In early November 2011, Equal Exchange traveled to the West Bank to meet with the members of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee (PARC) from whom we are now buying organic, fairly traded olive oil.
Beth Ann Caspersen, Quality Control Manager, and Lynsey Miller, Director of Sales & Marketing for Advanced Coffee, recently visited coffee producers in Uganda. Lynsey reflects on some takeaways here:
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The farmers of Gumutindo co-op in Uganda would not have these things if they just were going at it as a single individual farmer:
Starting with: Equal Exchange was born in a tiny office on Albany Street in Boston, Mass., in 1986. We now have offices in West Bridgewater, Mass., St. Paul, Minn., and Portland, Ore.; a cafe in Boston, and an espresso bar in Seattle, Wa.
The Cooperative Fund of New England (CFNE) is a community development financial institution (CDFI) that is a bridge between socially responsible investors and co-operatives, community oriented non-profits, and worker-owned businesses in New England. Equal Exchange Food Service Sales Representative, LJ Taylor, is the former board president of CFNE.
The great thing about working at a place like Equal Exchange is that not only can innovation come from anywhere in the company, but that it is actually nurtured and encouraged from anyone and everyone. Take some of the recent innovations that our Customer Service teams recently initiated.
Each May we celebrate World Fair Trade Day. It feels important to take this opportunity to revisit the roots of Fair Trade, and reconsider what we aim to accomplish. Most people understand the critical importance of higher prices, advance credit and direct relationships; they allow farmers to stay on their land, send their children to school, and diversify their incomes. Yet, there's another equally - some would say even more important - goal of Fair Trade, one that seems to be slowly disappearing as new iterations of "ethical trade" and "direct trade" appear in the market: empowering communities and social movements. It is for this reason Equal Exchange chooses to work with small-farmer co-operatives.
San Fernando Co-op is very young but has a lot of members - around 400. I was one of the first members in 2001. I've always been loyal to my co-op. It has grown little by little. What I like most is the organization. Before we were selling organic, but now the price is raised because it is Fair Trade. [People in the U.S.] should appreciate our coffee and that's important for us because we feel proud.
During the five days I stayed in San Fernando, a coffee-farming community remotely located 6,000 feet up in the Andes Mountains of Peru, I only started to understand the complexities of rural life for the farmers and their families. Because of my academic background in gender studies, I was particularly interested in the breakdown of gender roles in San Fernando.