Co-op

Equal Exchange Avocados, a Better Choice

Guacamole is always a crowd pleaser, and on a particular Sunday in February it is a gameday staple. While rooting for your favorite team, gathering with your friends or just watching the spectacle take a moment to consider the impacts of your dip and learn more about Equal Exchange and their Organic and Fair Trade Avocados.  Equal Exchange is a cooperative that is revolutionizing the fair trade of organic, non-GMO  avocados, coffee, chocolate, cocoa, tea, and bananas from small farmers. You can find their co-op-produced, Certified Organic, Fairtrade Certified avocados in our produce department! Read on to learn more about the ways that this cooperative is creating powerful change in industries dominated by profound social, environmental, and economic exploitation:

History:

Equal Exchange was started over 30 years ago to create an alternative trade paradigm where small farmers could have a seat at the trading table. The existing predominant trade model favors large plantations, agri-business, and multi-national corporations. Equal Exchange seeks to challenge that model in favor of one that supports & respects small farmers, builds communities, supports the environment, and connects consumers and producers through information, education, and the exchange of products in the marketplace.

Today, Equal Exchange is a thriving model of Fair Trade that has exceeded its founders’ original vision. With over 30 years of experience — a history replete with successes, failures, innovative partnerships, exciting new products, and inspiring stories — they are nevertheless humbled by just how far they still need to go. Over the next few decades, Equal Exchange seeks to engage and collaborate with like-minded partners and stakeholders throughout the Fair Trade system in an effort to continue to transform how business is done. Their vision includes breaking new ground by bringing Fair Trade home—by fostering direct relationships with family farmers here in the United States. Their collective achievements of the past 30 years prove that they can create change beyond their wildest dreams. To read more about their history, click here.

 

 

Mission:

Equal Exchange’s mission is to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers, and to demonstrate, through their success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic, and sustainable world.

Authentic Fair Trade:

Authentic fair trade is central to their mission at Equal Exchange. The fair trade model gives small-scale farmers collective power and financial stability while improving farming communities and protecting the environment. To do so, it utilizes a particular set of business practices voluntarily adopted by the producers and buyers of agricultural commodities and hand-made crafts that are designed to advance many economic, social and environmental goals, including:
• Raising and stabilizing the incomes of small-scale farmers, farmworkers, and artisans
• More equitably distributing the economic gains, opportunities, and risks associated with the production and sale of these goods
• Increasing the organizational and commercial capacities of producer groups
• Supporting democratically owned and controlled producer organizations
• Promoting labor rights and the right of workers to organize
• Promoting safe and sustainable farming methods and working conditions
• Connecting consumers and producers
• Increasing consumer awareness and engagement with issues affecting producers

 

What Impact is Fair Trade Having on Farmers & Their Communities?

 

Avocados:

In 2013, Equal Exchange partnered with pioneering farmer cooperatives in Mexico to establish a supply chain for Fairtrade, organic avocados. Their farmer partners are located in Michoacán, Mexico, considered the ‘avocado capital of the world’. Working together, they circumvent a largely consolidated and volatile industry to provide U.S. avo-lovers with the popular fruit.

Equal Exchange visiting the farmers from the PROFOSMI avocado cooperative

These two small-farmer cooperatives, PRAGOR and PROFOSMI, export directly to Equal Exchange. PRAGOR is composed of 20 producer members who each own an average of 10 acres of land, all 100% organic. Many of the members transitioned to organic 10 or more years ago, a revolutionary move at the time. On several of these farms reside the oldest Hass Avocado trees in the region, now 60 years old, still producing avocados. Despite the excitement each producer has for the future, a major challenge is finding trading partners who believe in their mission and will engage in the respectful and fair business relationship their members deserve. As you can imagine, there are not many organizations like Equal Exchange. PRAGOR’s strength and perseverance is a lesson for anyone committed to working for change in the world.

Farmer cooperatives increasingly recognize that production through industrialized agriculture methods has placed pressure on the natural environment, and have elected to weave environmental sustainability into their missions, vision, and goals. One such initiative is Las Mujeres Polinizadoras de Tingambato, a women’s apiculturist cooperative that was established by Equal Exchange’s partner cooperative, PROFOSMI. The initiative seeks to offer entrepreneurial skills to economically disadvantaged women through beekeeping. PROFOSMI used fair trade premium dollars to offset the cost of materials and technical training, and the women soon had the tools they needed to become an autonomous and independent cooperative. 

Equal Exchange’s Ravdeep Jaidka and Meghan Bodo with farmer-partner Alfredo stand beside rows of hives from the women’s beekeeping cooperative

 

In an effort to maintain a year-round supply of organic, fairtrade avocados, Equal Exchange began a partnership in 2018 with LaGrama, a Peruvian company providing essential services to small-scale farmers in Peru. A major advantage for Peruvian avocados lies in their seasonality for exports, which roughly extends from May to August. This serves as a good complement to the Mexican export season, which lasts from August to May. After extensive research with industry partners and a sourcing trip to Peru,  Equal Exchange was thrilled to find partners like LaGrama that align with their mission and vision for change in the avocado industry. 

 

Bananas:

According to the USDA, the average American eats 27 pounds of bananas per year. That’s a whole lot of bananas – and a big opportunity for impact. The banana industry is infamous for unfair labor practices, dangerous working conditions, and perpetuation of global inequalities. Equal Exchange envisioned a total departure from this system when it first ventured into fresh produce in 2006 with bananas. Equal Exchange works directly with three small farmer cooperatives in Peru and Ecuador: AsoGuabo, CEPIBO, and APOQ. Through these democratically organized co-ops, farmers leverage collective resources and obtain access to global markets – maintaining agency over their business, land, and livelihoods. 

Community members of Asoguabo Co-op and Equal Exchange Worker Owners in Ecuador

Together, Equal Exchange and their banana partners are creating a trade model that respects farmers, builds communities, and supports the environment. Buying Equal Exchange bananas from your local food co-op not only keeps money cycling through our community but also ensures that communities of farmers in Ecuador and Peru are receiving a fair price for their products, which then keeps money flowing through their communities, as well. In a way, eating fair trade bananas gives you a two-for-one, as you are able to support both your community and the cooperative community of farmers that grew the fruit. It may not have been grown physically close to our Co-op, but it creates an interconnected network of solidarity between communities. You are choosing to connect yourself to these courageous banana farmers who are making history for themselves, and quite possibly, for the entire banana industry. Click here to read more about the progressive small-farmer banana cooperatives that partner with Equal Exchange.

 

Coffee:

This is where it all began! Way back In 1986, the founders of Equal Exchange started their journey with a Nicaraguan coffee — which they called Café Nica — and they haven’t looked back. The impact over the years has been incredible and your purchases of fairly traded coffee have helped build pride, independence, and community empowerment for hundreds of small farmers and their families. One of their latest projects, the Women in Coffee series, highlights women leaders across the Equal Exchange coffee supply chain and represents an opportunity to spark community discussions around Fair Trade, gender empowerment, and relationships across food supply chains. You can find the featured Women In Coffee Series coffee, Congo Rising, in our bulk department.

