Monday, September 28, 2009

So what is Fair Trade?

Simply put, fair trade is a minimum price. It is also a movement.

If a product is fair trade certified it means that the farmer has received at least the minimum "fair' price per pound of coffee sold. The current fair trade price is $1.26 per pound, and $1.41 per pound of organic coffee. The conventional/free market price is much lower, usually less than 50% of the fair trade price, and is also more volatile.

A fair trade certified product also means there is a long-term relationship between buyer and seller. This relationship allows for the farmer to have a consistent income source and the buyer to have a consistent product. This also allows for the buyer to have more control over the growing and selection process, such as organic, shade grown, and bird friendly methods. The producer learns how to grow a higher quality, more environmentally friendly product which they can demand more money for. The result of this mutually beneficial relationship is a superior coffee.

Finally, fair trade certification often means that the coffee growers form cooperatives, to increase their collective bargaining power, and mitigate their risks in production each year. Buyers often commit to paying a portion of final profits to the farmer so that they can invest in their business or community development projects.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dean Cycon, Original Javatrekker

Thankfully, some of us can, in fact, be rockstars. One of whom I hold in particular esteem is Dean Cycon. Dean is a trailblazer in the fair trade movement. He is the founder of Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee and author of Javatrekker: Dispatches From the world of Fair Trade Coffee. Dean coined the phrase Javatrekking, which I adapted (with eternal gratitude and inspiration) as the title of my blog.

We do not all have the funds or flexibility (yet!) to travel to the source of the world’s best coffee beans, but thanks to Javatrekker, we can now envision the places our favorite coffees originate from and relate to the farmers who make their livelihood raising this delicious plant.

Javatrekker is an exciting read that takes us on a worldwide tour though the coffee supply chain. Dean reveals some of the difficulties and downfalls of a global marketplace, but also shares the triumphs that can be achieved when a fair trade arrangement can be agreed upon and upheld. Farmers in cooperatives that earn at least the minimum fair price per pound are able to change their lives and futures for the better. Farmers in fair trade cooperatives can minimize the risks associated with producing a volatile product, climb out of the cycles on debt that often plague poor individuals in the developing world, reinvest in their communities and business, and, most importantly, provide for their families.

Javatrekker tells the story of the people behind each cup of routine coffee we drink. It is eye-opening and will certainly prompt you to think, perhaps for the first time, about just how much goes into your 12oz. cup.

Thanks Dean!

Come JavaWalk with me

Parched—how I feel as I plop down at my desk at 9:04 am, still sweating from the extra layer I thought I would need, but then could not slip out of on the crowded 6 train. I gulp down the last sip of my lukewarm coffee and exhale slowly. What will today bring? Extraordinary bliss? Unnecessary stress? I stare into the dregs and search for a sign in the black trail of espresso that lines the bottom of my empty cup.

What’s the point of all this anyways? I learned quickly that the trills of having a “real” job amount to email responses I receive from faceless colleagues. What happened to the real people? What happened to the idealistic dreams I clung to in college? I may be acting (a little) melodramatic, but I can’t keep from thinking that my value in life is now measured by what I can accomplish behind this glowing box with 64 keys between the hours of nine and five each day.

We can’t all be rock climbers and rockstars, but I won’t settle for this drought any longer. There is far too much I yearn to learn, see, do, and understand. This world is vast, yet with each day that passes, I feel that our lives grow increasingly connected and dependant on one another. Every choice we make, from squeezing into a departing subway car, to buying a morning beverage, plays into something bigger. The global economy is a force for change more powerful than any other. My desire to be an engaged participant in this global relationship is what fuels my new blog: JavaWalking. In this blog I will document the responsible and informed choices that even we sheltered urbanites can make everyday to connect with communities far away.

So, after a nice cold glass of water, I rub the sleep from my eyes and embark on an adventure. I will tell the stories of a city girl attempting to understand trade, and make it more fair in the process. Latte by latte, we can make little sips for big change. Drink up!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Coming Soon

This blog is a work in progress and an idea in motion. Stay tuned!