There has been a lot of talk about pollinators in recent years, and how the declining populations of honeybees will affect food production. But have you ever wondered how it all started? When I began to write this, I had a rather broad understanding of pollination. However, the more I learned, the more questions I had. How did pollination come into being? Why is it so important to us now? Let’s take a deep dive into ancient history to learn a little more about the origins of pollination.
Pollination is believed to have begun around 130-150 million years ago. Basically, pollination is plant sex: the way plants spread and combine their genetic material to create new generations of plants. It is also essential to the production of fruit and seed crops that form the basis of our current food system. In the earliest forms of pollination, plants would scatter their pollen (male seed) to the wind and hope that a portion would land in the right spot on a female flower (staimen) and voila, there would be “chemistry”! However, this is an extremely unreliable way to reproduce. Although many plants still use this method, most have evolved into a primary relationship to collaborate with insects.
As early insects were flying around in search for food, they discovered how nutritious pollen was. Then several specialists decided to make it the main source and feed solely upon this nourishing golden dust of microspores. As the plants grew and thrived as a result of these relationships, they began to “sweeten the deal” by creating nectar for the services rendered. Flowers began to evolve bright colors to stand out and attract insects, distinguishing themselves from the green leaves and foliage that offered no sweet reward for the hard-working pollinators.
Millions of years have passed since the first flowers developed their pollination practice into the stunning displays we see today. This mutualistic relationship has changed the entire appearance of the earth, into the bright and colorful flowers and the vast variety of fruits and vegetables we all enjoy.
Learning the evolution of pollination from its ancient origins to the intricate and collaborative relationship that now occurs has been an inspiration to me. I hope the next time you receive a bouquet of flowers or taste the sweet juices of your favorite fruit, you think of the 130 million year journey it took to reach you.
Question from Chris of Orland Park, IL: “Should the choice we make in picking a coffee drink daily be greatly influenced by whether or not it is organic?”
OK, the simplest question ever, right? But the answer is not simple. Let me explain: from the point of view of an old hippie activist (me), the answer is a resounding, “YES”. However, not everyone has a hippie activist background, so depending on who you are, the answer is variable.
Organic coffees generally cost more, so a person watching their budget would be greatly influenced by price. But often times the price versus ideology presents an inner conflict for someone who wants to “do the right thing”, but is balancing a budget each month. So we all bring the full impact of our past and present to bare on the way we think about coffee choice.
I prefer to promote certified organic coffees because I believe that oil-based chemical fertilizers don’t belong in our agriculture. Here are the facts on each agricultural chemical:
Fertilizers, based on petrol oil are absorbed by the coffee tree roots rapidly. One would think this is a good thing, but the consequences of chemical fertilizers is a short-lived coffee tree (fifteen years). With organic cultivation, a coffee tree can last for 80 years.
Pesticides are needed for some bugs but they kill the worms and all the beneficial bacteria and insects in the soil. When the rains come, the chemicals wash into the streams and rivers as well as seeping into the groundwater. The poison is spread around to kill more than we can see.
Herbicides are the chemicals used to kill weeds that steal the nutrients from the soil that the coffee trees need. These chemicals are known to cause cancer, birth defects, and mayhem in the ecosystem. Agent Orange was the herbicide used in the Vietnam war. It is banned, as is Roundup in the USA, but Monsanto (now Bayer) and Dupont chemical sell it outside of the USA where environmental laws are lax.
Think about these three chemicals as a chemical stew. I promote Organic because it tells me that I am not adding to my toxic load and also not supporting agricultural practices that use poisons to grow food. Those are my values.
We each have to create our own buying criteria. The planet is a toxic mess. Ou buying decisions may determine how long it will remain hospitable.
Paul Katzeff CEO and ‘Old hippie Environmental Activist’
The best coffee is grown the traditional way— slowly, under a canopy of shade from taller native hardwood trees. Shade-grown coffees are carefully tended, harvested, and processed by people who know and love coffee, and who depend on it for their livelihoods.
