Fair Trade Food: Bohemian Trend or Sustainable Solution?

Free Trade for All?
Free Trade for All?
We’ve all been to our neighborhood coffee shops and seen the “Fair-Trade, no pesticide, organic yadda yadda yadda” but how many consumers actually understand what Fair Trade even means? Sounds like a term used on the play ground for teaching kids how to properly share their action figures…

But in FACT! Fair trade products, most popularly coffee, are the answer to sustainability and small farm support with in the international importation of products from developing countries. Sure, we love the local thing, saving energy on production and transportation of the goods we eat, but there are some things out there that you really just can’t find in your local area. Coffee from Colombia, quinoa from Ecuador are products that are particularly good when grown in these particular areas, but this does not mean we have to give into the money monster and support huge agrobusiness in order to get these products.

Oh no my friends, instead, we can import these products sustainably, and in support of small farmers in developing countries. This is actually what the elusive term, ‘fair trade’ actually implies, paying fair prices and promoting sustainable forms of production, while empowering and motivating farmers in developing countries to be able to work in their own businesses without crumbling under the pressure of the international food machine.

Raw Fair Trade Cherry Coffee Beans from Nicaragua
Raw Fair Trade Cherry Coffee Beans from Nicaragua

Here we find a variety of benefits of Fair-Trade fare:

a) Working against major industry to slow the run away train of international corporate food monopolies

b) Paying a normal amount for food

c) Eating food that actually tastes like something edible

d) Helping farmers in developing countries

e) Promoting community development

f) Sustaining local cultures/economies

g) Good Conscience?

TransFairUSA, a “only independent, third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the U.S”, tells us a little more about fair trade certification:

“Fair Trade certification is a market-based model of international trade that benefits over one million farmers and farm workers in 58 developing countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Fair Trade certification enables consumers to vote for a better world with their dollars, simply by looking for the Fair Trade Certified label on the products they buy.

Fair Trade Certified agricultural products including coffee, tea and herbs, cocoa and chocolate, fresh fruit, sugar, rice, flowers, honey and spices (vanilla) are currently available at over 35,000 retail establishments in the U.S.

Fair Trade empowers farmers and farm workers to lift themselves out of poverty by developing the business skills necessary to compete in the global marketplace. By guaranteeing minimum floor prices and social premiums, Fair Trade enables producers to invest in their farms and communities and protect the environment. But Fair Trade is much more than a fair price. “

So I guess that confirms it. Fair Trade products aren’t just a new-hippie label for meaningless feelings of good conscious, but rather, offer an alternative way to do business internationally without completely exploiting the little guy.

For more information please check out/support: (amongst many others)

So the next time you buy a cup of joe, take a break from your average Fascist coffee and make your morning caffiene buzz fair.

*Important to note that there are many other products that fulfill the “fair-trade” certification, I just chose to focus on coffee because fair-trade coffee is probably the most common fair trade product confronting average consumers.

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