We at Captain’s Coffee wholeheartedly support organic farmers. These farmers have gone the extra mile to put the natural nutrients back into the soil. This guarantees fertility to the land and a safe place for birds and animals to live. It’s good for us and it’s good for the planet.

Following are some selected clips from The Seattle Audobon Society and the North West Shade Coffee Campaign.


Shade and trade -what's the connection?

by Kristen Kosidowski, Shade Coffee Organizer

While most organizations that advocate for fairly traded coffee mention little about the environment, coffee growing conditions play a key role in creating a level playing field for marginalized coffee communities around the world.

Growing coffee in the shade, rather than in cleared fields, maintains a coffee community's natural capital—its stock of natural resources and environmental assets, including water, soils, air, food sources, building materials, and services like erosion control. In turn, these resources stabilize a healthy place in which to grow various crops for decades to come.

Fair Trade certification programs are not designed solely to set a minimal price for each pound of coffee. They also support farming communities through self-determination and creating sustainable models for community development. They help provide improved schools and medical clinics, diversified crop production and improved soil and water protection.

Many of the resources that communities need to become less dependent on coffee prices actually come from the shade environment. Farmers who grow coffee in the shade know that they cultivate healthy habitat for their coffee, for the birds, and for their own families. They reduce their dependence on coffee as their only source of income, and by doing so, they can take larger risks in negotiating better coffee prices.

While shade-grown coffee has no widely accepted fixed price premium, its price often reflects a better-tasting, higher quality product. Shoppers can show farmers that their land and their families are valued. Ask your cafe, grocery market, or office manager to stock coffee that supports farmers and birds. Choose shade-grown coffee.

What Coffee Drinkers Can Do:

Want to feel as good about your coffee as it makes you feel? Get involved! It's really easy to make a difference!

  1. Learn about the issue. Being an educated consumer is the best thing you can do!

  2. Buy shade-grown coffee. If your retailer does not carry shade coffee, ask that they do. Check the Seattle Audubon web page for a list of shade coffee sources.

  3. Don't buy coffee in a can or a jar or a vending machine - cheap, low-quality coffee is almost always from a sun coffee plantation.

  4. If you can't find shade-grown coffee, buy organically grown coffee, which commonly is shade-grown.

  5. Educate friends by giving them a gift of shade-grown coffee.

  6. Support oganizations that work on fair trade and shade coffee issues.

  7. Start a shade coffee campaign in your area!

Conservation Principles for Coffee Production

Excerpt from the NW Shade Coffee Campaign membership guidelines.

Coffee-producing regions, with their tropical climates, often play host to a diversity of wildlife whose habitatss are destroyed when vast areas of tropical forest are cleared for coffee plantations. Such coffee-growing practices also make for a low-quality product and exacerbate global over-production, thereby threatening the capacity of small-scale farmers to continue their more environmentally friendly and high quality shade-growing practices. The sustainable coffee movement seeks to "create alternative market opportunities that pay farmers decent prices, provide incentives for organic production, and reward farmers for practicing good stewardship of their natural resources."

The Nature of Birds: To a Bird, Habitat Is Everything

by Brenda Senturia, Master Birder

Habitat is the key to wildlife. Birds, in particular, are so sensitive to the attributes of the habitats in which they live that they are often used as indicators of the health of these habitats. Throughout every bird’s life cycle, it must find the habitats it requires in order to survive. These requirements may change with the seasons or with the life stages of the bird. But the basic activities of feeding, courtship, breeding, nesting, and protection from predators and harsh environments are all imperatives for species' survival. Most terrestrial habits consist of specific plant species arrayed in a particular configuration.

