“Leading a business with your ideals? You must be crazy.”
That’s what Angela Vendetti and her business partner, Jill Fink, heard when they started dreaming about opening Mugshots Café in Philadelphia. “When we were writing our business plan and trying to get Mugshots open, people told us we were crazy for putting our ideals before business sense,” Vendetti explained to John Steele in the Philadelphia Weekly‘s recent article on Mugshots.
Angela has heard this before. She heard it firsthand when we took her and six other Equal Exchange enthusiasts on a trip to Nicaragua to visit our coffee co-operative partner CECOCAFEN in 2005. Pedro Haslam, the former General Manager who has since been elected to the Nicaraguan Senate (but remains President of the Board of CECOCAFEN) let her know she was not alone. “We are a business with a social mission,” he told us in a meeting in Matagalpa. “Unlike traditional businesses we are not motivated by profit for profit sake, but our goal is to provide the highest quality coffee and the highest quality of relationships with our importer partners so as to provide the highest quality of life for our co-op members. People told us we were crazy when we started, but we’re very proud of our accomplishments.” (more…)
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Despite my first blog entry, Why “local” and “Equal Exchange Fair Trade” are two sides of the same coin, I must admit that I’m becoming a little confused by some of the Buy Local messaging I’ve been observing lately. I wholeheartedly support the goals of the movement as I understand them to be: reducing our carbon footprint, supporting local farmers, building healthy communities, reducing corporate control of our food system, etc. At the same time, I’m getting more nervous each time I see a simple formulaic solution being offered to resolve complex issues, such as food mile calculators, carbon-neutral labels, 100-mile diets, etc. I worry that if we’re not careful, the Buy Local movement will risk crossing the line that the Fair Trade movement stepped over, when the certifiers began eroding the vitality, richness (and yes, contradictions) woven into Fair Trade by reducing the whole set of values, principles and historical realities into the slogan: “look for the seal.” (more…)
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The following is a press release from the National Family Farm Coalition about a trade bill recently introduced to Congress which we can finally put our support behind!
FAMILY FARMERS PRAISE INTRODUCTION OF TRADE BILL THAT HELPS ADDRESS GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: U.S. and United Nations Continue to Promote Catastrophic Free Trade Agenda
Washington D.C., June 4, 2008
The National Family Farm Coalition today praised the introduction of the TRADE Act in the House and Senate which offers urgent and necessary reforms to our deeply flawed trade agreements. Much of the world is grappling with a growing global food crisis. Much of the crisis has been precipitated by free trade policies that have made developing countries reliant on imported food at the expense of domestic local production. Farmers from Haiti to Indonesia to Mexico have been driven off their land due to trade agreements that dismantled tariff protections and domestic state support for local farmers. This allowed U.S. agribusinesses to dump cheap commodities into overseas markets, forcing countries to be at the mercy of global markets for their food security instead of relying on local family farmers. With commodity prices now skyrocketing, governments are no longer able to provide food for their citizens.
The TRADE Act offers positive steps to help countries practice food sovereignty instead of “free trade.” Ben Burkett, President of the National Family Farm Coalition and a Mississippi farmer said, “We applaud the introduction of the TRADE act. The legislation is clear that fair trade begins with farmers being able to earn fair prices reflecting cost of production, fair treatment of farm labor, and limitations against unfair dumping practices. It allows for countries who are part of a trade agreement to establish strategic food and energy reserves, an important policy that must be reinstated to address the global food crisis.” (more…)
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On World Fair Trade Day, we posted a few links to an article and a blog post written by Karisa Centenni (see: World Fair Trade Day) about the Equal Exchange Food Co-op trip to Chiapas, Mexico this past January. Since that time, we have received copies of two other articles written by participants of that trip, Colin Meginnis, Grocery Buyer for the Wheatsfield Co-operative in Ames, Iowa and Ian Ryan, Bulk Buyer of the East End Food Co-op in Pittsburgh. Each one provides an interesting and personal account of their days visiting the Cesmach Co-operative, a coffee co-op whose members live and farm sustainably in the buffer zone of a U.N. designated Biosphere, El Triunfo. To read about the history of CESMACH, as told by the farmers who founded the co-operative, see the blog entry: A David and Goliath story of small farmer perseverance, co-operative spirit and pride, and willingness to take risks.
In their articles, Colin and Ian also provide their impressions of Fair Trade, free trade, and the environmental initiatives of our farmer partners as they try to grow their co-operative, provide a dignified life for their families, and protect the delicate eco-system of the Biosphere. You can read their accounts and other related stories, at:
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Farmers protest record profits of corporations while millions across the world are going hungry.
Alexandra Strickner, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)
Rome, Italy, 3 June 2008
Watch the 3 minute video on http://wsftv.net
Farmer and civil society leaders carrying out a peaceful action today in Rome, Italy at the FAO Summit on the Food Crisis were forcefully removed from the premises. At around 1:30pm farmers and representatives of civil society organizations staged an action at the press room to deliver a message that millions of additional people are joining the ranks of the hungry as the corporations that control the global food system are making record profits.
The issues of corporate control and speculation, which are leading causes of recent spikes in food prices, are not being discussed by the government delegations and the international agencies meeting in Rome to debate solutions to the crisis.
“We are outraged that such fundamental aspects of the food crisis were nowhere on the agenda for the Summit,” says Paul Nicholson, member of the International Coordinating Committee of Via Campesina and one of the farmer leaders who was expelled from the Summit. (more…)
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