Traditional shade-grown coffee really is a win for everyone: amazing coffee flavors, a fair wage for the coffee farmers’ hard work, and a lush natural habitat for migratory birds. So much good comes from a just cup of coffee.
The history of shade
By 1996, the United States forests had run out of hardwoods such as oak, ash, maple, cherry, and all the wild fruit and nut trees. These are important woods used in furniture making, home building, veneers for plywood, doors, window frames and a host of other minor but important uses.
The timber industry needed another source of hardwood, so they targeted the temperate rainforests where coffee was grown. The coffee tree is a shade loving plant that withers in the sun and needs shade to be a healthy producer of coffee fruit. Mahogany, and a dozen other hardwood varieties, were there for the loggers if only they could convince coffee farmers to cut down their trees.
The destruction of these native hardwood forests is a long story of deception. Governments, in collaboration with multinational corporations, set out to convince farmers to grow their coffee in the sun, claiming that yields would increase and incomes would rise.
Without the leaf litter from the big hardwood trees to fertilize the soil every year, oil based fertilizers would be needed. This is how the petrochemical companies became involved. Now with more sunlight reaching the ground, weed killers would become essential. This is how herbicide producer Monsanto became involved. Without the forest habitat for migratory songbirds, natural pest controls were lost. This is how the need for chemical pesticides became essential.
The big chemical companies found new markets and the timber companies gained new inventories of almost unlimited, inexpensive hardwoods. The coffee farmers paid for all this with higher costs, lower quality coffee, toxins entering the water supply, and a 90% loss of biodiversity on their farms.
At least half of all coffee grown in the northern neotropics has already been converted to full sun plantations
Preserving these precious jungle forests not only protects biodiversity, it’s also our greatest asset in mitigating the effects of climate change.
Based on years of scientific research, the SMBC has developed strict criteria for evaluating shade coffee farms. An independent, third-party inspector determines whether a farm meets these criteria or not. Only those farms that also meet organic certification standards are eligible to be certified Bird Friendly®.
Thanksgiving Coffee is proud to offer these coffees which are certified Bird Friendly®:
For the month of April, enjoy $2 off every package of SongBird Coffee.
Celebrate Earth Day everyday by helping to protect the complex jungle forests, all with your morning cup of coffee.
Shade Coffee looks like this: grown under the canopy of indigenous trees. The white barked taller trees are commonly known in Central America as “Inga”. They are great for coffee because they not only provide shade for the trees, but also habitat for biodiversity and leaf litter for soil nutrients. Leaves decaying on the forest floor is natural fertilizer. An additional benefit comes from the tree being “leguminous”, meaning its roots deliver nitrogen to the soil, further reducing the need for oil based fertilizers.
This environment is perfect for the cultivation of organic coffee. This site is located in Northern Nicaragua and is typical of the Mesoamarican Rainforest that stretches from Panama thru Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, all the way up to the Yucatan Peninsula. These forests are the home of Black Panthers and the National bird of Guatemala, the famous Quetzal. The trees are full of birds and Howler Monkeys and hundreds of species of orchards. At the higher elevations, coffee trees reflect the quality of this forest in the flavor of their fruit, and finally, in your cup.
When you taste coffee from regions like this, you are experiencing a message from the forest spirits. The expression, “There is magic in this package, only you can let it out” is derived from a walk through this place that I took with my good friend Byron Coralles long ago.
We love dogs here at Thanksgiving Coffee, and we are happy to celebrate National Dog Day this Sunday, August 26. Brutus and Zoe are Thanksgiving’s reliable four legged co-workers, a joyful addition to the team, always ready for a head scratch or a treat. Sometimes the twins, Venture and Mariah, stop by for a visit. And who could forget how all our hearts melted when Palmer brought his new puppy, Mocha, in to say hello?
