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What we mean | Fair Trade

what we mean when we say…

“Fair Trade” is perhaps a term you are more familiar with but still uncertain exactly what it means.  Unlike our definitions of Direct Trade or Relational Trade, Fair Trade is a certification with set standards determined by a few different governing bodies like, Fair Trade USA, Fairtrade International, or Fair Trade Federation.  Fair Trade covers a multitude of products not just coffee.

fair trade

The Fair Trade Federation’s simple definition of Fair Trade is this

Fair trade is an approach to business and to development based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks to create greater equity in the international trading system.

Fair trade supports farmers and craftspeople in developing countries who are socially and economically marginalized. These producers lack economic opportunity and often face steep hurdles in finding markets and customers for their goods.

Fair trade is much more than just trade. At the core of the fair trade model is a direct, cooperative, and in-depth relationship between buyers and sellers that keeps all of the principles of fair trade at the forefront.

There is A LOT more to be said on the subject and I recommend you dive in to learning more about the good work of organizations like the Fair Trade Federation.

Here is how Fair Trade fits into our 4 point filter

Price | Fair Trade governing bodies set the price and we pay no less than current fair trade minimum for all our Fair Trade coffee.

People | Fair Trade works with cooperatives of small family farms.  The cultivation and harvesting is done by the grower and his or her family.

Quality | Although Fair Trade works with growers to improve their crop, quality is not a requirement for a farm to be a part of a fair trade cooperative.  For Porch Culture that means we request samples of green coffee before making a larger purchase to ensure the taste meets with our standards.

Land | Fair Trade coffee by its requirements is sustainably grown in the shade.  Some Fair Trade coffee is certified organic and some is not.  At Porch Culture we choose to only buy Fair Trade Organic (FTO).

There are differing opinions on the benefits and adverse effects of Fair Trade certification.  Our opinion at Porch Culture is that Fair Trade is a good thing with positive outcomes for small farmers and artisans in developing countries.  It is also our opinion that, like all good intentioned efforts, it has its limitations and shortcomings which is why we are notexclusively a Fair Trade roaster.

Coffee cherries ready for picking

In terms of coffee, Fair Trade certification was created for the benefit of small scale farmers working on just a few acres of land or less.  This eliminates larger estate farms like Spirit Mountain, located on 350 acres, from applying for certification despite following (and often exceeding) all fair trade standards for labor and sustainability.  Fair Trade certification establishes a minimum selling prices to protect farmers from “the race to the bottom” that the world coffee market creates.  In the simplest explanation, “the race to the bottom” forces farmers to sell their coffee at a price far below the value of their crop in order to earn something.  The short coming of the Fair Trade established minimum is that it is a global one.  Since cost of living varies greatly between coffee growing regions the minimum Fair Trade price that helps a farmer in Africa thrive is often insufficient for the needs of a farmer in the Dominican Republic.  This is where Direct and Relational trade come into play in a valuable way working directly with farmers to establish the true price of coffee coming off their farm.

Bottom line for Porch Culture, we want farmers and communities to thrive.  Sometimes that will mean choosing Fair Trade certified coffees.  As much as possible it will mean working directly with farms.  It will always mean choosing coffee that tells a better story from farm to porch.

Currently our Papua New Guinea Swiss Water Decaf is Fair Trade Organic.

Next up on the blog…Thankfulness