Another fantastic project brewing at Equal Exchange is their Congo Coffee Project. Equal Exchange founded the Congo Coffee Project with the Panzi Foundation as a means to bring Congolese coffee to market in the United States and raise awareness about the alarming rate of sexual violence that takes place every day. Sexual violence has affected thousands of people in the Congo over the last two decades, and for women, men, and children in need of medical attention there are not many options; they are sometimes ostracized, abandoned, or ignored with nowhere to go.  Survivors of sexual violence seek refuge and assistance at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DRC, a bustling place with more than 360 staff and thousands of visitors each year.  The hospital treats patients with various ailments but has become known as a safe place for survivors of sexual violence to seek treatment and heal from their trauma.   

Since its inception in 2011, the Congo Coffee Project has raised more than $100,000 for survivors of sexual violence, and Dr. Denis Mukwege, the physician responsible for treating survivors of sexual violence and raising awareness of their plight, was awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his work. You can read more about that here.

 

Chocolate:

The global cocoa and chocolate industries are riddled with profound social and economic problems. Workers on cocoa farms are often subject to unacceptable forms of exploitation, including debt bondage, trafficking, and the worst forms of child labor. The standard models for global cocoa trade have left farmers impoverished, economically vulnerable, and powerless to advocate for better conditions.  The small farmer-grown cacao sourced by Equal Exchange demonstrates the power of alternative trade in an industry built on exploitation and forced labor. Under Fair Trade standards, the farmers and co-operatives must abide by key covenants of the International Labor Organization, including those forbidding inappropriate child labor, and forced labor. All Equal Exchange cocoa is sourced from Fair Trade, organic small farmer co-operatives in the Dominican Republic, Panama, Ecuador, and Peru. Even the sugar in their chocolate bars is fairly traded and sourced from a small farmer co-op in Paraguay. 

Laura Bechard of Equal Exchange and Orfith Satalaya Tapullima of Oro Verde cacao co-op

Spotlight on Frontier Co-op Brands

As our celebration of Co-op Month rolls on, we’re casting our Co-op Spotlight this week on the Frontier Co-op family of brands, which includes Aura Cacia and Simply Organic, in an effort to highlight the wonderful things this cooperative does to source and provide quality organic and earth-friendly products while also giving back to the communities they serve. All Frontier, Aura Cacia, and Simply Organic products are 20% off for member-owners from October 19th – 25th!  Read on to learn more about this trio of cooperative brands and their commitment to the well-being of people and planet:

First founded in 1976 in a riverside cabin in Iowa with only two employees, Frontier has been a member-owned, democratically-controlled co-op dedicated to supporting and advocating the values of the cooperative community from the very beginning. Their 40,000 member-owners are wholesale retailers, distributors, and buying clubs like our Co-op, who purchase products from Frontier for retail sale. Despite their growth and evolution since those early days in the cabin, Frontier remains firmly committed to its founding values of integrity, openness, social responsibility, and respect for the environment. They’re driven by a simple purpose: to do good by people and planet. And to create a stronger company built on a commitment to quality and sustainability.

Each year, Frontier Co-op gives back 4% of its pre-tax profits to causes and organizations around the world that inspire wellness in communities where their products are produced. Each of the co-op’s three brands has an established fund for social giving.

Frontier was an early adopter of progressive workplace programs such as on-site childcare, establishing a subsidized on-site childcare center and cafeteria at their headquarters in Norway, Iowa in the 1980s. They were also early and influential advocates of the organic, fair trade, and non-GMO movements, introducing the first Fairtrade Certified spice line and the first Non-GMO Verified vanilla extracts in the United States. 

They’re also deeply committed to their grower communities abroad where many of their premium organic products are sourced. To ensure a healthy, meaningful, mutually beneficial partnership, Frontier established the Well Earth™ sustainable sourcing program. This program promotes the sustainable production of natural and organic products and creates partnerships built upon mutual respect for quality botanicals and sound social and environmental principles. It is part of a multi-faceted effort to provide customers with high-quality, socially responsible products that include commitments to product quality, Fair Trade standards, Organic standards, integrity, social responsibility, and sustainable operations. By bringing high-quality, socially responsible products to the marketplace, the program gives consumers the opportunity to use their purchases to influence the way the world does business.

Organic ylang-ylang harvest

Proceeds from the fair trade of their products have allowed for the development of critical infrastructure in the growing communities from which Frontier sources many of their raw ingredients, including a preschool in Madagascar, a dental clinic in Fedecovera, and the construction of 49 wells in 38 of the farming communities from whom Frontier sources its vanilla.

Students stand outside the preschool constructed in the growers’ community in Madagascar where Frontier and Aura Cacia source their raw ingredients

Aura Cacia

In the late 1990s, Frontier decided to expand its lineup to include body care products and essential oils by purchasing Aura Cacia. As part of Frontier Co-op, Aura Cacia shares the cooperative values of nourishing people and planet. They care for the small grower communities at the source of their products, openly share product information, show their customers how to improve their lives with aromatherapy, and give back to help those in need.

Aura Cacia is committed to both quality products and quality of life. They offer outstanding products made from simple and pure botanical ingredients that improve the well-being of those who use them. They test every shipment of essential oil they receive to verify its purity and quality.

Aura Cacia’s Lavender Fields

As they travel the world to find top-quality essential oils, they encourage sustainable growing practices that preserve and improve land and resources for the future. Click here to learn more about Frontier Co-op’s sourcing.

As part of Frontier Co-op’s far-reaching sustainable sourcing initiatives, they support the growers’ communities with charitable projects that fundamentally improve people’s lives. They’ve created the Positive Change Project to give back a portion of each Aura Cacia purchase to organizations that help women bring positive change to their lives.

 

Be sure to check out Aura Cacia’s impressive collection of recipes to unleash the full potential of their essential oils. Whether you’re looking for DIY recipes for facial care, body care, or home cleaning products, they’ve got something for you!

Simply Organic

In the early 2000s, Frontier launched the Simply Organic line of products as a means to offer a 100% organic line of culinary products to deliver big flavor to your meals while also supporting climate-friendly growing practices. Simply Organic is known for real, pure spices that really make a meal. Always 100% certified organic. Always sourced responsibly, and delivered with ethics and integrity. In keeping with their commitments to their growing communities, Frontier works closely with its growers to ensure goodness all around. Pure, premium spices for you. Sustainable farming practices and steady businesses for farming communities around the world. It’s a win-win!

Simply Organic is committed to helping nourish the millions of food insecure in the United States and Canada through the Simply Organic Giving Fund. Since 2001, they’ve given back more than $2 million to support organic agricultural development and grower communities, including:

  • Helping growers in developing countries produce and market certified organic products.
  • Building training centers that teach organic agriculture methods and wells that bring fresh water to villages; supporting schools, meal programs and other social projects in grower communities.
  • Supporting U.S. organic research and education projects, scholarships in sustainable agriculture, and organic-growing-based social organizations such as urban gardens and community food banks.

In 2018, Frontier committed to focusing the Simply Organic Giving Fund Grant Program on addressing an issue that’s especially persistent and critical, but that is often overlooked or misunderstood: food insecurity. They’re working to help organizations across the United States and Canada to nourish the millions of food insecure in our communities by supporting organizations that provide access to healthy, organic food options.

Grant recipients for this year include Dion’s Chicago Dream, Emergency Food Network, Matthew 25, Project Worthmore, and the Multicultural Refugee Coalition. Click here to learn more about the impact of these projects and to apply for a Simply Organic Giving Fund Grant.

 

Simply Organic 2023 Giving Recipients Thank You Video from Simply Organic on Vimeo.

Also, be sure to check out the Simply Organic recipe database for delicious inspiration!

Spotlight on Equal Exchange

October is Co-op Month, Fair Trade Month, and Non-GMO month, so it seems like the perfect time to shine our Member Deals Spotlight on Equal Exchange – a cooperative that is revolutionizing the fair trade of organic, non-GMO coffee, chocolate, cocoa, tea, bananas, and avocados from small farmers. All of their co-op-produced, Certified Organic, and Fairtrade Certified goods are 20% off for member-owners from October 12th – 18th! Read on to learn more about the ways that this cooperative is creating powerful change in industries dominated by profound social, environmental, and economic exploitation:

History:

Equal Exchange was started over 30 years ago to create an alternative trade paradigm where small farmers could have a seat at the trading table. The existing predominant trade model favors large plantations, agri-business, and multi-national corporations. Equal Exchange seeks to challenge that model in favor of one that supports & respects small farmers, builds communities, supports the environment, and connects consumers and producers through information, education, and the exchange of products in the marketplace.

Today, Equal Exchange is a thriving model of Fair Trade that has exceeded its founders’ original vision. With over 30 years of experience — a history replete with successes, failures, innovative partnerships, exciting new products, and inspiring stories — they are nevertheless humbled by just how far they still need to go. Over the next few decades, Equal Exchange seeks to engage and collaborate with like-minded partners and stakeholders throughout the Fair Trade system in an effort to continue to transform how business is done. Their vision includes breaking new ground by bringing Fair Trade home—by fostering direct relationships with family farmers here in the United States. Their collective achievements of the past 30 years prove that they can create change beyond their wildest dreams. To read more about their history, click here.

 

 

Mission:

Equal Exchange’s mission is to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers, and to demonstrate, through their success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic, and sustainable world.

Authentic Fair Trade:

Authentic fair trade is central to their mission at Equal Exchange. The fair trade model gives small-scale farmers collective power and financial stability while improving farming communities and protecting the environment. To do so, it utilizes a particular set of business practices voluntarily adopted by the producers and buyers of agricultural commodities and hand-made crafts that are designed to advance many economic, social and environmental goals, including:
• Raising and stabilizing the incomes of small-scale farmers, farmworkers, and artisans
• More equitably distributing the economic gains, opportunities, and risks associated with the production and sale of these goods
• Increasing the organizational and commercial capacities of producer groups
• Supporting democratically owned and controlled producer organizations
• Promoting labor rights and the right of workers to organize
• Promoting safe and sustainable farming methods and working conditions
• Connecting consumers and producers
• Increasing consumer awareness and engagement with issues affecting producers

 

What Impact is Fair Trade Having on Farmers & Their Communities?

Bananas:

According to the USDA, the average American eats 27 pounds of bananas per year. That’s a whole lot of bananas – and a big opportunity for impact. The banana industry is infamous for unfair labor practices, dangerous working conditions, and perpetuation of global inequalities. Equal Exchange envisioned a total departure from this system when it first ventured into fresh produce in 2006 with bananas. Equal Exchange works directly with three small farmer cooperatives in Peru and Ecuador: AsoGuabo, CEPIBO, and APOQ. Through these democratically organized co-ops, farmers leverage collective resources and obtain access to global markets – maintaining agency over their business, land, and livelihoods. 

Community members of Asoguabo Co-op and Equal Exchange Worker Owners in Ecuador

Together, Equal Exchange and their banana partners are creating a trade model that respects farmers, builds communities, and supports the environment. Buying Equal Exchange bananas from your local food co-op not only keeps money cycling through our community but also ensures that communities of farmers in Ecuador and Peru are receiving a fair price for their products, which then keeps money flowing through their communities, as well. In a way, eating fair trade bananas gives you a two-for-one, as you are able to support both your community and the cooperative community of farmers that grew the fruit. It may not have been grown physically close to our Co-op, but it creates an interconnected network of solidarity between communities. You are choosing to connect yourself to these courageous banana farmers who are making history for themselves, and quite possibly, for the entire banana industry. Click here to read more about the progressive small-farmer banana cooperatives that partner with Equal Exchange.

Avocados:

In 2013, Equal Exchange partnered with pioneering farmer cooperatives in Mexico to establish a supply chain for Fairtrade, organic avocados. Their farmer partners are located in Michoacán, Mexico, considered the ‘avocado capital of the world’. Working together, they circumvent a largely consolidated and volatile industry to provide U.S. avo-lovers with the popular fruit.

Equal Exchange visiting the farmers from the PROFOSMI avocado cooperative

These two small-farmer cooperatives, PRAGOR and PROFOSMI, export directly to Equal Exchange. PRAGOR is composed of 20 producer members who each own an average of 10 acres of land, all 100% organic. Many of the members transitioned to organic 10 or more years ago, a revolutionary move at the time. On several of these farms reside the oldest Hass Avocado trees in the region, now 60 years old, still producing avocados. Despite the excitement each producer has for the future, a major challenge is finding trading partners who believe in their mission and will engage in the respectful and fair business relationship their members deserve. As you can imagine, there are not many organizations like Equal Exchange. PRAGOR’s strength and perseverance is a lesson for anyone committed to working for change in the world.

Farmer cooperatives increasingly recognize that production through industrialized agriculture methods has placed pressure on the natural environment, and have elected to weave environmental sustainability into their missions, vision, and goals. One such initiative is Las Mujeres Polinizadoras de Tingambato, a women’s apiculturist cooperative that was established by Equal Exchange’s partner cooperative, PROFOSMI. The initiative seeks to offer entrepreneurial skills to economically disadvantaged women through beekeeping. PROFOSMI used fair trade premium dollars to offset the cost of materials and technical training, and the women soon had the tools they needed to become an autonomous and independent cooperative. 

Equal Exchange’s Ravdeep Jaidka and Meghan Bodo with farmer-partner Alfredo stand beside rows of hives from the women’s beekeeping cooperative

 

In an effort to maintain a year-round supply of organic, fairtrade avocados, Equal Exchange began a partnership in 2018 with LaGrama, a Peruvian company providing essential services to small-scale farmers in Peru. A major advantage for Peruvian avocados lies in their seasonality for exports, which roughly extends from May to August. This serves as a good complement to the Mexican export season, which lasts from August to May. After extensive research with industry partners and a sourcing trip to Peru,  Equal Exchange was thrilled to find partners like LaGrama that align with their mission and vision for change in the avocado industry. 

Coffee:

This is where it all began! Way back In 1986, the founders of Equal Exchange started their journey with a Nicaraguan coffee — which they called Café Nica — and they haven’t looked back. The impact over the years has been incredible and your purchases of fairly traded coffee have helped build pride, independence, and community empowerment for hundreds of small farmers and their families. One of their latest projects, the Women in Coffee series, highlights women leaders across the Equal Exchange coffee supply chain and represents an opportunity to spark community discussions around Fair Trade, gender empowerment, and relationships across food supply chains. You can find the featured Women In Coffee Series coffee, Congo Rising, in our bulk department.

Another fantastic project brewing at Equal Exchange is their Congo Coffee Project. Equal Exchange founded the Congo Coffee Project with the Panzi Foundation as a means to bring Congolese coffee to market in the United States and raise awareness about the alarming rate of sexual violence that takes place every day. Sexual violence has affected thousands of people in the Congo over the last two decades, and for women, men, and children in need of medical attention there are not many options; they are sometimes ostracized, abandoned, or ignored with nowhere to go.  Survivors of sexual violence seek refuge and assistance at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DRC, a bustling place with more than 360 staff and thousands of visitors each year.  The hospital treats patients with various ailments but has become known as a safe place for survivors of sexual violence to seek treatment and heal from their trauma.   

Since its inception in 2011, the Congo Coffee Project has raised more than $100,000 for survivors of sexual violence, and Dr. Denis Mukwege, the physician responsible for treating survivors of sexual violence and raising awareness of their plight, was awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his work. You can read more about that here.

 

Chocolate:

The global cocoa and chocolate industries are riddled with profound social and economic problems. Workers on cocoa farms are often subject to unacceptable forms of exploitation, including debt bondage, trafficking, and the worst forms of child labor. The standard models for global cocoa trade have left farmers impoverished, economically vulnerable, and powerless to advocate for better conditions.  The small farmer-grown cacao sourced by Equal Exchange demonstrates the power of alternative trade in an industry built on exploitation and forced labor. Under Fair Trade standards, the farmers and co-operatives must abide by key covenants of the International Labor Organization, including those forbidding inappropriate child labor, and forced labor. All Equal Exchange cocoa is sourced from Fair Trade, organic small farmer co-operatives in the Dominican Republic, Panama, Ecuador, and Peru. Even the sugar in their chocolate bars is fairly traded and sourced from a small farmer co-op in Paraguay. 

Laura Bechard of Equal Exchange and Orfith Satalaya Tapullima of Oro Verde cacao co-op

Celebrate International Day of Co-operatives!

On July 1, co-ops and their members around the world will celebrate the International Day of Co-operatives, united by the slogan, “Co-ops 4 Sustainable Development.”

Celebrated worldwide for more than a century and officially proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1995, the International Day of Co-operatives is annually commemorated on the first Saturday of July.

This year, the co-operative movement will celebrate under the theme, Co-ops 4 Sustainable Development, demonstrating how our business model, rooted in our shared values and principles, has the accomplishment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as part of its DNA.  During Co-ops Day, co-operators around the world will communicate to their members and shoppers, policymakers, community organizations, and the general public about the contribution of co-ops to a just and sustainable future for all.

Here in our region, the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) and its member co-ops, including your Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op, are spreading the word: when you shop at your local food co-op, you’ll not only find good food, you’re also helping build more healthy, sustainable, and inclusive communities by supporting…

  • Local Food Systems. The NFCA’s annual impact survey found that member co-ops reported that an average of 25% of their sales were local products, supporting small producers and building more resilient communities. Here at our co-op, we’re excited to report that 35% of total store sales are local products from over 400 Vermont farmers and food producers, representing $7,350,000 in local sales.
  • Food Security. When you shop at your co-op, you’re making healthy, affordable food more accessible to everyone in your community, and ensuring reliable markets for Vermont’s farmers and producers. Last year, the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op donated over 4 tons of food to our local food shelves and generated monetary donations of more than $20,000 to our local food shelves. We strive to make healthy food more accessible to over 450 households in our community through our Food For All program, and we are proud partners in the Farmacy Food As Medicine program, which is on track to serve 100 families in Addison County who are challenged with a combination of food insecurity and diet-related illness with a free local CSA fruit and vegetable share for 14 weeks throughout the growing season. 
  • Good Jobs. You’re supporting more full-time jobs and higher wages for employees. The Middlebury Co-op employs 110 full-time, part-time, and substitute employees, the majority of which are member-owners of the Co-op, sharing in the ownership of their store. We are proud to offer a competitive starting wage of $16.50 per hour to all full and part-time team members, along with a generous lineup of staff benefits.
  • Sustainability. Your dollars support family farming, organic agriculture, reduced packaging, high waste diversion rates, and a business model based on meeting people’s needs rather than maximizing profit. The same kinds of outdated policies and values that uphold systemic racism have also contributed to our rapidly changing climate, the extinction of wildlife, and the destruction of our environment. Food co-ops have supported practices that mitigate these impacts — such as energy conservation and sourcing food grown locally and with regenerative farming methods that are good for farmworker health and give back more than they take from nature.
  • A More Inclusive Economy. Food co-ops are jointly owned and democratically governed by their members, people like you who shop there and are working together to build a better economy that works for everyone. Your Co-op is collectively owned by more than 6,300 member-owner households!
At the Co-op, when we say “local”, we mean made in Vermont!

As natural vehicles of collaborative partnership and prosperity for all, co-operatives contribute to economic, social, and environmental sustainability across regions and economic sectors. From farmer co-ops to food co-ops, worker co-ops to credit unions, housing co-ops to mutual insurance, co-operative businesses strengthen communities, enhance local resources, advocate for social responsibility, and promote sustainable business practices based on long-term well-being rather than short-term profits. Regardless of the type of co-operative or the communities they serve, co-operatives around the world generally operate according to the same core principles and values, adopted by the International Co-operative Alliance in 1995. The roots of these Seven Cooperative Principles can be traced to the first modern cooperative founded in Rochdale, England in 1844.

 

 

The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) was the first worldwide business network to endorse the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and be recognized as a partner in their advancement. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, offered a blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 goals that recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests. September of 2023 will mark the mid-point in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and seek ways to accelerate progress in the SDGs.

“At the mid-point of the 2030 Agenda, efforts need to be deepened, and this can only be done with more co-operation. Enterprises, which are responsible for organizing the production and distribution of goods and services, must focus on people and the planet. Co-operatives have a model for doing this, and have been demonstrating it for almost 200 years”, says ICA President Ariel Guarco.

The NFCA is joining the ICA in encouraging co-ops and their members around the world to celebrate International Co-op’s Day and show the world what can be achieved through the power of co-operation.

 

It’s an exciting time to be part of a food co-op in the United States — growing numbers of people and communities are discovering their power and organizing food co-ops in their neighborhoods while thriving food co-ops continue to grow and adapt to serve their communities well. The food co-ops around the country that own National Co+op Grocers (NCG) work together collectively to strengthen our ability to positively impact the national food system and grow the cooperative economy in an inclusive and environmentally regenerative manner. We’re stronger together! 

 

In pursuit of these goals, NCG collectively reports our social and environmental impact data to measure the benefits that the “average” food co-op brings its community. But make no mistake, there’s nothing average about us. Every co-op is as vibrantly unique as the community it serves, and that’s the secret sauce. People form food co-ops when their community comes together around the need for reliable access to the kinds of food that people living there want to eat. It’s a powerful way to build food security, community resilience, and economic empowerment. 

 

If that sounds good to you, consider becoming a Member-Owner of your community Co-op!! It feels great to own a grocery store with your friends and neighbors! If you’re already a co-op shopper or member-owner, thank you for strengthening your community and local food system. If you’re looking to take a more hands-on role, we hope you’ll consider joining our team! Stronger Together includes you! CLICK HERE TO JOIN OUR TEAM!

