Coffee and volcanoes have had a tenuous relationship since we started farming the plant in Ethiopia, hundreds of years ago. Coffee – and many other jungle plants – love volcanic soil for its rich mineral content and high pH level. As the plant evolved, it naturally thrived near volcanoes, so today many farms are located on the hills of geothermal areas.
As you might imagine, this poses a problem occasionally. Volcanoes and earthquakes frequently destroy coffee farms and have taken the lives and homes of the people who work on those farms. Last year, an earthquake in Sumatra cut off coffee growers from the ports where they sell their crop, resulting in all of the island’s coffee rotting – totally worthless. Two years ago, a volcano in Antigua Guatemala destroyed thousands of acres of coffee and took the lives of hundreds of people. These events are tragic and can ruin the lives of coffee farmers forever.
In El Salvador, we heard another story, though. A farmer discussed an eruption several years ago that destroyed dozens of acres of good farmland. This was a loss, for sure, but it presented a great opportunity for him. Having this land wiped away and replaced with highly fertile soil gave him a chance to replant and earn an organic certification. The new soil was contaminant free for the first time and he could now certify the coffee from that area, doubling his sale price. It took a few years to regrow the trees, but he has recouped his loss and earns more for his volcanic farm now. This opportunity can be a great hope to farmers affected by volcanoes. Also, I think, a great perspective for all of us in our lives.