We have all heard much buzz lately about buying fair trade and organic products, particularly in reference to daily commodities such as coffee. But what does “fair trade” actually mean? And why is it so important to buy fair trade, organic coffee?
What is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade refers to the system of buying and selling goods and commodities in a way which the local producers and communities involved in the growth and production of the commodity are honored and paid a fair wage. Fair trade also may include policies that honor the local natural environment involved in the production, as well as the promotion of people-to-people connections, fairness and sustainability.
Almost 85% of Fair Trade Certified™ coffee is also organic. And although organic, fair trade coffee is usually more expensive. The list below will offer some great reasons why you should consider supporting the international community of fair trade coffee producers, despite the slightly higher price per bean.
1. Supports Environmental Sustainability
When you buy fair trade, organic coffee you also support environmental sustainability through organic practices that reduce and/or eliminate the use of harmful toxic agrochemicals, pesticides and other chemical additives. What is more, many fair trade coffee farmers work with sustainable production methods to help keep the natural environment thriving for generations to come.
2. Fair Price
You support a fair price for products. Certified fair trade coffee has been given a base price, which is set by the international Fair Trade Labeling Organization. Therefore, you don’t get ripped off, but neither do the workers that produces the beans.
3. Supports Local Communities & Workers
When you buy fair trade, organic coffee you help the workers, organizations and communities involved in the production to receive a living wage. This is a direct support against commodities practices that leave workers without the minimum salary required to have basic food, shelter, medical care and education.
4. Invests in Local Community Building
When you buy from a fair-trade producer, you also invest a small amount of your money in that local community. Whereas many coffee producers move into villages and towns and take-over local customs and culture, many fair trade coffee operatives reinvest revenues back into the local business and community.
Even more importantly, fair trade producers continually offer back a social premium to specific community development initiatives in the realms of housing, healthcare, education, leadership training and women’s programs.
5. Tastes Better & Healthier For You!
Fair-trade, organic coffee is better for your health and tastes better. As the demand for global coffee increases, methods of mass-producing coffee lead to lower-quality produce. Sustainably grown organic coffee is often grown slower, and under rain-forest canopy. It is also grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides, allowing the coffee to keep all of its nutrients.
During the pressing process, organic coffee is processed without the use of the harsh chemicals commonly used on non-organic beans. What is more, organic coffee plants create soil that holds its complex nutrient base. These plants can then feed nutrients back into the beans at a slow and steady rate, adding a robust, smooth flavor to the beans. It also allows the native soil to retain its complex nutrient base (as compared to the depleted soils commonly found on full-sun coffee farms).
6. Help Increase and Preserve Biodiversity
Many birds in the U.S. move to “coffee country” in the winter. Unlike mass-produced coffee, which sometimes robs animals of their natural habitat, traditional fair-trade coffee plantations offer some of the last remaining bird habitats in counties like Colombia and Mexico. In fact, studies in these two countries show that organic “shade-grown” coffee plantations have up to 95% more bird life than large-scale, rain-forest-stripped “sun-grown” plantations.
7. Remove the Middle Man
That $4.00 Vente Mocha Latte you buy every day may have gone through the hands of up to ten different farmers, exporters, brokers, processors, roasters and retailers before it reached your lips. Fair trade coffee attempts to eliminate these costly middle men through working directly with cooperatives of small bean farmers.
- Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM