Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Fair Trade -- What's the big deal?

Photo courtesy of Jean Beaufort

Fair trade is a pretty broad topic. So let's narrow it down. Let's talk coffee. We all love it, right? Well, most of us do. Mornings wouldn't be the same without it. But did you know that with each cup you pour, there just might be a child somewhere enslaved and working in terrible conditions in order to get that coffee to you? Unless, of course, you're brewing fair trade coffee. That's why it's a big deal.

Fair trade ensures that child labor is not part of the production process. Adults work in safe conditions. Producers respect the environment. And farmers are able to sustain their families year-round. The usual "thin months" when coffee is not being harvested are balanced out through fair trade organizations, such as Lutheran World Relief. This helps to break the usual cycle of debt coffee farmers often experience. That's why it's a big deal.

It was Quakers during the 1800s who first saw the need for fair trade. At that time, it was about artisan goods rather than coffee, tea, and food products. Fair trade was originally viewed as charity and the purpose was to help people rise above poverty. Today, its purpose is broader, as it helps workers succeed in their jobs and makes it possible for children to receive an education. That's why it's a big deal.

I like what Brandi Monroe-Payton had to say. She was the engagement manager for Lutheran World Relief when she said, "As Christians, we're called to help one another, especially those who face extreme poverty or don't have enough income to support their families. Especially if people are already drinking coffee or eating chocolate, why not make it fair trade, so you can help someone out?" Why not, indeed.

So the next time you're out shopping, toss a bag of fair trade coffee into your cart. Better yet, make sure it's labeled fair trade and organic. After all, conventional coffee farmers traditionally spray a lot of crap on their crops. Fair trade farmers might do the same, so play it safe and choose fair trade and organic.

Having trouble finding fair trade coffee? Check out small shops, like The Shepherd's Door in Bellevue, Pennsylvania. Or browse through the food aisles at stores like Marshall's and TJMaxx. There always seems to be a variety of specialty coffees scattered about. Trader Joe's always has some in stock. If you any shops in your neighborhood with good fair trade coffee, share the name of the shop and any links in the comments below.

If each of us did our part, the world would be a better place for families across the globe. Let's do this, folks! Let's make a difference. After all, it is a big deal.

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