By the Numbers
28 MILLION: Number of small farmers growing coffee in more than 50 countries.
1: The United States' rank among the world's coffee importers.
$26: Cost per pound to U.S. consumers for some specialty Ethiopian coffee beans — though farmers may net less than 80 cents for those same beans.
2: Coffee's rank among pesticide-laden crops, after cotton.
Trees filter direct sunlight, nourish the soil, and provide critical habitat for migratory songbirds. (Sun-tolerant coffee varieties boast higher yields but require more chemical fertilizers and pesticides.) Intermingled plants — from bananas and guavas to cinnamon and vanilla — also provide extra food and income to farmers.
Certified farmers adhere to biodiversity practices and do not use harmful chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. The latter is of particular concern with coffee, says Dean Cycon, author of Javatrekker (Chelsea Green, 2007). “Ten of the most toxic chemicals around — including malathion and DDT — are used often and indiscriminately on coffee, usually by farmers who can't read the warning labels [in English].”