COFFEE FARM WASTE IS FOOD FOR THE SOIL
zero waste – return to nature – closed loop – whatever you call it, we are turning our waste into valued nutritious soil food!
We transform all our on-farm processing waste back into the land. Crop trimmings, harvest fruit skins, hulled parchment, roaster sweepings, spent coffee – We give it all back to the soil, return it to the roots as it were.
Other coffee lands have coffee processing waste issues, that we .. just don’t have. Nothing leaves our family farm unless it is roasted and sent out ready to drink and be enjoyed.
We don’t add any chemicals, and no nasty sprays – so all our tree trimmings, fruit skin and processing ‘waste’ is just good organic matter ready to return back to where it belongs. Even the roaster ’sweepings’ and barista spent coffee waste gets composted or thrown under trees and shrubs as mulch.
In the wet mill we use water-saving processing equipment, that recycles our water through the washing station and reduces our water usage to 10% of traditional international wet mill practice. Through the day any ‘waste’ water’ goes straight back out between the rows. It’s only nutritious ‘fruit skin’ water free of chemical sprays.
In other lands, innovative coffee entrepreneurs now turn coffee processing ‘waste’ into for instance, re-useable cups. This can be seen as a good use of bulk waste arising from centralised, large processing plants. The waste gets shipped out, manufactured into the cups and then sent to (let’s face it, wealthier) lands to sell to thoughtful coffee drinkers who can feel good using ‘coffee waste’ product as their reusable travel coffee cup.
Well, that is fine… if you are ok with the travel miles and processing involved.
We Australian coffee farmers just wouldn’t be so .. wasteful! As family farm owners, most of us invest in our own suitable farm sized wet mills so we can process on the day of harvesting. The size of our operations is such that we can deal with all our waste. But it’s not waste, it’s plant and soil food! (We need a better word than waste.)
Wet coffee fruit skins and later, dried hulled parchment can at least get mulched straight under the trees. The soil will thanks us for the cooler, moisture-retaining conditions and reward us with microbial life, bugs and worms.
Anyone who has put coffee parchment out as mulch under a tree or in the veggie garden can dig a bit and find happy worms. Just ask the chooks! They know where the good bugs and beasties are living.
This year, we decided to have a go at making compost in a decent farm sized lot. We’ve got a spreader and good-sized tractor with a bucket, so why not! I don’t think it will spread the full 40 acres but wherever we put it, surely our soil life will benefit.
But to make compost we need manure. And more carbon matter. Hence the cow poo and tree mulch. 170 tonne of aged cow poo with eucalyptus bark arrived early – so we could start mixing some in. Look how pretty it is, with jacaranda flowers falling on the poo pile. Pretty piles of poo worthy of a pic! Yes, this got insta’d.
Fortuitously, the week after harvest 3 truckloads of freshly chipped pine tree mulch arrived – out of the blue. Free! We are happy to be-friend local tree-loppers who sometimes want a farm with good flat space to offload their unwanted wood chips. Happy days! Coffee and choc beans for our wood chip friends.
So Chris has lots of tractor work to do loading, moving and spreading the poo and mulch, adding organic matter and occasionally turning the compost pile.
We just need some rain to season it and get it going!
As we keep on finding, what is waste to some, is valued soil food to others. Let not waste go to waste. Compost it, or mulch it, not waste it
Sorry for all the asterisks. It is exciting to share compost stories. Finally on a scale beyond my veggie patch. Signing off, as weekday Roast Mistress, weekend Compost Maker.