Being new at Equal Exchange has been like returning to school. I am constantly learning the intricacies of building supply chains that support producers beyond what a “fair-trade” label could mean. What drew me to Equal Exchange was their unconventional worker-owned cooperative model, and the farmer partners who are supported to stay on their land and to have more bargaining power as small farmers collectively. Working in small-scale agriculture in the U.S. has exposed me to the realities and obstacles around land tenure, access, and security that prevent a lot of people from entering into agriculture and also staying in it.
Have you ever seen a cacao pod? In the wild or on the farm, it awkwardly hangs from the trunk and branches of the Theobroma cacao tree. An alien fruit of seemingly endless variety —shaped like a papaya, hard like an acorn squash and often ridged like one, too. It comes in reds, browns, golds, purples, sometimes different varieties growing right alongside one another. Cutting one open reveals a world no less strange than the exterior—filmy, gooey white membrane enrobes brown and purple beans that are about the size of large grapes. The aroma from the interior is alluring, though: citric and bold, floral and sweet, even woodsy and minerally, depending on the variety of pod you’re sniffing
November 16th marks the 29th anniversary of the slaying of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter by government-run death squads in El Salvador in 1989. This past October 14th, slain Salvadoran archbishop Oscar Romero was canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church.The murders of these priests—and of 80,000 more whose names we’ll never know—were carried out in no small part with the support of billions of dollars in U.S. funding and training of corrupt governments in El Salvador. The victims were largely peasants and workers organizing for their rights and a better life.
When you purchase a conventional banana at a grocery store, there are certain costs that your everyday low price covers: the fruit itself; the international shipping costs; the trucking from the warehouse to the grocery stores. These costs are internalized, meaning they’re accounted for in the final price you pay.
On Wednesday, February 13, a delegation from Equal Exchange and the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice (UUCSJ) arrived at Cooperativa Zacarias Padilla in the coffee-growing village of Quibuto in the mountains of northern Nicaragua.The Zacarias Padilla cooperative, founded in 1992, has 61 members: 18 women and 43 men. It's a "primary-level" co-op; members market their coffee through the secondary-level PRODECOOP, which serves as processor and exporter for small-farmer groups.
As consumers, as people, we are pretty disconnected from most of our products. We may believe a label brings us closer to the real story, but at the end of the day, labels don’t tell stories, people do. Last week, on an Action Forum webinar with Pushpika Freitas of Marketplace: Handwork of India, I was pretty floored. I felt proud to have her as an ally in this work and was moved, not only by how she told the story of Marketplace, but by how she truly honored the stories of the women she worked with. Marketplace is a nonprofit Alternative Trade and Development Organization that grew out of a small-scale venture in 1980 to help three low-income women in Mumbai, India.
With the start of a new year often comes reflection and resolution: eat healthier, save money, cook more. It's also really cold and dark in much of the country, which can mean increased time spent indoors. In this spirit, we'd thought we'd share some film and book recommendations from our Action Forum community.
As rain drizzled down from slate grey skies, thousands of visitors took refuge inside Smith Cove at Pier 91 to attend the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle. The festival has been a staple of the city’s events scene since 2008. This year, the chocolate team at Equal Exchange participated in the festival workshops and unconference from Nov. 9-12.
The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes a wave of consumption. We’re surrounded by food, drinks, gifts, travel - things that can add up to an increased carbon footprint. So, what can we do to be more sustainable during the holidays and even to use our purchasing power for good? Here are some tips to help us be conscious consumers during this busy holiday season:
Last month, we traveled to the West Bank to visit our Palestinian suppliers of organic extra virgin olive oil. At Equal Exchange, we are more than familiar with the daunting challenges and obstacles confronting cooperatives of small farmers growing coffee, cacao, and many other products. To those, we need to add all the constraints of physical movement and access to water that are everyday realities for Palestinian farmers given the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.