initiative is to go beyond carbon neutral and become carbon negative!
Our hope, with your consideration of the proceeding message, is to paint a clear picture of our situation. In essence, we may have to temporarily forgo the organic label, which we currently hold, in order to save today’s coffee bean crop and future harvests.
We ask for your feedback in the form of completing this questionnaire. A few simple questions as to your thoughts on our struggle to save the beans.