 

 

 

Spotlight on Alaffia

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Alaffia this week and Co-op member-owners can enjoy 20% off of their full line of Fair Trade Certified, Co-op-made body care products from May 11th – 17th!  It’s a great time to stock up and save! Read on to learn more about Alaffia and their efforts to empower African communities through the advancement of Fair Trade, education, sustainable living, and gender equality:

 

Alaffia was founded in 2004 with Fair Trade as the fundamental foundation of their organization, which is comprised of the Alaffia Village in Sokodé, Togo; the Alaffia Coconut Cooperative in Klouvi-Donnou, Togo; and the Alaffia headquarters in Olympia, Washington. Their cooperatives handcraft indigenous raw ingredients, and the Alaffia team in Olympia creates the finished products. Proceeds from the sales of these products are then returned to communities in Togo, West Africa through Alaffia’s nonprofit arm, the Alaffia Foundation, helping to alleviate poverty and advance gender equity through the Fair Trade of Indigenous resources and community empowerment projects. With every purchase, you directly support Alaffia’s social empowerment projects.

 

What impact have your Alaffia purchases had in these communities thus far?

 

 

Each year in sub-Saharan West Africa, 160,000 women die due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Over her lifetime, a woman in sub-Saharan Africa has a 1 in 16 chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth, compared to 1 in 4,000 in developed countries (UNICEF, 2015). There are several reasons for the high maternal mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa, including extreme poverty and inadequate infrastructure.  It is possible to save lives with basic health care and gender equality.

Alaffia’s Maternal Health Project has two parts; The first is a direct approach by which Alaffia provides funding for full pre-and postnatal care, including special and urgent needs, to women in rural Togo. Alaffia product sales have paid for the births of 5,597 babies in rural Togolese communities through the Togo Health Clinic system!

The Alaffia Women’s Clinic Project is the second part of their women’s health efforts. In 2007, they formed partnerships with local Togo clinics to provide information and training on all women’s health issues, including nutrition, preventing female genital mutilation, and much more. They believe that saving mothers is a necessary step in reducing poverty. When a mother dies, her surviving children’s nutrition & health suffer, and they are more likely to drop out of school, reducing their ability to rise out of poverty.

 

 

The future of African communities depends on the education and empowerment of young people. Since Alaffia founded their shea butter cooperative in 2003, they’ve provided school uniforms, books, and writing supplies to children in Togolese communities to offset the financial burden these items have on families. They also donate desks and install new roofs on schools to make learning a more enjoyable experience. Since 2011, Alaffia product sales have funded the construction of 16 schools throughout Togo and provided school supplies to 37,521 recipients.

 

In rural areas of Togo, students walk up to 10 miles a day to attend school. There are no buses, and families cannot afford private transportation. As a result, school becomes very time-consuming, and most students decide to quit school in order to fulfill their family obligations. In rural areas, less than 10% of high school-aged girls and only 16% of boys attend school (UNICEF). In 2004, Alaffia began collecting and sending used bicycles to Togolese students to encourage them to stay in and complete school through their Bicycles for Education Project. Now, with over 10,817 bicycles sent and distributed, they are seeing a real impact on exam scores and retention in rural schools. 95% of Bicycles For Education recipients graduate secondary school.

Alaffia collects used bicycles in and around their communities in Washington and Oregon, with the help of their retailers, volunteers, and staff. All costs of this project – from collecting, repairing, and shipping bicycles, to customs duties, distribution costs, ongoing maintenance, and follow-up – are paid for through the sales of Alaffia products. This project brings communities in the US and Togo together. Bicycles that would otherwise be destined for the landfill are encouraging students in Togo to stay in school so they can lead their communities out of poverty. To find out how you can be involved, visit their web page or email foundation@alaffia.com

 

 

Deforestation and climate change have had a devastating impact on West African farming communities. Alaffia product sales fund the planting of trees by Togolese farmers to help mitigate soil erosion and improve food security for their families. 99,964 trees have been planted through this project! Allafia also conducts trainings to discourage the cutting of shea trees for firewood and charcoal to preserve this important indigenous resource for future generations. Additionally, they are investigating sustainable fuel alternatives, such as bio-gas and bio-oils, to reduce the demand for wood and charcoal.

 

In Togo, it is extremely difficult for visually impaired people to obtain eyeglasses. An eye exam costs as much as one month’s wage and a pair of eyeglasses can cost up to four months of wages. Alaffia collects used eyeglasses at retail locations throughout the US and employs an optometrist in Togo to correctly fit and distribute the glasses. A pair of eyeglasses is life-changing for a child struggling in school, the elderly with failing vision, and adults who have never been able to see clearly. To date, Alaffia has collected over 30,852 pairs of glasses.

 

 

Social Enterprise Model

Alaffia’s Social Enterprise Model is a comprehensive approach to providing safe, efficacious hair, face, and body care while alleviating poverty in West Africa through the preservation of traditional skills and knowledge in the global market. The following principles guide Alaffia’s Social Enterprise Model:

  • EMPOWERMENT PROJECTS
    Targeted areas of development (Maternal Care, Education, Environmental Sustainability, Eyeglasses) as mentioned above that safeguard basic needs for sustainable communities.

 

  • INDIGENOUS INGREDIENTS
    Local resources and traditional handcrafting knowledge celebrate cultural diversity in the global market and ensure Alaffia’s safe, nutrient-rich, and efficacious products.

 

  • WOMEN’S CO-OP’S & COLLECTIVES
    Alaffia’s women’s cooperatives and collectives promote gender equality through fair wages and by celebrating the traditional skills and knowledge of West African women.

 

  • ETHICAL, SAFE, EFFICACIOUS PRODUCTS
    Alaffia’s products are safe and effective alternatives for your health and wellness. They are both ethnobotanist and pharmacognosist informed. Third-party verification also ensures that Alafffia’s products are held to the highest industry standards.

 

  • SUSTAINABLE & TRANSPARENT PACKAGING
    Clear communication and third-party certification showcase Alaffia’s high product standards. They are proudly certified For Life (by ECOCERT), and are Good Manufacturing Practices/GMP certified.

 

  • PRODUCT SALE FOR REINVESTMENT
    Alaffia’s primary goal is to reinvest a portion of product sales into our Empowerment Projects in West Africa. Your purchase helps improve living conditions and supports an end to poverty.

 

Spotlight on Frontier Co-op Brands

As our celebration of Co-op Month rolls on, we’re casting our Co-op Spotlight this week on the Frontier Co-op family of brands, which includes Aura Cacia and Simply Organic, in an effort to highlight the wonderful things this cooperative does to source and provide quality organic and earth-friendly products while also giving back to the communities they serve. All Frontier, Aura Cacia, and Simply Organic products are 20% off for member-owners from October 20th – 26th!  Read on to learn more about this trio of cooperative brands and their commitment to the well-being of people and planet:

First founded in 1976 in a riverside cabin in Iowa with only two employees, Frontier has been a member-owned, democratically-controlled co-op dedicated to supporting and advocating the values of the cooperative community from the very beginning. Their 40,000 member-owners are wholesale retailers, distributors, and buying clubs like our Co-op, who purchase products from Frontier for retail sale. Despite their growth and evolution since those early days in the cabin, Frontier remains firmly committed to its founding values of integrity, openness, social responsibility, and respect for the environment. They’re driven by a simple purpose: to do good by people and planet. And to create a stronger company built on a commitment to quality and sustainability.

Each year, Frontier Co-op gives back 4% of its pre-tax profits to causes and organizations around the world that inspire wellness in communities where their products are produced. Each of the co-op’s three brands has an established fund for social giving.

Frontier was an early adopter of progressive workplace programs such as on-site childcare, establishing a subsidized on-site childcare center and cafeteria at their headquarters in Norway, Iowa in the 1980s. They were also early and influential advocates of the organic, fair trade, and non-GMO movements, introducing the first Fairtrade Certified spice line and the first Non-GMO Verified vanilla extracts in the United States. 

