Representing the Kona Coffee Farmers Association, Rancho Aloha owners Bruce and Lisa Corker traveled earlier this month to Paris and through the provinces of eastern France at the invitation of the French Ministry of Agriculture. The trip was entitled ‘The 2013 Terroir Tour de France’ and was arranged to provide American farmers who produce geographically identified crops with the opportunity to exchange information and ideas with French farmers and representatives of local, regional, and national governmental agencies.
On the American side of the exchange (in addition to Kona Coffee) were Idaho Potatoes, Vermont Maple Syrup, Maine Lobsters, New Mexico Native Chiles, and Wisconsin Ginseng. All are affiliated with the American Origin Products Association, an umbrella organization providing a national voice for producers of U.S. geographically identified products.
The Americans received a first-hand view of the dedication of the French to quality and to traditional methods of production, plus the extent to which the French government actively promotes regional products and protects against counterfeiting.
The French were surprised at the meager support given by US governmental agencies for American origin products. For example, they found it difficult to comprehend that the State of Hawaii would authorize use of the ‘Kona’ name on packages containing 90% non-Kona coffee, or that the American government does little or nothing to combat counterfeiting of ‘Kona Coffee’ on the U.S. Mainland.
The strongest themes to emerge from the Tour were the shared commitment of French and American farmers to protect the regional heritage and identities of their respective specialty crops, and the extent to which we in America can learn from France and other European countries about ways to support our growing number of regionally identified agricultural products.
For more about the American Origin Products Association and The 2013 Terroir Tour de France visit the AOP website. For more about efforts to protect the reputation of 100% Kona Coffee visit please visit www.konacoffeefarmers.org.