What is Agroforestry?
These last couple of years have allowed us to spend more time digging in and rooting down (puns intended) into some traditional farming practices that we are excited to share with you. We at Kona Coffee & Tea are excited to give you a sneak peek into our farm’s new agroforest!
Kona Coffee & Tea has been gradually planting an agroforest with new coffee trees as well as a wide variety of other fruit trees and native Hawaiian plants. We are fortunate to live on the Big Island, where we have eight of the thirteen different climate zones in the world, each with unique ecosystems—ranging from tropical dry forest to grasslands, from snowy desertscapes to brackish anchialine pools, and from underground lava tubes to windswept coastal dunes. Because of this, it’s safe to say that a wide variety of flora can grow throughout these regions. In Kona alone, the gentle slopes of Hualalai create perfect growing conditions for coffee trees as well as a large number of other plant species. Rich volcanic soil creates a strong foundation for the plants and the sun in the morning followed by cloud cover and soft showers in the afternoon all contribute to a healthy agroforest. But what exactly is an agroforest?
An agroforest is a myriad of different plants and trees growing in the same plot of land that feed and nourish one another, which leads to more organic and sustainable food and less intervention from humans. We are moving away from the commercialized approach of farming known as monocropping that has taken the mainland by storm. Did you know there are currently more than 400 million acres in the US that are dedicated to a small number of crops. Plants like wheat, corn, and soybean dominate much of America’s farmland, and the monocropping method has influenced how we grow our coffee in the past, but we’re making a change. Instead of planting rows and rows of only coffee trees, we are interspersing them with other plants to create a diverse agroforest.
In the last year, Kona Coffee & Tea has planted more than 5,000 coffee trees and 1,500 other trees and shrubs on nearly 17 acres! Between every five to seven coffee trees, you’ll find a banana tree, ulu, avocado, koa, cacao, papaya, or lychee tree (just to name a few). We also have shrubs growing beneath the trees like lemongrass and olena (turmeric). All these species of flora benefit one another by creating diversity for pollinators, improving soil quality with a vast root system, and helping control pests and diseases including the coffee borer beetle that would otherwise decimate our coffee trees.
Our hope is to foster a solid foundation of rich soil full of diverse microbial activity, which nourishes a vast array of plants arounds our coffee, and in the future, we’ll be able to share our entire agrforest harvest—from coffee to cacao, olena to ulu—with our community.
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