They’re also deeply committed to their grower communities abroad where many of their premium organic products are sourced. To ensure a healthy, meaningful, mutually beneficial partnership, Frontier established the Well Earth™ sustainable sourcing program. This program promotes the sustainable production of natural and organic products and creates partnerships built upon mutual respect for quality botanicals and sound social and environmental principles. It is part of a multi-faceted effort to provide customers with high-quality, socially responsible products that include commitments to product quality, Fair Trade standards, Organic standards, integrity, social responsibility, and sustainable operations. By bringing high-quality, socially responsible products to the marketplace, the program gives consumers the opportunity to use their purchases to influence the way the world does business.

Organic ylang-ylang harvest

Proceeds from the fair trade of their products have allowed for the development of critical infrastructure in the growing communities from which Frontier sources many of their raw ingredients, including a preschool in Madagascar, a dental clinic in Fedecovera, and the construction of 49 wells in 38 of the farming communities from whom Frontier sources its vanilla.

Students stand outside the preschool constructed in the growers’ community in Madagascar where Frontier and Aura Cacia source their raw ingredients

Aura Cacia

In the late 1990s, Frontier decided to expand its lineup to include body care products and essential oils by purchasing Aura Cacia. As part of Frontier Co-op, Aura Cacia shares the cooperative values of nourishing people and planet. They care for the small grower communities at the source of their products, openly share product information, show their customers how to improve their lives with aromatherapy, and give back to help those in need.

Aura Cacia is committed to both quality products and quality of life. They offer outstanding products made from simple and pure botanical ingredients that improve the well-being of those who use them. They test every shipment of essential oil they receive to verify its purity and quality.

Aura Cacia’s Lavender Fields

As they travel the world to find top-quality essential oils, they encourage sustainable growing practices that preserve and improve land and resources for the future. Click here to learn more about Frontier Co-op’s sourcing.

As part of Frontier Co-op’s far-reaching sustainable sourcing initiatives, they support the growers’ communities with charitable projects that fundamentally improve people’s lives. They’ve created the Positive Change Project to give back a portion of each Aura Cacia purchase to organizations that help women bring positive change to their lives.

 

Be sure to check out Aura Cacia’s impressive collection of recipes to unleash the full potential of their essential oils. Whether you’re looking for DIY recipes for facial care, body care, or home cleaning products, they’ve got something for you!

Simply Organic

In the early 2000s, Frontier launched the Simply Organic line of products as a means to offer a 100% organic line of culinary products to deliver big flavor to your meals while also supporting climate-friendly growing practices. Simply Organic is known for real, pure spices that really make a meal. Always 100% certified organic. Always sourced responsibly, and delivered with ethics and integrity. In keeping with their commitments to their growing communities, Frontier works closely with its growers to ensure goodness all around. Pure, premium spices for you. Sustainable farming practices and steady businesses for farming communities around the world. It’s a win-win!

Simply Organic is committed to helping nourish the millions of food insecure in the United States and Canada through the Simply Organic Giving Fund. Since 2001, they’ve given back more than $2 million to support organic agricultural development and grower communities, including:

  • Helping growers in developing countries produce and market certified organic products.
  • Building training centers that teach organic agriculture methods and wells that bring fresh water to villages; supporting schools, meal programs and other social projects in grower communities.
  • Supporting U.S. organic research and education projects, scholarships in sustainable agriculture, and organic-growing-based social organizations such as urban gardens and community food banks.

In 2018, Frontier committed to focusing the Simply Organic Giving Fund Grant Program on addressing an issue that’s especially persistent and critical, but that is often overlooked or misunderstood: food insecurity. They’re working to help organizations across the United States and Canada to nourish the millions of food insecure in our communities by supporting organizations that provide access to healthy, organic food options.

Grant recipients for this year include Dion’s Chicago Dream, Emergency Food Network, HASER, Matthew 25, Project Worthmore, and Working Theory Farm. Click here to learn more about the impact of these projects and to apply for a Simply Organic Giving Fund Grant.

Also, be sure to check out the Simply Organic recipe database for delicious inspiration!

Spotlight on Equal Exchange

October is Co-op Month, Fair Trade Month, and Non-GMO month, so it seems like the perfect time to shine our Member Deals Spotlight on Equal Exchange – a cooperative that is revolutionizing the fair trade of organic, non-GMO coffee, chocolate, cocoa, tea, bananas, and avocados from small farmers. All of their co-op-produced, Certified Organic, and Fairtrade Certified goods are 20% off for member-owners from October 13th – 19th! Read on to learn more about the ways that this cooperative is creating powerful change in industries dominated by profound social, environmental, and economic exploitation:

History:

Equal Exchange was started over 30 years ago to create an alternative trade paradigm where small farmers could have a seat at the trading table. The existing predominant trade model favors large plantations, agri-business, and multi-national corporations. Equal Exchange seeks to challenge that model in favor of one that supports & respects small farmers, builds communities, supports the environment, and connects consumers and producers through information, education, and the exchange of products in the marketplace.

Today, Equal Exchange is a thriving model of Fair Trade that has exceeded its founders’ original vision. With over 30 years of experience — a history replete with successes, failures, innovative partnerships, exciting new products, and inspiring stories — they are nevertheless humbled by just how far they still need to go. Over the next few decades, Equal Exchange seeks to engage and collaborate with like-minded partners and stakeholders throughout the Fair Trade system in an effort to continue to transform how business is done. Their vision includes breaking new ground by bringing Fair Trade home—by fostering direct relationships with family farmers here in the United States. Their collective achievements of the past 30 years prove that they can create change beyond their wildest dreams. To read more about their history, click here.

 

 

Mission:

Equal Exchange’s mission is to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers, and to demonstrate, through their success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic, and sustainable world.

Authentic Fair Trade:

Authentic fair trade is central to their mission at Equal Exchange. The fair trade model gives small-scale farmers collective power and financial stability while improving farming communities and protecting the environment. To do so, it utilizes a particular set of business practices voluntarily adopted by the producers and buyers of agricultural commodities and hand-made crafts that are designed to advance many economic, social and environmental goals, including:
• Raising and stabilizing the incomes of small-scale farmers, farmworkers, and artisans
• More equitably distributing the economic gains, opportunities, and risks associated with the production and sale of these goods
• Increasing the organizational and commercial capacities of producer groups
• Supporting democratically owned and controlled producer organizations
• Promoting labor rights and the right of workers to organize
• Promoting safe and sustainable farming methods and working conditions
• Connecting consumers and producers
• Increasing consumer awareness and engagement with issues affecting producers

 

What Impact is Fair Trade Having on Farmers & Their Communities?

Bananas:

According to the USDA, the average American eats 27 pounds of bananas per year. That’s a whole lot of bananas – and a big opportunity for impact. The banana industry is infamous for unfair labor practices, dangerous working conditions, and perpetuation of global inequalities. Equal Exchange envisioned a total departure from this system when it first ventured into fresh produce in 2006 with bananas. Equal Exchange works directly with three small farmer cooperatives in Peru and Ecuador: AsoGuabo, CEPIBO, and APOQ. Through these democratically organized co-ops, farmers leverage collective resources and obtain access to global markets – maintaining agency over their business, land, and livelihoods. 

