If you’re like many, you begin each day with a welcomed wakeup call from an old familiar friend, a cup of coffee or tea. If you imbibe the right kind of these powerful elixirs, you can not only perk up but also help struggling farmers in developing nations thrive.
Over the past 10 years Fair Trade coffees and teas have become popular among socially conscious consumers and gourmets. Once only found in coops and specialty stores, today various Fair Trade offerings are sold at large grocery and café chains.
Even mainstream big boys like Proctor & Gamble, Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks now boast that some of their brews are the politically correct kind. And in April, Ben and Jerry’s announced that its Heath Bar Crunch, Coffee, and Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz ice creams are being made with Fair Trade-certified beans. Who would have thought that a late night ice cream binge could actually benefit needy farmers?
All kidding aside, the kinds of products you select can have a very big impact on growers across the globe. Fair Trade certification helps ensure that small farmers are paid a decent price for their harvests. Under these programs farmers can sometimes double their income, which not only helps them afford to keep their crops flourishing, but also enables them to feed, clothe, house and otherwise care for their families.
“In 2003 and 2004 we were able to pay our coffee suppliers $4 million more than they would have normally gotten,” says Rodney North, the Answer Man for Equal Exchange, a worker cooperative in West Bridgewater, Mass. He noted that having a direct relationship with growers, and cutting out the middlemen, helps keep costs down.
“Fair Trade is helping people help themselves,” adds Autumn White, Marketing Coordinator with Choice Organic Teas/Granum Inc., the first company to offer Fair Trade tea in the U.S. “It’s not charity. It’s giving everyone a fair shake.”
Who’s Minding the Farm?
In the United States, TransFair USA is the only independent third-party certifier of Fair Trade products, which also include cocoa, some fruit and sugar. Representatives from the group visit cooperatives around the globe to verify that farmers are treated and paid well.
“The U.S.A. is one of 17 countries that have Fair Trade certification. They’re all part of the umbrella group the Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International in Germany, the body that develops Fair Trade standards,” says Haven Bourque, Media Spokesperson for TransFair USA.
According to TransFair USA, when you buy products with the group’s label it guarantees that:
-Fair prices are paid to family farmers
-Men and women are paid the same wages
-There are safe and humane working and living conditions
-Environmentally friendly farming practices are used
In fact, most Fair Trade farmers’ crops are pesticide- and chemical-free. Since these growers use traditional, natural methods to raise their crops more than 85 percent of Fair Trade products sold in the U.S. are also certified organic.
The Rise of the Righteous
The concept of Fair Trade in the U.S. dates back more than 40 years, but really gained steam in the ’90s. “In 1998, the price of coffee began to drop and there was a flood of cheap coffee in the market,” says Scott Brant, founder of Montana Coffee Traders in Whitefish, Montana. “Farmers were in dire straits. That’s when Fair Trade took off.” He explains that the system works very well for everyone involved. “It ensures that farmers are successful and that we get a steady supply of good coffee.”
Fair Trade coffee is part of the specialty coffee niche, about 20 percent of the overall coffee market, and so people who drink it are often connoisseurs. They know a good bean from a bad one and can detect the smallest subtleties in flavor. “Spe
||Who’s Playing Fair?
October marks the second annual Fair Trade month, a great opportunity to sample flavorful, politically correct drinks and snacks and help farmers in developing nations get a reasonable price for their goods. With the aid of TransFair USA, the group that certifies Fair Trade goods, thousands of grocery stores, cafés, chefs, students and community organizations, around the nation will be promoting Fair Trade-certified products this month including Fred Meyer, Giant Eagle, Kroger, Starbucks, Stop & Shop, Wegmans, and Wild Oats Natural Marketplace. You can get involved by taking part in promotions, contests, special events, staff trainings, farmer visits and more.
For information on how to get involved, or where to find Fair Trade coffee, tea, chocolate, sugar and fruit in your area, check out www.transfairusa.org. For those eager to sample the Fair Trade flavor difference, select the following brands, or others with the black and white TransFair label, and both your cravings and conscience will likely be satisfied.
Equal Exchange—Offering Fair Trade coffee since 1986, the company also provides tea, cocoa, chocolate and sugar. www.equalexchange.com, 774-776-7400
Green Mountain Coffee—www.greenmaountaincoffee.com, 888-TRY-GMCR
Choice Organic Teas/Granum, Inc.—www.choiceorganicteas.com, 206-525-0051
Mountain View Coffee Roasters—www.mountainviewcoffee.com, 434-985-1563
Montana Coffee Traders—www.coffeetraders.com, 800-345-5282