We celebrate National Dog Day everyday, not just with our furry co-workers, but through our coffee. With your support, we raise money through for the local humane society with our Good Dog Blend Coffee, and we champion their wild cousins with a variety of Save the Wolves coffee roasts. Even the Art Explorers, a local non profit that helps adults with developmental challenges through art therapy, chose dogs as their main subject for 3 of their 20 unique coffee labels. Clearly, the love of dogs has a profound impact on our lives.
This year, we hope you will celebrate National Dog Day with a canine that you love, and maybe a cup of coffee. Pick up a package of Good Dog Blend in your favorite roast color and help find homes for pets in need. Give a friend a bag of Save Our Wolves and you can help protect the legacy of wild dogs. Whichever you choose, together we can honor our four legged friends, just by enjoying a great cup of coffee.
Not Just A Cup, But A Just Cup.
Thanksgiving Coffee Company Certified B Corporation 2017 Roaster of the Year
This Saturday is National Honey Bee Day! Take time in the garden and around your neighborhood to thank the pollinators around you this weekend. These little black and yellow insects play a vital role in keeping all of us alive on this planet, and they are worth taking the time to appreciate.
In addition to simply appreciating these creatures, it’s also important to learn more. Why do we need pollinators? What would happen if bees went extinct? What action do we need to take to make sure communities are protecting our bees? Take a look at the Bee Action Friends of the Earth page to get a better idea of what you can be doing for your community
Thanksgiving Coffee on Honey Bee Day
In 2016, Fort Bragg became the first Bee-Friendly City in California. This was due to the efforts of local beekeepers, the Fort Bragg Garden Club, and Thanksgiving Coffee. We were proud to lead the movement in California toward ridding our state of harmful pesticides and neonicotinoids that are killing our pollinators.
Over the course of the past two years, Thanksgiving Coffee Company has partnered with two organizations to save our pollinators: our local Noyo Food Forest in Mendocino County and the international group, Friends of the Earth. We have raised over $17,000 for these non-profits, thanks to YOUR support of Bee Bold Coffee.
Pick up a bag of Bee Bold Coffee at your local grocery store, or grab a bag online through our webstore. Let’s celebrate National Honey Bee Day together, and save our pollinators!
This week we are celebrating pollinators, and the important work they do for our earth. Happy Pollinator Week, everyone! Thanksgiving Coffee created Bee Bold Coffee in 2015, raising money for legislative action and worldwide awareness for bees through Friends of the Earth, as well as local pollinator awareness through the Noyo Food Forest here on the Mendocino Coast.
Thanks to your generous support of this project, we’ve donated over $17,000 to these two organizations!
Pollinator Week is June 18 – June 24, and it’s an excellent opportunity to spread the word about the importance of our bees 🐝
Order an extra bag of Bee Bold Coffee this month to share with your friends, family and coworkers! Let’s work together to make sure these vital pollinators continue to thrive on our planet.
Thanks to our generous group of customers and supporters of wild horses everywhere, we’ve been able to donate almost $4,000 to the AWHC, helping fund their efforts to protect these majestic creatures. We are excited to look forward to another 365 days with the American Wild Horse Campaign, and will continue to support them for as long as our wild horses need us!
Coffee Club Subscription
Have you joined the cause yet? You can sign up for a monthly Cause Coffee subscription right here on our website. For every purchase you make of Wild Grounds Coffee, we donate 25% to the AWHC.
Already a Wild Grounds Coffee Club member? Thank you for being a part of the solution! Grab an extra couple of bags this month to pass out to friends and family, to help raise awareness for these majestic creatures. Let’s spread the word about the plight of our wild horses, and work together toward protecting them.
Not sure what roast color is your style? Take a look at our Roast Color page to learn more about the differences between light, medium, dark and French roasts.
