Fair Trade Goes 'Local' With Hemp, Beef, and Lentils


Photo courtesy Farmer Direct by Luke Zigovits.

The idea of Fair Trade coffee, tea, and bananas is a fairly easy sell to the eco-initiated. Who, after all, doesn't want Costa Rican coffee growers, for example, to stay in business and make a decent living for their labors?

But if you have ever wondered why there wasn't Fair Trade for struggling farmers right in your backyard, wonder no more.
Photo of green lentils courtesy Farmer Direct by Luke Zigovits.

A group of Canadian farmers was convinced organic had been co-opted by large corporate-style interests, and that cheap organic grain imports were undercutting their homegrown organic production. They teamed up with the the Organic Valley Co-op, Equal Exchange, and the Agricultural Justice Project and domestic Fair Trade was born.

Of course, if you are a local farmer's market shopper, you already in a sense support domestic Fair Trade, though not it would not be labeled so and you can't assure your farmers use fair labor practices. Yet tt markets, farmers have some leeway to decide what cost the market will bear and what is a fair price for their goods.

But on a more international scale, the entry of large conglomerates into the organic and Fair Trade food space (Nestlé and Cadbury making Fair Trade chocolates is one recent example) has made dedicated organic producers only more nervous. Fair Trade and ethical spending are doing well in the marketplace, with sales rising 18% last year in the UK though the economy is sluggish.

Farmer Direct, a group of 70 farmers based in Saskatchewan, Canada, was the first to receive a domestic Fair Trade certification from the Domestic Fair Trade Association.

Now, you may not consider Canadian farmers "domestic," but the founders of the Domestic Fair Trade Association feels North American family farmers are all facing some of the same challenges.

While Farmer Direct had been wary of giving its certified goods a label because of consumer information overload, in the end the fairDeal label was developed. What makes fairDeal different from basic organic certification is that third-party certification is combined with peer review by other members - a way to help the organication "root out the dishonest players instead of waiting for the certification bodies or government to act, which can take years," says Jason Freeman of Farmer Direct in a recent article.

Farmer Direct members all have a pay equity policy at their farms, which currently produce flax, wheat, barley, oats, beans, peas, and lentils, and mustard, flax, and hemp seeds.

fairDeal products can carry the fairDeal label, but the most likely place to seek them out is in the organic bins of your local food co-op.

More on Fair Trade at TreeHugger:
Cadbury's Dairy Milk Chocolate Bar Goes Fairtrade
Starbuck's Farmers Discuss the Impact of Fairtrade
Man Eats Only Fairtrade For a Fortnight

Tags: Canada | Organic Agriculture

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