Julio Fernandez Aguilar grows coffee sustainably, in the shade of the rain forest, high up in the Andes Mountains of Peru. We met Julio while we visited numerous Peruvian coffee farmers to see their shade-grown farms and educate them on the benefits of growing coffee in its natural state—in the heart of the rain forest.
Standing in his coffee field, he explained that he plants trees over his coffee to protect the environment, but also to protect the coffee in the middle of summer. Julio understands the many benefits of growing coffee under trees, such as protecting the soil from washing away during the rainy season; providing organic minerals to the coffee shrubs; and capturing, filtering and absorbing the water to maintain fertility. All of these factors work together to produce a higher quality coffee with a richer, fuller taste.
Julio went on to share the story of when he and his community realized the benefits of planting trees. He had an area of land covered in tall grasses and small shrubs with no trees. The soil in this area was inert and not suitable for growing crops. As the locals started planting trees, the soil improved and birds and animals returned to the area.
Today, this area is a lush forest full of biodiversity and a high-yield coffee crop. With 90 percent of Julio’s community depending on coffee for their livelihood, they rely on trees to protect the coffee shrubs and improve the soil in order to produce the highest quality coffee bean. The quality beans mean that Julio is able to earn more for his crops to sustain his family, provide better school facilities for his children and contribute to quality food and resources for his community.