Archive for July, 2009


Watch Equal Exchange worker-owners Dana Welch and Pfeif make a “Small Farmer Special” smoothie at the Willy Street Co-op’s annual meeting in Madison, Wisconsin. Did we mention there’s a banana suit and blender bike involved?

The event was held in July and attracted 2,300 people! Congratulations to Willy Street Co-op for contributing 35 years to the co-op movement. Together, we ARE building a co-operative economy.

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EE bananas at cafeLast night on my way home from work, I stopped off at the Harvest Co-op in Jamaica Plain to get a few things for dinner.

…. And there they were! Equal Exchange bananas!

I can’t tell you how exciting it was to see them there on the shelf (proudly placed above the Dole bananas if I can be so bold!)

Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me but Meghan Hubbs, Equal Exchange’s Cafe Developer, had just sent around this photo. It’s our newest product: organic, Fair Trade bananas from small farmer co-operatives, which the cafe has been selling for a few weeks now.

All the more exciting, last week in Ecuador, we watched them putting on the stickers, packing them in boxes and sending them to the port to be shipped here! (you’ll find more about that trip during the upcoming days…)

ecuador el guabo 2009 092

Consumers now have a choice!!!!

Chiquita? Dole? Or… Equal Exchange Fair Trade organic bananas from small farmer co-operatives!

I try to keep a balance on this blog of inspiring stories from our farmer and retail partners, consumer friends and allies, along with the serious challenges we all face as control of our economy (and food system) becomes more and more concentrated.

So it’s really exciting when I get to share a visible and concrete sign of another major success such as this one!

And to continue with fun and inspiring tales…. Willy Street Food Co-op’s Annual Meeting… I’m hoping that Dana, Pfeif, Scott or River might write a paragraph or two about their experience serving up banana, coffee, and chocolate smoothies using bicycle-powered blenders (wearing banana suits of course)… for now, I’ll let these photos speak for themselves!

DancingPfeif and Dean


Finally, here’s a video one of the Willy St co-op members made of his wife on the bike.


p.s. The dancing bananas are Pfeif and Dana from Equal Exchange. On the right, Pfeif and Dean Kallas from Willy Street. On the bike blenders are Pfeif and River, also from Equal Exchange.

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H.R. 2749 The Food Safety Enhancement Act

Take Action!

Our friends at the Organic Consumers Association have sent out this important Action Alert. 


From the Western Organization of Resource Councils:
 The House of Representatives is working on H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009.  It’s an attempt to address the worst problems in U.S. agriculture, but as it stands the bill threatens to undermine the best things in U.S. agriculture – small farmers producing for local markets.

H.R. 2749 needs to draw a clear line between small local processors and direct market growers selling locally and the industrial, multi-sourced food supply chains where food borne pathogens have appeared and created problems.


Please contact your Representative today by clicking the Take Action Button above.

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chiapas 2009

In March, a group of seven representatives of various food co-operatives across the country joined three Equal Exchange worker-owners on a trip to Chiapas, Mexico to visit one of our coffee farmer partners, CESMACH.

Many of them have written about this experience and have offered some very interesting perspectives on coffee farming, the CESMACH co-operative of small scale organic farmers, the role of consumers and food co-operatives, and Equal Exchange’s partnership s on both sides of the supply chain.

You can read the first few articles published (and see some great photos) here.chiapas2008

Today, I’d like to share with you two additional articles that have since been written about the trip; each one offers a different perspective and unique insights into a trip that brought new respect, admiration, friendships, and deeper levels of commitment to coffee farmers and visitors alike.

Stephanie Catlett, Marketing Coordinator of  New Pioneer Food Co-op in Iowa City, Iowa published this article in the Summer issue of their newsletter, Catalyst.

And, Kathy Piedl, Wellness Manager, at Hungry Hollow Co-op, in Chestnut Ridge, NY published this article in the Spring/Summer issue of the Hungry Holler.

chiapas 2009 kp

Hungry Holler Spring 2009 final

Let us know what you think!

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Congress may vote on HR 2749, The Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, as early as this week. Equal Exchange, a member of the National Organic Coalition, has been working hard with other allies to make amendments to the bill before it is voted upon in Congress this week. Although many pieces of the legislation have been improved through this process, there are still concerns.


In particular, the bill includes a $500 annual inspection fee for all farmers that do processing on their farms. This means that large corporate farms (that have a far greater impact on consumer food safety) and small family farms will be responsible for paying the same inspection fee. We are particularly worried that charging all producers a $500 fee, regardless of their impact on food safety concerns, their size, or the nature of their processing, will place an undue hardship on many of the small coffee farmers with whom we work.


Many farmers have a small depulper on their farm which is used to take the pulp off the coffee cherry after it has been picked. The coffee is then fermented, washed and dried before it is sent to a dry mill to have the final layer of chaff removed prior to export. It is unclear whether these farmers will be subject to this processing fee, but there is no doubt that many small-scale coffee farmers in Latin America, Asia, and Africa will not be able to afford this additional expense. (Many small coffee farmers make less than $1000 year and as it is they already must pay the costs of organic certification, Fair Trade certification, and any other additional certifications that their co-op uses. )


Below is a press release from the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union which discusses some of the concerns about the current version of the Food Safety Bill and further information taken from materials written by Brian Snyder, Executive Director of PASA.  We are asking for people to call their representatives today and tomorrow to urge them not to pass a Food Safety bill which will adversely impact organic agriculture and small farmers.


Thanks for your concern.



Press Release


For Immediate Release: July 23, 2009
Further Information: 
Mick McAllister (303.283.3537)


Congress About to Hand Over “Food Safety” to Agri-business

 Concerned by the sudden rush to pass the Food Safety bill (HR 2749), Rocky Mountain Farmers Union President Kent Peppler sent a message to the congressional delegation from Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming: “Now just a dang minute!” (more…)

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While many folks in the U.S. (and Congress) are still coming to terms with the fact that climate change is a very real phenomena that we will have to come to grips with sooner or later, most small farmers have long since given up the luxury of this uncertainty as the changing climate is affecting both their crops and their livelihoods. Some of you have been reading about our small rooibos farmer partners in South Africa and the project that Equal Exchange is helping them implement.


June & July 09 133

Recently, we received this photo of the soil erosion control and “greening” project undertaken at the Heiveld tea court with assistance from Equal Exchange. Run-off water that would otherwise cause erosion is captured to provide water for indigenous trees, and surplus water is channeled into a surface dam. The trees will provide a green shelter belt for the tea court. Read more about this project, our rooibos farmers, Heiveld and Wupperthal, and Equal Exchange’s partnership with them here. For more information on the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 recently passed by Congress, which includes funding for international climate change strategies, click here.

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