Make it a Fair Trade Month

Last fall I entered a photo contest through Ten Thousand Villages. They were looking for photos that depicted your love for fair trade coffee. My photo won and the prize was an entire year of free fair trade coffee from Level Ground Trading, a Fair Trade importer, wholesaler and specialty coffee roaster based in Victoria, B.C.

This was the photo that won me a year’s supply of Fair Trade coffee from Ten Thousand Villages.

Fair Trade Coffee

The winning photo.

Buying fair trade products is important to me. Fair Trade Canada describes Fair Trade as seeking to change the terms of trade for the products we buy “…to ensure the farmers and artisans behind those products get a better deal. Most often this is understood to mean better prices for producers, but it often means longer-term and more meaningful trading relationships as well. For consumers and businesses, it’s also about information. Fair Trade is a way for all of us to identify products that meet our values so we can make choices that have a positive impact on the world.” Visit the Fair Trade Canada website to learn more.

Why is it important to me? My story is really my dad’s story and it has made me a conscious consumer of coffee for years now.

Coffee beans on a plant like the ones my dad used to pick.

Coffee beans on a plant like the ones my dad used to pick.

My dad was born and raised in El Salvador. At the age of eight years old, he worked hand harvesting coffee as a full time job between the months of November to January. Eight years old! He worked 12 hours for three straight months making 40 cents per arroba (arroba is the unit of measurement coffee beans are measured in El Salvador, it is the equivalent of 25 lbs). Keep in mind, this was during the 60’s but even at the time, those were not fair wages, not to mention it was child labour. He picked coffee until he was 14 years old and when I was eight years old he told me stories about the days he spent harvesting and it’s had an impact on me since.

Fair Trade products costs a tad more but the difference in quality and social responsibility is worth it. I always buy Fair Trade coffee but I’m into my third month of my free coffee winnings and I am loving it! I pick up my coffee from my local Ten Thousand Villages every month and enjoy exploring other fair trade products while I’m there.

You can do your part by making informed consumer choices and buying Fair Trade. Whether its coffee, tea, chocolate, soccer balls, sugar, oil or clothing, everything we consume or use on a daily basis been harvested, or processed or made by someone somewhere. While it’s challenging to convert to a 100% Fair Trade lifestyle, you can make a difference by starting with one item, such as coffee. Just like buying local foods, the more you learn about where your food and products come from, the better informed decisions you make as a consumer.

I heart coffeeI invite you to join me and take the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation’s (MCIC) Fair Trade Challenge. It’s easy – the challenge lasts for one month, starting February 14.  They have a variety of challenges to choose from, such as the Office Challenge where you pledge to drink Fair Trade coffee and tea and promote awareness at work, the Baker’s Challenge where you pledge to bake with Fair Trade products, or you can create your own challenge for the month. All you have to is register for free and take the pledge. I recommend the Office Challenge. Pick up some Fair Trade coffee and tea for work, or ditch the long lines at the coffee shops that don’t offer Fair Trade and buy it from one that does instead – trust me it’ll taste so much better! The challenge comes in when you’re in social settings that don’t offer fair trade options (friend’s houses, meetings, hotels, restaurants). Take this as an opportunity to talk about the challenge and the need for fair trade support. Most of my favourite independently owned restaurants already offer fair trade. The MCIC website lists stores and restaurants that offer Fair Trade products, making it easy for you. Here is the list for Fair Trade coffee in Winnipeg, check it out, you might be surprised to see how many places offer Fair Trade coffee in the city.

You might discover you have learned a lot throughout the challenge. It may lead to more socially conscious consumer decisions overall.

And if you’ve never been to Ten Thousand VIllages, I highly recommend you take a stroll in one day and learn about all the Fair Trade products you can buy; it’s the perfect place to buy a gift!

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