Community members of Asoguabo Co-op and Equal Exchange Worker Owners in Ecuador

Together, Equal Exchange and their banana partners are creating a trade model that respects farmers, builds communities, and supports the environment. Buying Equal Exchange bananas from your local food co-op not only keeps money cycling through our community but also ensures that communities of farmers in Ecuador and Peru are receiving a fair price for their products, which then keeps money flowing through their communities, as well. In a way, eating fair trade bananas gives you a two-for-one, as you are able to support both your community and the cooperative community of farmers that grew the fruit. It may not have been grown physically close to our Co-op, but it creates an interconnected network of solidarity between communities. You are choosing to connect yourself to these courageous banana farmers who are making history for themselves, and quite possibly, for the entire banana industry. Click here to read more about the progressive small-farmer banana cooperatives that partner with Equal Exchange.

Avocados:

In 2013, Equal Exchange partnered with pioneering farmer cooperatives in Mexico to establish a supply chain for Fairtrade, organic avocados. Their farmer partners are located in Michoacán, Mexico, considered the ‘avocado capital of the world’. Working together, they circumvent a largely consolidated and volatile industry to provide U.S. avo-lovers with the popular fruit.

Equal Exchange visiting the farmers from the PROFOSMI avocado cooperative

These two small-farmer cooperatives, PRAGOR and PROFOSMI, export directly to Equal Exchange. PRAGOR is composed of 20 producer members who each own an average of 10 acres of land, all 100% organic. Many of the members transitioned to organic 10 or more years ago, a revolutionary move at the time. On several of these farms reside the oldest Hass Avocado trees in the region, now 60 years old, still producing avocados. Despite the excitement each producer has for the future, a major challenge is finding trading partners who believe in their mission and will engage in the respectful and fair business relationship their members deserve. As you can imagine, there are not many organizations like Equal Exchange. PRAGOR’s strength and perseverance is a lesson for anyone committed to working for change in the world.

Farmer cooperatives increasingly recognize that production through industrialized agriculture methods has placed pressure on the natural environment, and have elected to weave environmental sustainability into their missions, vision, and goals. One such initiative is Las Mujeres Polinizadoras de Tingambato, a women’s apiculturist cooperative that was established by Equal Exchange’s partner cooperative, PROFOSMI. The initiative seeks to offer entrepreneurial skills to economically disadvantaged women through beekeeping. PROFOSMI used fair trade premium dollars to offset the cost of materials and technical training, and the women soon had the tools they needed to become an autonomous and independent cooperative. 

Equal Exchange’s Ravdeep Jaidka and Meghan Bodo with farmer-partner Alfredo stand beside rows of hives from the women’s beekeeping cooperative

 

In an effort to maintain a year-round supply of organic, fairtrade avocados, Equal Exchange began a partnership in 2018 with LaGrama, a Peruvian company providing essential services to small-scale farmers in Peru. A major advantage for Peruvian avocados lies in their seasonality for exports, which roughly extends from May to August. This serves as a good complement to the Mexican export season, which lasts from August to May. After extensive research with industry partners and a sourcing trip to Peru,  Equal Exchange was thrilled to find partners like LaGrama that align with their mission and vision for change in the avocado industry. 

Coffee:

This is where it all began! Way back In 1986, the founders of Equal Exchange started their journey with a Nicaraguan coffee — which they called Café Nica — and they haven’t looked back. The impact over the years has been incredible and your purchases of fairly traded coffee have helped build pride, independence, and community empowerment for hundreds of small farmers and their families. One of their latest projects, the Women in Coffee series, highlights women leaders across the Equal Exchange coffee supply chain and represents an opportunity to spark community discussions around Fair Trade, gender empowerment, and relationships across food supply chains. You can find the featured Women In Coffee Series coffee, Congo Rising, in our bulk department.

Another fantastic project brewing at Equal Exchange is their Congo Coffee Project. Equal Exchange founded the Congo Coffee Project with the Panzi Foundation as a means to bring Congolese coffee to market in the United States and raise awareness about the alarming rate of sexual violence that takes place every day. Sexual violence has affected thousands of people in the Congo over the last two decades, and for women, men, and children in need of medical attention there are not many options; they are sometimes ostracized, abandoned, or ignored with nowhere to go.  Survivors of sexual violence seek refuge and assistance at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DRC, a bustling place with more than 360 staff and thousands of visitors each year.  The hospital treats patients with various ailments but has become known as a safe place for survivors of sexual violence to seek treatment and heal from their trauma.   

Since its inception in 2011, the Congo Coffee Project has raised more than $100,000 for survivors of sexual violence, and Dr. Denis Mukwege, the physician responsible for treating survivors of sexual violence and raising awareness of their plight, was awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his work. You can read more about that here.

 

Chocolate:

The global cocoa and chocolate industries are riddled with profound social and economic problems. Workers on cocoa farms are often subject to unacceptable forms of exploitation, including debt bondage, trafficking, and the worst forms of child labor. The standard models for global cocoa trade have left farmers impoverished, economically vulnerable, and powerless to advocate for better conditions.  The small farmer-grown cacao sourced by Equal Exchange demonstrates the power of alternative trade in an industry built on exploitation and forced labor. Under Fair Trade standards, the farmers and co-operatives must abide by key covenants of the International Labor Organization, including those forbidding inappropriate child labor, and forced labor. All Equal Exchange cocoa is sourced from Fair Trade, organic small farmer co-operatives in the Dominican Republic, Panama, Ecuador, and Peru. Even the sugar in their chocolate bars is fairly traded and sourced from a small farmer co-op in Paraguay. To read more about the child labor, click here

Laura Bechard of Equal Exchange and Orfith Satalaya Tapullima of Oro Verde cacao co-op

Supporting Small Cooperative Farmers During the Pandemic:

Equal Exchange works with farmer co-ops in over 20 countries, and their model is to actively seek and partner with marginalized farming communities. These remote communities face significant challenges during the best of times. During a pandemic, the challenges become more acute. Equal Exchange intentionally works with farmers who have organized themselves into democratically-run cooperatives. They believe this structure helps change the balance of power long term. They’re seeing that during the pandemic, the co-op systems have provided lifelines to farmers, helping them in ways that would not have existed were it not for the existence of the co-op.

Here are a few of the ways that these democratic farmer co-ops realized and responded to their members’ needs, in ways that their national governments or healthcare systems could not:
  • Cocoa co-op Acopagro in Peru used recent advanced Fair Trade premium payments from Equal Exchange to provide food, masks, and cleaning supplies to co-op members in 2 different communities where they work. 
  • Coffee co-op members from San Fernando in Peru focused on the fact that they had productive land at a time when many of their children were living or studying in the city without reliable access to healthy food; they collectively filled a truck with their homegrown produce and delivered the food to their children. 
  • Banana co-op AsoGuabo in Ecuador used Fair Trade premium funds to purchase PPE for medical workers in the community and mobilized its logistics operations to transport medicines and supplies to local hospitals. This was critical support at a time when transportation was significantly restricted as a result of curfew measures.
  • Sugar Co-op Manduvira in Paraguay donated money to local health clinics, intentionally directing part of their limited resources to other trusted organizations that in turn help their members.
Manduvira-Co-op in Paraguay

Spotlight on Frontier Co-op Brands

As part of our celebration of Co-op Month, we’re casting our Co-op Spotlight this week on the Frontier Co-op family of brands, which includes Aura Cacia and Simply Organic, in an effort to highlight the wonderful things this cooperative does to source and provide quality organic and earth-friendly products while also giving back to the communities they serve. All Frontier, Aura Cacia, and Simply Organic products are 20% off for member-owners from October 21st – 27th.  Read on to learn more about this trio of cooperative brands and their commitment to the wellbeing of people and planet:

First founded in 1976 in a riverside cabin in Iowa with only two employees, Frontier has been a member-owned, democratically-controlled co-op dedicated to supporting and advocating the values of the cooperative community from the very beginning. Their 40,000 member-owners are wholesale retailers, distributors, and buying clubs like our Co-op, who purchase products from Frontier for retail sale. Despite their growth and evolution since those early days in the cabin, Frontier remains firmly committed to its founding values of integrity, openness, social responsibility, and respect for the environment. They’re driven by a simple purpose: to do good by people and planet. And to create a stronger company built on a commitment to quality and sustainability.

