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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fair Trade

This morning I had opportunity to review the notes from the Canadian Peace and Justice Committee in preparation for their next teleconference. This committee is working on some serious issues such as human trafficking in Canada, etc. and needs to draw some of their earlier work to conclusion. This blog is in support of their efforts, so the following comments should in no way be read as criticism. It is not the committee that is the problem; it is us!

The notes provided for the coming meeting include a discussion on Fair Trade coffee as well as other fair trade products such as sugar, bananas, chocolate, tea, etc. As I read the notes, I began to get a sense that someone thought the campaign to raise awareness about this issue was now at or near completion. NO! From my point of view, we are nowhere near done; in fact we have really hardly started. Consider the following questions.

We have between 45 and 50 congregations in CEM, depending on how you count. Are any of them using Fair Trade coffee in their gatherings? If so, I would very much like to hear about it.

We have six CEM reunions. Do any of them serve Fair Trade coffee or do we just go with whatever is cheapest? I am not aware of any reunion or camp paying the extra so the coffee grower’s can feed, clothe, and educate their families.

The only time I am aware of that Fair Trade was upheld in any of our gatherings during the past year was at the 2009 CEM conference. Here we served very fresh and delicious Fair Trade coffee, and ran a video beside it talking about the women who grow and harvest the beans in Latin America. Is the job done? No!

Fair Trade coffee is readily available almost everywhere these days, even at the grocery store. Even President’s Choice sells coffee bearing the “certified Fair Trade” logo. I buy mine from a small but growing cooperative in Guelph called Planet Bean. They roast the beans themselves, so the coffee is always very fresh. They also offer Fair Trade cocoa, tea and perhaps other products. Other cities have similar stores and roasteries. Yes, the coffee is more expensive than buying the national brands (I pay $15.99 per pound) , but at least you know you are making a difference in the life of the families who grew the beans!

If you are a coffee drinker, what about you? Do you buy Fair Trade? Are you willing to pay the extra for the cause of peace and justice? Do you call upon your congregation to buy and serve it?

It is possible that I am totally wrong on this issue and we are doing better than I think. If so, I would love to hear from you. Tell me!

Posted by Carman


  1. Our congregation only serves fair trade and we can purchase fair trade coffee, chocolate and nuts right at church.

  2. Lowbanks congregation serves fair trade coffee in ceramic cups (vs. styrofoam). We're enjoying delicious coffee, helping sustain Latin American farmers and reducing landfill garbage.

  3. Great, that is two, thank you! Any more congregations or families want to speak up? I suspect there are more.

  4. Early this very morning, I was coming back from the gym and was considering stopping by Tim Horton's for a coffee because we were out at my apartment. Also, enjoying a cup out of my home was one way this church planter might be a little bit more visible.

    Driving by a place called Marty's Cafe, I saw a sign outside which read fair trade coffee (featuring pumpkin spice beans! yummy!)
    I pulled right in, even though it was 10 to 8 am, the friendly staff was ready and they already had a busy morning. I met Marty himself and he told business had been good for the year he was open.
    As I sat with a new group of elderly men, I saw an impressive amount of Barrie residents come to this cafe for their morning coffee to go.
    Here's my new morning hangout spot...
    Marty's Coffee Bistro
    221 Cundles E., Barrie
    I guess I'm in good company, because Barrie is one of 600 cities worldwide known as a fair trade town. (for more info.

  5. Hooray Matthew! I forgot that Barrie is a Fair Trade City. Good Job! I will look forward to meeting you at Marty's sometime!

  6. Using Fair Trade products is an easy way to make a tremendous difference in the lives of many people throughout our world. There are a number of products besides coffee, and those I have used are great. They do cost a little more, but it is worth it, as it does make a significant difference in people's lives. While in Ottawa, we made the switch to Fair Trade coffee in our congregation, and people were supportive - many did this in their homes also. It is available in most food stores - not with coffee, but in another location - you may have to ask - I appreciate Carman's thoughts, and do hope CEM congregations will make this simple change - both in their congregation and in their homes.

  7. Good post, Carmen, & good responses.

    The church's Canadian Peace & Justice Committee will actively help any congregation that wishes to go with Fair Trade. Since we are all active in local congregational life, we know how a good idea sometimes never gets any further simply due to a lack of time and resources. That's where we can assist.

    And the impact of the simple act {oversimplified} of reaching for a different bag of coffee carries enormous benefit. Years ago, the US Senate held hearings on Fair Trade coffee. They found that the coffee farmer was vulnerable to wild price fluctuations, leading to a downward spiral of debt. Their only avenues, then, became to grow drug crops, or abandon the farm and move to the city, where they often ended in gangs, crie, children as prostitutes, etc.

    However for the Fair Trade farmer, the contrast couldn't be clearer - they kept their land, never got into debt, had money to keep their children in school, and together were able to build medical clinics, schools, & community centers.

    Whether a congregation or just for personal use, this is an avenue of response that has an amazing impact!

    Rod, Chair of Canadian P&J Committee

  8. Thank you Rod, that is excellent information, and good incentive for us to be pro-active on this issue.

  9. I double-checked our supplies before a busy weekend in Ottawa - yeah, Art Smith is in town for Saturday Scripture study and Diversity workshops, a new twice monthly pre-Sunday school social time is starting and we are doing a fabulous Souper Sunday Thanksgiving lunch (soups and chili options) - and yes, there was still plenty of Free Trade Coffee in the freezer. We have a 10,000 Villages shop just up the street and I noticed Loblaws now has bigger selection of Free Trade coffees as well - I have to get on board personally now - and will do!

  10. I'm late posting because I've been off meditating (sometimes silently). The silent meditation retreat uses fair trade coffee. As well as organic food, local as much as possible. Much of it is lovingly grown and home canned by Tracy Morris. She cannot attend the retreat because someone must stay home to take care of the children and go to work. Yet she lovingly shares with us from the bounty of their work. I feel truly blessed.

    I think about this "fair trade" concept in other areas as well. For almost everything I purchase, I have the choice between purchasing it from a store which offers lower prices - but which does so because it insists on lower wages all along the supply chain. Or I can willingly shop at another store, pay a higher price, but know that more fair wages have been paid all along the chain. I hope that some day I can make all my purchases ethical ones.


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