Dancing with the Masai in Kenya


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Community Supported Agriculture--Fair Trade's purest form

I think a lot about fair trade, what it means, and how we can do little things every day to support it. Fair Trade is tricky. While we want to support "real" fair trade companies, it's costly and difficult to get the certification and not all producers, distributors and sellers can afford it. We don't want to ignore these people just because they don't carry the label. Fair Trade is not a label, but the practice of buying products from producers at a fair price, It is not charity, but a holistic approach to commerce aimed at setting up a sustainable marketplace, so that trade can empower the poor in developing nations and anywhere really, throughout the world.

I've been on a quest lately for fair trade produce. I've found that several European countries, the UK in particular, are way ahead of us in the fair trade produce market. It's nearly impossible to find fairly traded bananas in the U.S. for instance, and grapes, limes, coconuts, and the list goes on. So much of our produce comes from South America, the Caribbean and Mexico that it's hard to know its origin and if the workers and farmers are being treated fairly. I do know that I do not want to support the huge multi-nationals like Chiquita and Dole. These, among many others are the companies who exploit workers for profit. My other concern lately has been farming. I am disgusted by the factory farming practices here in the United States, and shipping produce, meat, cheese and eggs from other countries doesn't make sense environmentally or on any level. It's just not sustainable to humans or the Earth, and we don't have any control over fair wages and working conditions in other countries. Recently I have discovered CSAs, or community supported farming as an answer to this dilemma.

For the past 20 years or so, CSAs have been growing in popularity. In case you're not yet familiar with the term, a CSA is a local farm set up to sell "shares" or "memberships" in exchange or a portion of the product.
Typically, individuals in a community pledge support to a farm, so that the farm becomes a community farm, sharing risks and benefits of food production. Direct sales of shares to community members provides the farm with working capital in advance, so growers receive better prices for their crops and are relieved of much of the burden of marketing.

A person who subscribes to a membership, or share, receives a box of vegetables, eggs, or other farm products which is delivered weekly, or in some cases, is set up so the shareholders can pick their own crops.
This benefits farmers by generating cash flow for them year round and providing a fair price without having to worry about marketing costs and wholesalers.

This benefits the consumer by giving them local, (great for locavores)  usually organic, fresh and seasonal produce. It is fun because it prompts you to try produce you may not normally buy in the supermarkets. Since you're a "shareholder" you can visit the farm and see where your food comes from. And you are NOT supporting multi-nationals and environmentally disastrous practices like shipping food around the world, thus reducing your carbon footprint. And remember, this is a way of supporting "Fair Trade" that many people don't think of!

For more information and where to find CSAs in your area,  visit my website
 Crossing Borders Fair Trade

And Bon Appetit!