October is Fair Trade Month which means it’s time to take a moment to think about what we’re buying, where it comes from and how it can affect the world around us. When we buy Kentucky Proud products, it’s not difficult to find out how to visit the farm where our eggs came from or check out a Sampling Saturday to meet the family who makes our granola. It’s a little more complicated to fully understand where our chocolate or coffee comes from and considering the chance that they could be made with child labor or slavery, or at the very least, wages that don’t match a worker’s cost of living, most shoppers would say it’s an important issue. The good news is that your Co-op prides itself on offering a plethora of fair trade foods, drinks and more.
Alaffia is one of the brands that we love and everything it makes is not only fair trade certified, but the company says that they measure success not just by profit, but by empowerment. It was begun by Olowo-n’djo Tchala, a man who grew up in Togo, West Africa helping his mother collect shea nuts to be made into oil for hair and body care products. He saw that poverty was just a fact of life for the majority of people in his country, especially women who usually end up dropping out of school in order to work jobs that don’t even pay enough for them to support themselves.
He and his wife, a former Peace Corps volunteer, moved to the U.S. and in 2004 they started the Alaffia Shea Butter Cooperative. They wanted to use the skills, knowledge and traditions of shea butter production that many Togolese women already had to empower them, preserve indigenous culture and produce a high-quality oil that could be used to make the skin and hair care products that you now know and love. Emily Parnham, community relations director for Alaffia said, “When you purchase an Alaffia product, you are placing value on the indigenous knowledge and skills of the Alaffia Cooperative members and empowering these women to create a better life for themselves and their families.”
Equal Exchange is another brand we love to celebrate during Fair Trade Month, as it’s “a leader in the movement to empower small-scale farmer co-ops worldwide.” The worker-owned company is one of the largest in the world and gives farmers, not corporations, the ability to make decisions about how they operate and the ability to earn a wage that actually allows them to support themselves.
The business model is more transparent than a typical business and six of their nine board members are worker-owners. When any worker-owner gets dividends on their ownership share, half goes back into the company as an investment in the business and half goes to the worker-owner. Observing these co-op principles is just one way Equal Exchange treats their workers fairly. When you buy their coffee, tea and chocolate at your own Co-op, you’re supporting their fair trade business model.
Celebrate Fair Trade Month Today & Every Day
Whether you’re trying out new products in the spirit of Fair Trade Month or you’ve been shopping Fair Trade for years, finding these products is easy when you shop with us. Anything that’s Fair Trade Certified will have an easily recognizable seal on the product itself and, at Good Foods, it will have a pink “FT” indicator on the shelf tag.
When you see these markers, it means producers were paid wages that allow them to support their families and contribute to the betterment of their communities. Fair Trade farmers deal one-on-one with importers (rather than middlemen), and Fair Trade encourages democratic decision-making, transparency, gender equity and independence.
By choosing Fair Trade, we can support the environment, too. Since Fair Trade supports small-scale farmers, it encourages biodiversity (think shade-grown coffee and cocoa, which protect wildlife habitats) and sustainable practices like organic farming. There’s no need to sacrifice quality with Fair Trade either; one emphasis of Fair Trade is supporting farmers in improving the quality of their crops.
Curious about finding more Fair Trade products? Just stop by your Co-op during Fair Trade Month (or any other time) and we’d be happy to lead you to products that support equality and a living wage.
This post contains excerpts from the Co+op, stronger together article “Fair Trade: A Primer.”