I am a ‘buy local food, services, music, crafts, cards, and gifts’person. We in the Northwest are lucky to have a wonderful fair trade store, cafe and venue in Olympia, WA, owned and run by Dick Meyer, called Traditions Cafe. It has a wide range of products, is a cafe, a community gathering spot for local organizations, a music venue and part of the core of Olympia’s personality.They do a lot to educate the public on fair trade, travel to countries and visit co-ops, print and post info in the store, on placards on the tables, and on line…and they present a raft of NW and touring musicians from all over the world, including John McCutcheon, Jim Page, Teresa Tudury, Claudia Schmidt, Makadonians, Bryan Bowers, Dana Lyons to name a few. They are the most responsible community activists that I know and I learn from their example continually.
The most interesting thing to me about the Fair Trade phenomenon is that it is consumer driven. Most of the time we feel we don’t have a choice as consumers, that we get what we are offered and we can’t influence commerce. We whine that we wish there were some sort of ID so that we could be sure our clothes weren’t made in a sweatshop (we used to have that: it’s called a union label). But for the most part we feel powerless. The notion of Fair Trade tells the producer that, as opposed to what the middle man told you, North American consumers, given the choice, will pay a little more to make sure the growers/workers got a good deal. And consumers backed it up. Simple. The notion that people in one country care more about workers in another country than they do about doing everything as cheaply as possible is a positive message for us all..
I have not visited any fair trade plantations, but i can tell you that all the coffee in our larder is fair trade coffee and we’ve been buying it since it became available. Thanks for being there in the trenches, pal!.