Ye Olde Fair Trader
Lorie Wood, Portland, Oregon
The story of fair trade sales at West Hills Friends Church began over five years ago. A year prior to that time my husband and I returned home after living and working with Palestinian Quakers in the West Bank, Palestine. After arriving back we saw a case of Palestinian olive oil at our meeting house. On it was a sign that read, "Take a bottle and leave $20."
During that year I bought the oil. At the same time I was developing a friendship with the U. S. distributor of Canaan Fair Trade products which included many more goods than just olive oil. Also I began helping in the West Hills kitchen.
While working in the kitchen with others of our community we were asked by a fellow member, "Would you consider getting fair trade coffee for our coffee hour?" as he handed us order forms from Equal Exchange. Pieces of ideas were beginning to come together, which culminated in my asking pastor Mike Huber, if more Palestinian products could be combined with his sales and coffee added, not just for the kitchen, but for sales on a regular basis to the congregation.
My question was presented in late January, 2008. Mike replied, "Do you think we can be ready by the first Sunday in March?" I gasped, "Why not?" By March 2. 2008 we had our first sale. By that Sunday we had added coffee, chocolate bars and teas to Palestinian products. Mike made up a flyer for the weekly bulletin, found a logo design, and gave us the name "Ye Olde Fair Trader".
From that day on, Ye Olde Fair Trader has been a not-for-profit ministry of West Hills Friends Church. This ministry extends from our community building out to other Quaker gatherings, to an annual Peace and Justice Fair, and to other churches as well.
The West Hills family has responded with enthusiasm as they shop for home use and gifts in the community center. I help provide customer service and my husband, Wilbur, is a very friendly cashier who also records sales and keeps inventory. There are community members who work with us on sales or run sales if we are out of town. There is even little 7-year-old Fiona who "helps" Wilbur make change at the cashier's table! Our Peace Committee has taken Ye Olde Fair Trader under its care to advise, support and help as needed.
First Sunday sales are conducted in a spirit of good humor and joy. They often include tastings, which were done recently for the new dried fruit and nuts, as well as for Proud Mama coffee. There was such a party atmosphere at this tasting that community members didn't seem to notice that no one had brought refreshments or even made coffee for the coffee hour! Needless to say, our future sales will include these products as well as the other coffees, teas, chocolate bars, Tamari almonds, geobars, baking cocoa and hot cocoa mix.
For myself I believe that having the privilege to do fair trade sales in the company of my faith community is one of the most satisfying activities in what has been a long life. Being involved with others who know that they can stand alongside small scale farmers in many parts of the world is something that we share together at West Hills Friends. We all know that fair trade helps us "speak" our values of justice and peacemaking. And it is mighty tasty too!