Kona Coffee farmers Bruce and Lisa Corker of Holualoa, Hawaii, recently travelled to France as part of a group of American producers invited by the
French Ministry of Agriculture. The invitation was extended in order to provide an exchange of ideas and information between Americans and their French counterparts
concerning the promotion and protection of regionally identified agricultural products. The exchange was entitled “The 2013 Terroir de France” and covered the period from September 29 to October 4. “Terroir” is the French word that incorporates elements of geographic place, soil, climate, history and farming techniques that are associated with agricultural products from particular regions.
In addition to the Corkers who represented the Kona Coffee Farmers Association , the American delegation included producers of Idaho Potatoes, Vermont Maple Syrup, Maine Lobster, New Mexico Native Chilis, and the Wisconsin Ginseng. Each of these delegates is associated with a producer organization affiliated with the American Origin Products Association, an umbrella organization that provides a national voice for regionally identified agricultural products.
On the French side of the exchange were producers of a number of France’s many renowned regional products, including Champagne, Comte Cheese, Bresse Chicken,
Grenoble Walnuts, Jura Wines, and Vosge Fir Tree Honey. Also participating were representatives of various local, regional and national governmental agencies, including the Chief of the International Department of the French Agricultural Ministry.
The American producers received a first-hand review of the dedication of French farmers to the traditional methods of production and to the quality of their heritage products.
The Americans were also impressed by the active support from governmental agencies at all levels in promoting French regional products throughout the world and in protecting
those products from counterfeiting and deceptive labeling by competitors in France and abroad. Bruce Corker noted that “even for a small-scale specialty product like Vosges Fir Tree Honey, governmental agencies provided active assistance in putting a stop to the marketing of counterfeit honey from Poland.”
The French were surprised at the meager support given by American governmental agencies for American origin products. The French farmers found it difficult to comprehend that the State of Hawaii would authorize the use of the name “Kona” 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 exchange,” observed Lisa Corker, “were the shared commitment of French and American farmers to protect the regional heritage and identity of our respective specialty crops, and the extent to which we in America can learn from Farnce and other European countries about ways to support our growing number of regionally identified agricultural products.”
For more information on the American Origin Products Association and the “2013 Terrior Tour de France” visit www.aop-us.org
For more information on efforts to protect the reputation of “100% Kona Coffee” visit www.konacoffeefarmers.org