Growing with grace

Noelle Creamer

"We have embarked on an attempt to learn all we can about tropical organic agriculture, about what makes up diverse shade cover, and about the intricacies of the coffee market, so that we can build a model farm with all the ancillary aspects that will provide a healthy environment for workers and their families, both on our own farm and in the larger community."

"We have embarked on an attempt to learn all we can about tropical organic agriculture, about what makes up diverse shade cover, and about the intricacies of the coffee market, so that we can build a model farm with all the ancillary aspects that will provide a healthy environment for workers and their families, both on our own farm and in the larger community."

-"The New Family Cookbook,"
by William Eichner, MD

To grow

In 1997, the couple was in the Dominican Republic and introduced to a grass-roots movement committed to farming organically, improving standards of health and hygiene, and promoting education.

The farm produces coffee that Dr. Eichner exports to the United States. He works with the Vermont Coffee Co.-a 100% organic, fair trade roaster. They have been successful marketing Café Alta Gracia in the Northeast and continue to work to expand the market. The coffee is known for its excellent aroma and full body with medium acidity.

To change

But Café Alta Gracia is about more than selling coffee.

"Of course, making money is part of achieving sustainability," Dr. Eichner explained. But the farm/foundation also serves as a model for coffee growing and production and as a center for education.

"In the 1980s in the Dominican Republic, large coffee growers 'technified' coffee," Dr. Eichner said. "They used dangerous chemicals and full sun to achieve greater production. They destroyed the shade cover, which was a habitat comparable to the traditional rain forest.

"We were committed to organic farming and producing shade-grown coffee," Dr. Eichner said. "We are interested in old varieties of coffee and old methods."

The actual process of harvesting coffee is painstaking.