A bird may feed on or nest in a specific plant species; such birds arc specialists. For instance, Sage Grouse must have intact sagebrush to survive. Red Crossbsills have a strong predilection for the cones of specific conifers. Specialist species are vulnerable to the slightest changes in habitat. More adaptable species, whether seedeaters or insectivores, may be able to acquire adequate food from multiple plant species. American Goldfinches are primarily seedeaters and feed on a variety of species of thistles and sunflowers. Moving along the "adaptability continuum," we come to species such as the American Crow, decidedly a generalist. Crows use a broad range of habitats and adapt well over time to changes in environment. They will eat just about anything, as we know from seeing them visit the trash bins at fast-food restaurants.

Another critical factor for birds is how the plants in a habitat are arrayed, i.e., what structure the habitat provides. Many of our Western Washington habitats have three major layers: a canopy formed by the upper branches of trees, a shrub layer under the canopy, and a ground-level layer (grasses, herbs). If we watch a Spotted Towhee for any length of time, we know that regardless of the surrounding plant species, this bird will often be foraging in the debris on the ground. Wilson’s Warblers prefer the shrub layer, and Hammond’s Flycathers hawk insects from the canopy.

Habitat structure is extremely important in all of a bird's activities. When building a nest, a bird looks for specific structural elements-- perhaps a particular tuft of bunchgrasses, a forked branch at a particular height, a low dense thicket, or an abandoned cavity in a large tree. Various habitat structures provide shade, protection, or camouflage. Brush piles and snags are vital for some species. If birds are to flourish, their habitat needs must he met at each phase of their lives and in each season. (Many species have different habitat requirements in summer and winter.) the stewardship implications for migratory birds' habitats are especially complex.

Habitats are dependent on many interrelated environmental factors: temperature, rainfall, soils, air quality, etc. These may, in turn, be altered both by human activity and natural occurrences (e.g., hurricanes). Such changes will affect both the structure and composition of many, if not all, of our planet's habitats. The degree of climate change and the speed with which it occurs will be important factors in determining which of our feathered friends will brighten the 1ives of our future generations.

Digi-ya-discover Digiscoping yet?

by Justine Busse, Nature Shop staff & Master Birder

We birders are a well prepared bunch. We venture into the wilds scouting for birds prepared for anything. We are usually sporting several layers of clothing that can he easily adjusted for weather conditions. Our rain gear, binoculars, scopes, tripods, field guides, maps, checklists, notepads, runproof writing devices, lunches, and sunglasses are just part of the equipment list. We often enjoy toting our cameras along with all the "extra" options needed to get that perfect shot. Our poor bodies withstand straps and layers of clothing and gadgets, and our backs, hauling these things, often complain loudly. How many times have you considered leaving something, anything, behind in the car just to get a break? The scope? The camera? The lunch?

These choices are difficult. However, there is a new way to help consolidate some of these loads and make them at least a little more multi-purpose, digiscoping.

Digiscoping is a marriage between scope and camera. It allows the scope to be used as a powerful lens for your digital camera. And like marriage, it requires patience, understanding, and determination to make it work. Digiscoping is a fairly new concept and is quickly becoming popular among birders. At last there is a way to team up your light compact digital camera with a powerful lens and not only view, but photograph birds that may be hundreds of yards away. Once you have done your homework and chosen the right equipment combination, it gets comes down to point-and-shoot. It is that easy.

Selecting your equipment carefully is your first challenge. You may have a scope and need a camera. In this case, you would need to find a small digital camera that is not more than 4x power. More powerful cameras run into issues with vignetting (a fuzzy frame around the image in varying sizes depending on the optical combination being used). A sug-gestion would be to take your scope along on your camera shopping trip. Actually try out the camera with the scope by simply holding it up to the eye piece and viewing the composition of the photo on the screen. Here is a small tip about camera features for digiscoping'-choose a camera with a big LCD screen with back lighting so that you can easily view it in the field under bright conditions.

