Archive for September, 2009

Our 20-year vision contemplates a mutually cooperative community and this week overlapping events in West Bridgewater and Nairobi demonstrate what that can mean.  Cuppers from two of our African partners are here to participate in our 5th annual Co-operation in Quality seminar; simultaneously two staff people from the same co-operatives are in Nairobi with Twin Trading participating in a QMS (Quality Management Systems) seminar.   It’s cool to think of two different coffee co-operatives, two different Alternative Trade Organizations, in two different countries pursuing our shared vision.  This is a great example of the network approach we use in sourcing great coffee from great sources.”   Todd Caspersen, Director of Purchasing, Equal Exchange

Lydia Nabulumbi and Jodi Anderson, Equal Exchange Natural Foods sales representative, during a cupping in the Equal Exchange Quality Control LabLydia Nabulumbi, cupper at Gumutindo co-op in Uganda and Jodi Anderson, Equal Exchange Natural Foods sales representative, cupping coffee at Equal Exchange’s Quality Control Lab in West Bridgewater, Mass. 


It’s also a great way to build community. Yesterday, a team of Equal Exchange staff accompanied our two guests to the Equal Exchange Café in Boston and to several other neighborhood cafés, natural food stores, and food co-operatives that have long partnered with us to provide alternatives to the corporate-controlled, profit-driven, and impersonal food system that is increasingly dictating what and how we eat.



Above, Lydia Nabulumbi, a cupper from Gumutindo co-op in Uganda, Amen Mtui, a cupper from KNCU co-op in Tanzania, Brian O’Connell, Equal Exchange Food Service Sales Representative, and Equal Exchange cafe customer Guadelupe Gamboa sharing ideas at the Equal Exchange Cafe in Boston, Mass.

Amen Mtui, a cupper from KNCU in Tanzania, and Beth Ann Caspersen, Equal Exchange Quality Control Manager, at the Equal Exchange Cafe in Boston, Mass. 

Amen Mtui, a cupper from KNCU in Tanzania, and Beth Ann Caspersen, Equal Exchange Quality Control Manager, at the Equal Exchange Cafe.


Lydia and Amen meet staff at City Feed and Supply in Jamaica Plain, Mass.

Lydia and Amen meet staff at City Feed and Supply in Jamaica Plain, Mass.
At the Harvest Food Co-op in Jamaica Plain, MA

At the Harvest Food Co-op in Jamaica Plain, MA








Our vision is both ambitious in impact and human in scale.  We look at food economies, local communities (whether here or abroad), quality of product, quality of relationship, transparency and ethical business practicies, human dignity and right livelihoods.  We think that the two weeks Lydia and Amen have spent with us at Equal Exchange and yesterday’s visits out in the larger community – sharing knowledge, experiences – and quite simply, just having fun brought us another step closer on our path.


Photos taken by Ashley Symons, Marketing Writer, Equal Exchange

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Where would you put your trust?


Clearly, it depends on where you’re situated in the food system. If you’re Dupont or Monsanto, you might view the threat of climate change as an opportunity and rush in to sell more geneticially engineered crops to farmers. This probably would also be the perfect moment to lobby the government to accept less stringent biotechnology regulations covering those very same genetically modified crops.


What other opportune moment would cause long-term rivals, Dupont and Monsanto, to put aside their competition over the sale of seeds and look for a bigger payback? That’s right, these two agri-business giants have joined together with Archer Midland Daniels and Deere, no small players themselves, to launch a new warm and fuzzy initiative to help feed the world: the Global Harvest Inititiative.


Read what our friends at the National Family Farm Coalition have to say about this new coalition and its efforts to provide for the world’s poor. (more…)

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Quick news flash from the Mexico-US Solidarity Network

News and Analysis 
September 14-20, 2009

Border wall a waste of money
A report issued on Thursday by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) found over 3,000 breaches of a still-unfinished 600-mile border wall which cost more than US$2.4 billion since 2005.  The federal government will have to spend US$6.5 billion over the next 20 years simply to maintain the wall, according to the report.  Despite the high price tag, officials have found no way to determine if the wall is helping to deter undocumented immigration, according to the GAO report.  Academics report that less than half of undocumented immigrants are apprehended on any given trip to the border, and of those, the success rate for a second or third try is around 95%.  “There is no reason to believe that additional investment in the fence project – both physical fencing and the new ‘virtual fence’ – will create effective deterrent,” said Wayne Cornelius, one of the nation’s leading immigration researchers.

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One of the unique things about Equal Exchange is that the foundation of our work is based on relationships. It’s both how we do our work and why we do our work. The means and the ends, you could say.

Whitney Knight of Brattleboro Food Coop & Abel Fernandez of CONACADO

Whitney Knight of Brattleboro Food Coop & Abel Fernandez of CONACADO

Relationships with our farmer partners, for sure. But we also carry out our work in the U.S. through our relationships with a network of food co-ops, congregations, cafes, universities, investors, teachers, community activists, and so-on and so-on. Because we are a mission-based company – a hybrid really of non-profit, profit, and worker-owned co-operative – our partners, allies and other supporters also carry out much of the educational and promotional work we need to do if we are ever to see meaningful change. Our mission is both broad and deep and we couldn’t achieve our goals without this network of engaged, active and enthusiastic supporters.

Last evening, as I was flying back to Boston after Labor Day weekend, I began going through some emails and came across one from Pfeif, an Equal Exchange sales representatives who works with natural food stores in the mid-west. Pfeif was forwarding an article written by Tanja Hoagland, Editor of the Ozark Star, the Ozark Natural Food Cooperative’s monthly newsletter (page 7). The article, about the chocolate industry, the issue of child slavery that still exists on many cacao plantations and the difference that Fair Trade chocolate can make, really inspired me. It was not just that it was interesting, well-researched and well-written, but it made me appreciate yet again, how much of a movement we have created together with our partners… all of them.

I thought others following these issues might want to read Tanja’s article. My apologies, since it was published in May!

But that’s what happens when movements are created. We get our inspiration from our partners – the farmers we work with and the networks of allies in the U.S. who help us carry out the work. The movement grows and we don’t even know the half of what’s being done to inform, educate and grow awareness of these important issues. Hopefully, as all of our mutual efforts continue, we also deepen our learning, ask better questions, have greater impact, and continue to move our work forward.


Thanks Tanja for writing such a great article and spreading the word! And thanks to Pfeif, EE Sales Representative for the work she’s doing out there in the food co-op world.


Here’s to a greener and more just food system, democratic workplaces, and stronger connections between producers and activists!


You can learn more about Fair Trade chocolate on this blog and on our website. To read the Annual Report article, Modern Slavery and Cocoa Farms, that Tanja mentions, click here.  For more information about child slavery and the chocolate industry, go to the International Labor Organization’s website.  Learn about our reverse trick-or-treating campaign here.

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