Fair Trade Farmers

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​Hmm…it’s well below zero here in Chicago–sure makes me wish I was back in Nicaragua! I traveled there a couple of weeks ago to meet with some of the farmers who produce Fair Trade coffee. It was a great trip–the best part was getting to see how the Fair Trade movement (comercio justo en español) has really made a noticeable difference in the lives of the families who participate.

For example, about ten years ago, the price of coffee on the open market crashed, and Ventura Rodriguez nearly lost his farm. Not only that, but the crisis threatened to split apart his family. The oldest boys had to leave the family farm to search for work in other parts of the country.

Lutheran World Relief, one of the partners through which ELCA World Hunger funds are channeled, responded to the coffee crisis by launching a focused effort to organize farmers into the Fair Trade movement and to organize U.S. Lutherans to buy Fair Trade certified coffee. This partnership made it possible for Ventura, and hundreds of farmers like him to survive the crisis and actually build back stronger. Ventura’s family is back together farming their land, and the farm is now a model example of shade-grown, organic production.

Here’s another cool thing: the farmers of these Fair Trade cooperatives that LWR has helped organize are becoming known in the gourmet coffee industry because they are producing top-notch beans. Intelligentsia, a Chicago-based coffee roaster known for brewing nothing but the best, has been buying coffee produced by co-ops affiliated with LWR, including Las Brumas.

¡Sí, se puede!