People increasingly want to consume food grown close to where they live. They know that local food is usually fresher, they are concerned about the carbon burned to bring their products to market from long distance, they want to preserve local ecosystems, and they want to support their local economy.
Coffee presents a challenge for locavores—coffee grows best in warm tropical climates at high altitudes. It doesn’t grow in the continental United States.
For those of us living in the continental United States, Mexico is the closest major coffee producer. The distance from the coffee growing regions of Chiapas, Mexico to the U.S. border is about 1300 miles, compared to more than 5,000 miles for coffee grown in Brazil and 9,000 miles for coffee grown in Indonesia.
Coffee can be transported from farm to the U.S. in a few days, and it can be in a coffee drinker’s cup a few days later, allowing for unparalleled freshness.
The carbon used to bring Mexican coffee to market is much less than from any other major growing reason—for the simple reason that it is much closer than coffee produced elsewhere. Also, drinking Mexican shade-grown organic coffee actually reduces carbon in the atmosphere, because it is grown in tropical cloud forests which absorb large amount of carbon. The main economic alternative to coffee farming in the region is cattle ranching, which effectively means burning down the forest and pasturing carbon-belching cattle.
Supporting sustainable agriculture by buying Mexican coffee benefits our local ecosystem. Many migratory bird species of warblers, orioles, and thrushes that breed in the northern United States, winter in the warm cloud forests of Chiapas right where our coffee is grown. By supporting the forest ecosystems of Mexico by buying shade-grown organic coffee, you are preserving habitat for the birds that you might see in your backyard in the summer.
There are also economic benefits that return to us by buying Mexican coffee. The U.S. if by far Mexico’s largest trading partner. Much of the money we spend in Mexico comes back to the U.S. in the form of Mexicans buying our products.
Coffee will never be grown in the continental United States, but by buying Mexican coffee, you can obtain many of the benefits of buying locally produced food.