Last month, I visited our newest small farmer co-op partner, Aprainores, a Fair Trade cashew nut co-op located near San Nicholas Lempa, San Vicente, El Salvador. For each of the next five days I’m going to tell you something about this stunningly beautiful place, the resilient and hard-working cashew farmers who live there, the nuts and how they’re processed, and of course, the story of a co-op who has struggled through and survived many challenges.
The trip was particularly meaningful for me, as I used to live in El Salvador in the mid 90’s, and spent much of my five years there working in the very area where the Aprainores farmers have their land, referred to as the Bajo Lempa (Lower Lempa). So, I’m going to sprinkle this story with some of my own experiences and history of the area, and hope it all pulls together to help you understand what is so special about this group and this product.
Although most of the communities where I worked were on the other side of the river, I had actually come out several times to meet with the leadership and discuss the possibility of my organization’s offering them some workshops on co-operative development. The trainings didn’t happen (for political reasons), and it wasn’t until last month, that I learned what had happened to the group.
Now that I have visited them again (some fifteen years later), heard their story, and tasted these incredibly delicious cashews, I can’t wait to share what I know with all of you. At Equal Exchange, we couldn’t be more excited to begin to open up a market for Authentic Fair Trade (small farmer) nuts and dried fruit. In fact, it’s kind of stunning to me how little we, as consumers, know about the nuts and dried fruits that we purchase. Even for those of us who shop at natural foods stores and food co-ops; even at the bulk bin units; there is rarely a scrap of information about where these products come from, who grows them, how they’re grown, processed, distributed, and of course, who is making the profits from our purchases.
We think that it is now “time for nuts!” Next week our first shipment (from Aprainores) should be arriving at our Portland, Oregon warehouse and will be distributed in food co-ops across the country. Next year, we plan to double our purchases from Aprainores, and begin buying from another very exciting small farmer co-op in Kerala, India. Soon we will be adding dried fruits, and trail mixes, all Authentic Fair Trade small farmer products, into the offering. Stay tuned here for information; and please, join us in our new campaign to spotlight those who deserve the credit; and more importantly, a fair price; for these tasty, sustainably produced cashew nuts!
Read Part II here.
Photos are courtesy of Equal Exchange. Photographer: Julia Hechtman. Please double-click them for better viewing!