Sustainable farming is a holistic approach to agriculture that ensures environmental, ecological, economic, social, health and legal boundaries are protected and strengthened. It endeavours to achieve fair and sustainable livelihood for the farmer without disrupting negatively the agricultural, natural and human ecosystems.
Sustainable farming is not necessarily organic farming, though it is the final goal once economic compensation to the farmer is on par with current inorganic farming methods. It incorporates evaluation of current practices and evolving time bound mitigation processes.
For example the restoration of soils to their original balance by understanding its pre-farming structure sampled from nearby forests or incorporating non toxic pest management and weed control systems.
Coffee farming in India has always been a highly sustainable activity with coffee planted under native forest trees. An increase in medium to high inorganic interventions in large farms that flourished in the ‘90s is seeing a reversal with a better understanding that product quality is intrinsically linked to sustainable agriculture.
However, small farms that constitute nearly 90% of the industry continue practices going back a century with inorganic interventions only in plant nutrition. The growth in demand for coffees with exceptional cup or flavour profiles has resulted in farmers evaluating best practices and being rewarded for the same.
A new wave of consumer feedback on coffee attributes has resulted in farmers becoming more aware of the sustainable practices that contribute to flavour and aromatic profiles. An example is the understanding that wild, native, flowering and fruiting trees as shade contribute to citrus, floral and fruit notes in the cup.