The Organic Difference

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Ground Work Coffee

Groundwork Coffee started in 1990 as a small-batch roaster in Venice, CA with one mission: to source and share the very best organic coffee they could find. Although the company's operations have grown in 30 years, that commitment to organics remains the same. They've learned, however, in those years that there is a misunderstanding of why organic is beneficial, or that going organic as a producer requires a larger commitment beyond added chemicals. Investing in organic coffee is an investment in the health and safety of everyone from the farmers to the roasters to the brand's consumers and extends long after sourcing.

People choose to prioritize organic products for a variety of reasons. Most notably because the chemicals used to produce so many products can be harmful to your health and to the environment. Coffee is the third-most sprayed agricultural crop in the world. Thankfully, due to the high roasting temperatures, at peak above 450 degrees, that witches brew of chemicals is burned off before it ends up in your cup. The groundwater, nearby crops, farmers and their families are not so fortunate. Pesticides and herbicides used in crops cause a multitude of diseases and cancers. This is a crucial reason to choose organic.

Yet, organic comes with its own set of challenges. Without the advantage of herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides, organic coffee farmers may have to accept a trade-off of lower overall yield in exchange for a more bio-diverse habitat. This can mean higher prices paid by the roasters and their customers. In order to mitigate this effect, organic farmers must take better care of their trees to experience the same quality and crop yields per tree as their toxic competitors. Organic farmers have to choose viable soil and water sources in order to avoid adding synthetic nutrients later. They have to grow their coffee at higher altitudes, which dissuades many insects and parasitic plants, resulting in a slower-developing, more complex-flavored coffee bean.

In order to become organic, a farm must abstain from the use of any prohibited substances (herbicides, pesticides, etc.) for at least three years. They must also create distinct boundaries between non-organic land and organic plots with buffer zones that prevent drift from pesticides and fertilizers being used on nearby crops. When harvesting, producers must ensure that only coffee from the organic land is harvested and that any container or bag being used has not previously contained or been treated with prohibited substances. All facilities used in processing must also be certified organic, segregating organic product from non-organic products. Finally, maintaining an organic certification requires a waste management plan to ensure that the vast quantities of water used in processing and the solid plant waste can be disposed of in a sustainable way, often incorporated back into the plantation as compost.

Groundwork believes this is effort well spent. That’s why they look to support farmers interested in switching to organic through training programs, monetary investment, and direct trade pricing that rewards farmers for their work and investment in long-term sustainability efforts. From funding an interest-free credit line for the Colombian producers of their single origin AMUCC coffee to supporting soil regeneration efforts on the Nicaraguan farms that supply coffee for their Bitches Brew and Venice blends, Groundwork is working towards a world where organic is the new norm, from the ground up. Find Groundwork Coffee at your local Mother's.

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