KALAHEO — Harvesters are getting tuned up and coffee cherries are transitioning from green to yellow and red as Kauai Coffee Company’s busiest season of the year approaches.
September brings harvest season at America’s largest coffee farm, and it’s a nonstop endeavor, with workers serving shifts in a 24-hour harvest cycle. This year is extra special, too, as the farm will be putting newly certified coffee on the market.
The farm was audited in late 2018 for Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade and Non-GMO certifications, and secured all three with flying colors.
Fred Cowell, the company’s general manager, points out there are steps within the certifications that can be achieved, but receiving the certifications is a big deal.
“This year’s harvest, starting in September, all the coffee going to market is going to be certified. The bags will change. They’ll be carrying the logos and everything will be available here in the state of Hawaii certified,” Cowell said.
The three certifications work in concert, with Rainforest Alliance covering mainly environmental aspects of production, Fair Trade focusing on the treatment of people, and the Non-GMO Certification confirming the coffee isn’t genetically modified.
“It’s an outside body saying ‘You’re doing the right things right,’” Cowell said. “Locally, it’s someone else saying, ‘You’re pono.’”
Some of those practices for receiving the certifications include ensuring safe conditions and fair pay for workers, lowering pesticide use and improving soil quality, promoting biodiversity and conservation, and having effective planning and management on the farm.
Cowell says his favorite part of the new certifications is a piece that comes with the Fair Trade certification — one that could bring about $100,000 a year in funding to Kauai.
“The coolest part about the Fair Trade is that it carries a premium, which means for every pound of coffee sold into the marketplace, a premium comes back to give back to the community,” Cowell said.
Kauai Coffee will establish a Fair Trade committee within the company that will decide where to direct those funds. That could be in the form of scholarships or donations to schools or organizations, to name a few.
“It’s going to force my Fair Trade Committee to think about the needs of the community,” he said.
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.