| ||A woman spends her day manually sorting coffee at the Oromia Coffee Cooperative Union, in Ethiopia.|
Farming has always been a hard way to make a living, but with the advent of corporate farming, it’s become near impossible. In the United States alone, small farmers have been getting overrun or swallowed up by giant corporate farms for years. The problem is that small, family-run farms don’t have the resources or crop size to sell directly to big buyers, so they are often forced to sell their goods to middlemen who buy from small farmers for pennies on the dollar. These middlemen then turn around, combine stock (a multitude of crops from a multitude of small farmers), jack up the prices and sell to the larger buyers. They make a hefty profit, while the small farmers are left to try to meet operating and overhead costs, usually finding themselves operating for years on end at a deficit. But this epidemic is neither limited to a particular crop or country. In fact, outside of the U.S., the conditions small farmers are forced to endure are even worse.
This dilemma is brutally apparent when we look at the small coffee farmers around the world. Operating at a year-end deficit is the least of their problems. Getting pitted against powerful, corporate mega-farms such as the large coffee plantations and estates, and the greedy, opportunistic middlemen, these farmers barely make enough to keep food on their table and a roof over their heads, not to mention medicine for when they’re sick or an education for their children.
The Origin of the Fair Trade Movement
It’s these horrendous conditions that have continued the evolution of the Fair Trade movement. But it all began in the late 40s, when churches in Europe and America formed alternate trade organizations (ATOs), for the purpose of raising money to help third world nations by making their handicrafts available to more developed countries. These ATO
| ||Costa Rican Co-op El Dos member Alba Luz picking ripe coffee cherries.|
| ||Jesus Morales, 91, is a coffee farmer in El Salvador and a founding member of APECAFE. Started in 1997, this cooperative has united 560 small coffee producers and helps them sell their coffee on the international market. It has made it possible for them to get equipment, resources, training, and marketing opportunities that they’d never access independently.|
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