When I started working at MOM’s almost 6 years ago, I became instantly infatuated with Equal Exchange and the work they were doing in Fair Trade. The day I received the coveted EE zip up hoodie was a pretty great day. EE has been around since 1986 working to promote what they refer to as “authentic fair trade” – supporting small farmer cooperatives. This model encourages big change and economic sustainability through supporting collective units of farmers and communities. The Fair Trade system was designed to support safe working conditions, economic sustainability, farmer community development, environmentally sound growing practices and appropriate payment. This is the essence of the Fair Trade label.
This past December, I was invited to come along with Mayorga Coffee staff to visit the Cinco de Junio Co-op in Las Sabanas, Nicaragua. We visited two farms associated with the co-op, Finca San Jose and Finca La Sirena.
Mayorga has taken great interest in figuring out a way for coffee farmers to maintain income while dealing with roya armarillo (coffee rust) that is causing major plant damage on many farms. One of the ideas is growing chia seeds. As this is a brand-new project Mayorga is funding, I was able to witness a round table discussion about project logistcs. The farmers asked questions about payment, fears of failure, what-if-someone-came-along-with-a-better -offer, how it would be transported, etc. I felt as though I was witnessing the essence of the farmer-to-distributor relationship. Mayorga clearly cares about the well being of the farmers behind the brand and works hard to maintain strong, direct relationships with each farmer. They make regular visits to all farms and are very involved in supporting farmers as they continue to grow and thrive. More recently, I visited the Equal Exchange facility outside of Boston. Upon arriving we spent some time learning from the coffee quality control manager.
She’s been involved with EE for quite some time and really knows her stuff. She talked about coffee batch quality checks. The first step is appearance. Coffee should all be uniform and free of damage. Unfortunately there are times when coffee needs to be rejected for not meeting quality standards. Upon rejecting the batch, she does what she can to help the farmers resolve the issue whether it be going out to the farm to help them understand what Equal Exchange is looking for, providing education needed, or perhaps providing technical support. This represents another example of farmer and distributor working together to support a superb model of trade. The model of farmer relationships is an important one. Without the farmer, industries would fail. The Fair Trade Model creates a strong connection between consumer and producer, and is a reminder of the people involved in the food process.
Krista works at multiple MOM’s locations.