One of the first coffee companies to take up the ‘Bird Friendly®’ certification was Birds & Beans Canada, founded and still operated by Madeleine Pengelley and David Pritchard. Building on their start, in 2008 Scott Weidensaul and Bill Wilson launched Birds & Beans® coffee to make it easy for coffee drinkers in the US to buy Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center ‘Bird Friendly’ coffee. Kenn Kaufman and Dr. Bridget Stutchbury joined us in our mission as Birds & Beans ‘Voices for the Birds’. Author and teacher Katie Fallon is our most recent ‘Voice’. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is Birds & Beans national ‘Conservation Partner’ and joins with local and regional ‘Conservation Partners’ in our bird conservation advocacy. In June 2013 we launched a program with American Bird Conservancy to work with coffee farmers in the Americas to gain Bird Friendly certification, to address challenges organic farmers face today and to educate consumers in North America about the important bird conservation and sustainability benefits generated by buying and drinking coffee with the certification.
Every bean sold by Birds & Beans is certified by independent inspectors to meet the rigorous Smithsonian standards. This is a certification based on decades of objective scientific research. Bird Friendly® coffee means that migratory songbirds we know and love have a better chance to survive while on their wintering grounds in the tropics. Sales have doubled year on year since launch. The Birds & Beans brand has been credited with bringing awareness levels of the ‘Bird Friendly®’ coffee certification and the sustainability issue it represents into broader public recognition.
Our colleague Dr. Bridget Stutchbury, author of ‘Silence of the Songbirds’, Yale PhD and Professor at York University, says the most important single step an individual can do to help stop migratory songbird population loss is to always buy certified Bird Friendly® coffee. Tropical habitat destruction is today’s biggest threat to neo-tropical migrants and sun coffee is literally killing the birds we love. Today, almost all coffee on the shelves in the US does not meet ‘Bird Friendly®’ standards.
Nicaragua Opened Up for Bird Friendly® Certification
Bird Friendly Coffee in Nicaragua, Birds & Beans role and the newest project in-country. In 2009 Bridget Stutchbury and Bill Wilson discussed what country could give us the highest ‘yield’ in terms of bird habitat to be saved. Nicaragua was the answer.
Birds & Beans set out to find ‘Bird Friendly®’ farms in Nicaragua. There are very good reasons to buy Nicaraguan coffee – get great tasting coffee from traditional family farms, provide excellent coffee workers with a viable living at a fair wage, preserve critical habitat for over 60 species of migratory birds that we know and love from our North American springs and summers. Several Nicaraguan farms and co-ops have qualified since 2009 to meet the stringent demands of the Smithsonian’s ‘Bird Friendly’ certification for organic, shade grown coffee. Beginning with Gaia Estate, the first farm in Nicaragua to gain the certification, we work with these farm families to bring their coffee to market at a good price - from their farms to our customers’ cups.
Birds & Beans now buys coffee from over 100 family farms across Nicaragua owning over 20,000 acres of Bird Friendly® certified land, mostly in the Northern Highlands of the country.(Birds & Beans also buys coffee from Honduras, Peru, El Salvador and Guatemala).
Planning for expanding coverage to another key area of threatened habitat in Nicaragua began in 2013. We are embarking on a major new initiative in the Sierras de Managua and Carazo Plateau – the mountain range and plateau running between the capitol Managua south nearly to Lake Nicaragua. We have launched an ambitious project involving organic, shade grown, certified Smithsonian Bird Friendly® coffee from the family farms in this region.
Purchasing this year’s coffee harvest from El Nisperal: http://nisperal.org/ and Utila, continuing to work with Gaia Estate and working with other family farms in the area to gain Bird Friendly, USDA Organic certifications and become Birds & Beans coffee partners brings real hope to family farmers and economic security to farm workers and the local economy. Utila, a key farm and player in the Sierras, joined in November 2015 which sets a good precedent that others will follow. Utila was about to move out of coffee before Birds & Beans came into the picture.
The group of over 50 shade coffee farms is the region - including El Nisperal, Gaia, Utila and soon to become certified Concepcion de Maria - are basically forest. These lands have been in traditional shade coffee for over 165 years creating an area that is a bird conservation, watershed, soil bank, carbon sink and rural employment zone of major importance. Threats to the area are deforestation to plant full-sun monocultures of export crops, extractive industry and creeping population expansion. If traditional coffee farming does not survive here these family farms - good habitat rich with bio-diversity and a key source of rural economic stability - will likely disappear.
Birds & Beans coffee is working with the farmers and landowners of the Sierras de Managua and Carazo Plateau to ‘get certified’ to help preserve up to 50,000 acres of true shade coffee and adjacent forest lots in a truly sustainable state. Good for birds, farm families and workers, local rural economies and the Earth we all share. Great tasting coffee too!