Thanksgiving Coffee Company Certified B Corporation Not Just A Cup, But A Just Cup
Last week we had the incredible opportunity to connect with a group of people that are making a huge difference in the Bay Area community. This was the B Corp Leadership Development Conference, a gathering of like-minded people that are actively using their businesses as a force for good right here in the Northern California community. As a certified B Corp (with a rating of 108!), we were invited to attend and serve our coffee.
BLD Conference for B Corporations
The conference was just a one day event, but it was packed with all the important things: great speakers, inspiring discussions, open dialogue and a LOT of coffee. With just under two hundred attendees from B Corps scattered across North and Central California, there was an unlimited amount of inspiration and insight to be gained all around.
From keynote presentations to intimate discussions, the BLD Bay Area event did not disappoint in quantity and quality. We kept everyone caffeinated, and everyone kept us inspired. At the end of the day as we parted ways with our new friends and collaborators, we all had nothing but wonderful things to say about the people we’d met and the time we’d spent.
Thank you to the B Lab, and all the amazing volunteers that made this event happen! We were honored to play a part over the day, and we can’t wait until the next time this inspiring group of people gets together again.
Be sure to visit www.blocalbayarea.com to learn more about this awesome group, and support our local Northern California B Corporations!
Thanksgiving Coffee Company 2017 Roaster of the Year Not Just A Cup, But A Just Cup
May 18 was Endangered Species Day. Over 16,000 species of plants and animals are endangered, and threatened with extinction. While extinction is a natural part of our world’s process, the rate at which animals and plants are disappearing from our ecosystem is alarming.
Thanksgiving Coffee has partnered with animal and environmental conservation groups all over the world to combat extinction. We believe in preserving the entities that make our world vibrant and whole. We want to make sure that future generations have the same opportunity to live among the creatures that we have.
Just this year, our planet lost the very last male Northern White Rhino. Sudan was 45 years old, and living at a conservancy in Kenya. This devastating loss was inevitable, after Northern White Rhinos had been maliciously poached for years. Even just sixty years ago, there were several thousand Northern White Rhinos. Today there are just two females left, at the Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy.
Below is a picture from Baby Rhino Rescue, one of our Cause Coffee partners who is raising money for orphaned rhino conservation groups in Africa.
The majestic wolves of North America may soon see a similar story unfold. Less than a decade ago, Congress stripped gray wolves of their protections. Wolves went straight from protected (under the Endangered Species Act) to being hunted in a single day, and their populations have plummeted in the years since.
Below is a photo from Defenders of Wildlife, one of our Cause Coffee partners that is protecting the rights of wild animals through legislation.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the largest ape in the world is critically endangered, with few of its kind in captivity. If we were to see a large decline in these Grauer’s Gorillas numbers, there is a possibility that this animal could be lost to us forever. Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda are also critically endangered, but thanks to the conservation efforts of programs like the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, we are seeing their numbers rise instead of fall. With the DFGFI’s expansion into Congolese mountains, we hope to see the same happen for the Grauer’s Gorillas populations.
Perhaps the most terrifying addition to the Endangered Species list in recent years is the Rusty Patched Bumblebee. When Northern White Rhinos disappear and Grauer’s Gorillas numbers drop, it’s easier for humanity to turn a blind eye. When our food supply is endangered by lack of pollinators, the world takes more notice. Pollinators are responsible for a third of everything we eat, and the decline of bees due to colony collapse and pesticide poisoning is a very serious problem for our global ecosystem.
Below is a photo from the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens of our very important pollinators! Thanksgiving Coffee partners with the Noyo Food Forest to protect Mendocino’s bee populations.
Our earth needs balance. Every creature is important in keeping the world’s biodiversity stable and growing. Humanity has dealt a harsh blow to the earth, but we have an opportunity to give back by taking care of the natural wonders we have around us. Whether it’s spending time at a beach cleanup day, signing up for a monthly donation to a conservation group or swearing off plastics, we each have a part to play in protecting our environment.