Perhaps you already have both a camera and a scope and would like to find an adapter to hold the camera in place. There are many options or few options depending on your particular situation. Remember the patience part of the marriage? Many of the top-brand scope companies are now offering attachments that will connect your camera to the scope. The variable here is whether your camera will work with your scope (see vignetting above). Swarovski has a very slick attachment called the Base DCB-A, which, when affixed to your scope, allows you to flip your camera out of the way making the transition between photography and straight viewing so easy that you hardly know you have extra equipment. Swarovski also offers the less complex DCA adapter at half the price as well as attachments for older scopes.

Other options include a Universal Digiscoping Adapter made by Vortex that comes in small and large sizes for different size eyepieces. It attaches easily to the eyepiece and can slide out of the way for regular viewing. For $50-60 these are great and inexpensive solutions for those who have already both scope and camera and want to hook the two together.

Nikon now offers the Digiscope 8.1 Photo Package. This will fit existing Nikon Fieldscopes, 50mm, 60mm or 82mm. The kit includes a Coolpix P4 8.1 digital camera, a specific, fixed, digiscoping wide eyepiece (16x/24x/30x depending on objective lens size) and a bracket and cable release to minimize vibration. The package retails for $730.00 at the Nature Shop, or can be combined with your purchase of a Nikon Fieldscope. It all fits easily together and is very easy to use. This is a nice option for those Nikon Fieldscope owners who do not have a camera and want to digiscope.

There are many online resources about digiscoping as well. One favorite is at www.swarovskioptik.com. Click on digiscoping for a nice run-through of basics as well as tips and tricks.

Bear in mind that technology is fast paced and cameras and kit options may change during the year. Also remember that the adapters and kits mentioned are mostly designed for point-and-shoot digital cameras, although SLR cameras work on some. (An alternative for SLR cameras, of course, is a separate optical element replacing both the camera's lens and the scope's eyepiece - come by the Nature Shop to see this option.)

The Nature Shop offers many options and is trying to keep pace with emerging technology. For more information go to www.seattleaudubon.orgs (click on Nature Shop), or stop by The Nature Shop 10am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday to try out a digiscoping set up to see for yourself the fun that can be had and how this innovative technological combination can turn you into a photographic wizard.

Happy Birding!

Through the Eyes of a Farmer

Reyna Maria Gutierrez,
An Equal Exchange Co-op Partner

Reyna Maria Gutierrez, her child, and her aging mother are one of the 68 families growing organic coffee on the mountaintop community of Ampante, Nicaragua. For her, maintaining an integrated ecosystem of coffee, banana, and nitrogen-fixing guabo trees is not just for the birds. It's a way of life that depends on receiving a just price and the support of her co-op through fair trade.

Fair trade provides a basket of benefits to Reyna and her neighbors. Gender equity seminars provided by her cooperative opened the door for Reyna to become a leader. She is now both a member of the Board of Directors of her local cooperative and a regular participant in the annual Women's Leadership Conference.

Fair trade premiums fund organic farming seminars, which have allowed her colleagues to boost productivity while increasing erosion protection and bird habitat. Advance credit (the true mark of a fair trade organization) provides Reyna and her neighbors with the capital to invest in tree nurseries and compost bins. A guaranteed minimum price and direct access to the market have chased away predatory intermediary buyers.

If farming does not work for families, families will leave farming to the corporations, and corporations will leave nothing behind. Reyna and her colleagues need a fair price, direct trade through their democratic co-ops, advance credit, and price premiums to allow them to grow in a way that is both environmentally and economically sustainable.

Shade vs. Organic

Organic agriculture is a farming management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. lt is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs (such as fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides) and on management practices that restore, maintain, and enhance ecological harmony. Organically grown coffee reduces the threat to the health of coffee growers and workers since it eliminates pesticide poisoning of people and animals and keeps fertilizers out of the ground water. Not all organic coffee is shade-grown, though most is, and not all shade coffee is organically grown, although it usually uses significantly fewer chemicals than sun coffee.The best coffee from the point of the view of the environment is shade-grown, organic, AND fair-traded.