Today, I’d like to share a very special guest post written by my Mom. She has long been at the forefront in terms of compassionate eating and consumerism so I thought, who better to turn to for some knowledge on why we should all make the jump to Fair Trade coffee purchasing? I am lucky to have been raised by this people teachin’, vegan eatin’, social justice fightin’ lady who has now realized her passion for all 3 can coalesce into one powerful mission—
I love coffee. I love it hot or iced (and anywhere in between really), plain black or fancied up as a cappuccino or latte. I love it morning, noon and night and am ever so thankful that it doesn’t seem to keep me from sleeping. But what I don’t love is how much of the world’s supply of coffee comes at a HUGE humanitarian cost. And so, I drink Fair Trade coffee. Let me explain.
You see, the coffee industry is nothing like what’s portrayed in those iconic coffee commercials of the 1960s with Juan Valdez and his sweet little burro. Rather, most of the agriculture workers in the coffee business toil in what can only be described as “sweatshops in the fields.” The farmers themselves receive prices for their coffee beans that are less than what they were forced to spend to produce them, pushing them into a cycle of poverty and debt. Their workers are often children, youth and women earning subsistence wages. Grinding poverty and illiteracy are stamped all over the coffee beverages most Americans consume – whether they’re brewing their own, downing a steaming hot cup they just got at the drive-through, or sipping one of those specialty drinks made by a trained barista at their yuppified coffee shop.
Coffee is the world’s SECOND most valuable commodity after petroleum, and U.S. consumers drink one-quarter of the beans traded in the global market. That represents a LOT of coffee. A HUGE amount of coffee. And a very large percentage of that coffee is consumed at the expense of millions of hard-working people around the world who by no fault of their own lack access to the information, services and infrastructure they need to participate as equals in the global economy; to earn their FAIR share of the wealth created by international trade. There is another way though, and one I’ve embraced for several years now.
Fair Trade offers a means for small farmers to receive fair prices. It cuts out the middle men (there’s usually more than one) and provides not just a market for coffee but education for growing great coffee in an ecologically responsible way. And Fair Trade builds relationships between farmers and Fair Trade coffee companies in the U.S. This is the only approach that guarantees coffee farmers a fair price and workers a fair wage. Plus, this way guarantees the consumer a great cup of joe. Imagine, less poverty, less illiteracy, less oppression, all by doing what you’re already doing – drinking coffee. Mind-boggling and yet so simple.
Like I said, I started purchasing Fair Trade certified coffee at my local cooperative grocery store several years ago. I realize now that they were on the cutting edge of this movement. Then, it seemed the right thing to do and they were the only place to get Fair Trade. Today, Fair Trade coffee is far more available. Many stores carry, at least, some Fair Trade. Yes, it costs a little more than your can of ground coffee from the chain grocery store. But isn’t it worth it? By buying Fair Trade you are supporting coffee farmers in developing countries. You are insuring that coffee workers receive a fair wage and safe working conditions. You are putting children, who would otherwise be harvesting coffee beans, in school. You are doing more for the environment than that little bit of recycling you do does. And…drum roll please…you are getting really, really great coffee. It always tastes better!
Have I convinced you to go Fair Trade? Well, if not, stay tuned because I am sure to have more to offer in the near future. You see, I have been selected to attend specialized Fair Trade training in Baltimore, Maryland at the end of this month. I will then be a Fair Trade Ambassador. Perhaps Beth will have me back to talk about Fair Trade Chocolate and Fair Trade Tea and Fair Trade Olive Oil and Fair Trade Wine…you get the picture. Bottom line…we can make a difference in the world by what we consume – enjoy a cuppa Fair Trade coffee today and be the change you want to see in the world.
Thanks so much to my Mom, Pam Berger, for sharing! ❤ She’s gonna make such a rockstar Fair Trade Ambassador. And, what do you think, could you make the switch to going all Fair Trade for your cup of joe?