In May of 2013, I visited Madison, Wisconsin to learn about cooperatives and Fair Trade in that city. It was my pleasure to meet with Matt Early, co-founder of Just Coffees. Matt is a close friend of Chris Treter, founder of Higher Grounds Coffee of Traverse City Michigan. (See entry #14 of January 11, 2011.) Both men are committed to Fair Trade as a vehicle for economic and social change, and each supports and speaks highly of the other. What is special about Just Coffees and Higher Grounds? There are many attributes, but as an introduction I will focus on the words of Matt Early: "It’s all about Transparency, Cooperatives, and Small Farmers.”
Commitment to small farmers (producers): The Fair Trade community is currently divided by recent changes by the certifier Fair Trade USA. As of December 31, 2011, Fair Trade USA resigned from membership in the Fair Trade Labeling Organization (FLO), a worldwide organization that certifies Fair Trade through the Fairtrade trademark. As part of its “Fair Trade for All Campaign,” Fair Trade USA decided to certify coffee plantations as part of its “Fair Trade for All” campaign. The organization asserts that its move will help double the impact of Fair Trade by 2015. (For discussion of potential consequences of Fair Trade USA’s decision, see http://www.fairtraderesource.org/2011/10/14/some-insights-into-what-ftusa-leaving-flo-means-for-producers-and-the-movement-part-1-with-ftusa/ )
Leaders of many mission-based Fair Trade organizations, including Just Coffee and Higher Grounds, are deeply concerned that Fair Trade USA’s new policies show that Fair Trade is being co-opted by conventional businesses that have entered Fair Trade for profit-based reasons. This is part of why Just Coffee and High Grounds are no longer using Fair Trade USA certification and turned to the new Small Producers Organization, which launched a “Small Producers Seal (SPS) in 2010. The organization is devoted to increasing the visibility of small producers in the Fair Trade marketplace. For more information about the Small Producers Association and the SPS see http://fairworldproject.org/voices-of-fair-trade/small-producers-organizations-at-the-forefront-of-fair-trade/
Cooperatives? That’s a highly significant topic that I will cover in another blog soon!
Copyright© 2013 by Paulette L. Stenzel for text and photo.