Each year, Frontier Co-op gives back 4% of its pre-tax profits to causes and organizations around the world that inspire wellness in communities where their products are produced. Each of the co-op’s three brands has an established fund for social giving.

Frontier was an early adopter of progressive workplace programs such as on-site childcare, establishing a subsidized on-site childcare center and cafeteria at their headquarters in Norway, Iowa in the 1980s. They were also early and influential advocates of the organic, fair trade, and non-GMO movements, introducing the first Fairtrade Certified spice line and the first Non-GMO Verified vanilla extracts in the United States. 

They’re also deeply committed to their grower communities abroad where many of their premium organic products are sourced. To ensure a healthy, meaningful, mutually beneficial partnership, Frontier established the Well Earth™ sustainable sourcing program. This program promotes the sustainable production of natural and organic products and creates partnerships built upon mutual respect for quality botanicals and sound social and environmental principles. It is part of a multi-faceted effort to provide customers with high-quality, socially responsible products that include commitments to product quality, Fair Trade standards, Organic standards, integrity, social responsibility, and sustainable operations. By bringing high-quality, socially responsible products to the marketplace, the program gives consumers the opportunity to use their purchases to influence the way the world does business.

Organic ylang ylang harvest

Proceeds from the fair trade of their products has allowed for the development of critical infrastructure in the growing communities from which Frontier sources many of their raw ingredients, including a preschool in Madagascar, a dental clinic in Fedecovera, and the construction of 49 wells in 38 of the farming communities from whom Frontier sources its vanilla.

Students stand outside the preschool constructed in the growers’ community in Madagascar where Frontier and Aura Cacia source their raw ingredients

Aura Cacia

In the late 1990s, Frontier decided to expand its lineup to include body care products and essential oils by purchasing Aura Cacia. As part of Frontier Co-op, Aura Cacia shares the cooperative values of nourishing people and planet. They care for the small grower communities at the source of their products, openly share product information, show their customers how to improve their lives with aromatherapy, and give back to help those in need.

Aura Cacia is committed to both quality products and quality of life. They offer outstanding products made from simple and pure botanical ingredients that improve the well-being of those who use them. They test every shipment of essential oil they receive to verify its purity and quality.

Aura Cacia’s Lavender Fields

As they travel the world to find top-quality essential oils, they encourage sustainable growing practices that preserve and improve land and resources for the future. Click here to learn more about Frontier Co-op’s sourcing.

As part of Frontier Co-op’s far-reaching sustainable sourcing initiatives, they support the growers’ communities with charitable projects that fundamentally improve people’s lives. They’ve created the Positive Change Project to give back a portion of each Aura Cacia purchase to organizations that help women bring positive change to their lives.

 

Be sure to check out Aura Cacia’s impressive collection of recipes to unleash the full potential of their essential oils. Whether you’re looking for DIY recipes for facial care, body care, or home cleaning products, they’ve got something for you!

Simply Organic

In the early 2000s, Frontier launched the Simply Organic line of products as a means to offer a 100% organic line of culinary products to deliver big flavor to your meals while also supporting climate-friendly growing practices. Simply Organic is known for real, pure spices that really make a meal. Always 100% certified organic. Always sourced responsibly, and delivered with ethics and integrity. In keeping with their commitments to their growing communities, Frontier works closely with its growers to ensure goodness all around. Pure, premium spices for you. Sustainable farming practices and steady businesses for farming communities around the world. It’s a win-win!

Simply Organic is committed to helping nourish the millions of food insecure in the United States and Canada through the Simply Organic Giving Fund. Since 2001, they’ve given back more than $2 million to support organic agricultural development and grower communities, including:

  • Helping growers in developing countries produce and market certified organic products.
  • Building training centers that teach organic agriculture methods and wells that bring fresh water to villages; supporting schools, meal programs and other social projects in grower communities.
  • Supporting U.S. organic research and education projects, scholarships in sustainable agriculture, and organic-growing-based social organizations such as urban gardens and community food banks.

In 2018, Frontier committed to focusing the Simply Organic Giving Fund Grant Program on addressing an issue that’s especially persistent and critical, but that is often overlooked or misunderstood: food insecurity. They’re working to help organizations across the United States and Canada to nourish the millions of food insecure in our communities by supporting organizations that provide access to healthy, organic food options.

Grant recipients for this year include the Emergency Food Network, Feed Iowa First, Matthew 25, Project Worthmore, and MEANS Database. Click here to learn more about the impact of these projects and to apply for a Simply Organic Giving Fund Grant.

Also, be sure to check out the Simply Organic recipe database for delicious inspiration!

Spotlight on Equal Exchange

October is Co-op Month, Fair Trade Month, and Non-GMO month, so it seems like the perfect time to shine our Member Deals Spotlight on Equal Exchange – a cooperative that is revolutionizing the fair trade of organic, non-GMO coffee, chocolate, cocoa, tea, bananas, and avocados from small farmers. All of their co-op-produced, Certified Organic, and Fairtrade Certified goods are 20% off for member-owners from October 14th – 20th! Read on to learn more about the ways that this cooperative is creating powerful change in industries dominated by profound social, environmental, and economic exploitation:

History:

Equal Exchange was started over 30 years ago to create an alternative trade paradigm where small farmers could have a seat at the trading table. The existing predominant trade model favors large plantations, agri-business, and multi-national corporations. Equal Exchange seeks to challenge that model in favor of one that supports & respects small farmers, builds communities, supports the environment, and connects consumers and producers through information, education, and the exchange of products in the marketplace.

Today, Equal Exchange is a thriving model of Fair Trade that has exceeded its founders’ original vision. With over 30 years of experience — a history replete with successes, failures, innovative partnerships, exciting new products, and inspiring stories — they are nevertheless humbled by just how far they still need to go. Over the next few decades, Equal Exchange seeks to engage and collaborate with like-minded partners and stakeholders throughout the Fair Trade system in an effort to continue to transform how business is done. Their vision includes breaking new ground by bringing Fair Trade home—by fostering direct relationships with family farmers here in the United States. Their collective achievements of the past 30 years prove that they can create change beyond their wildest dreams. To read more about their history, click here.

 

 

Mission:

Equal Exchange’s mission is to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers, and to demonstrate, through their success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic, and sustainable world.

Authentic Fair Trade:

Authentic fair trade is central to their mission at Equal Exchange. The fair trade model gives small-scale farmers collective power and financial stability while improving farming communities and protecting the environment. To do so, it utilizes a particular set of business practices voluntarily adopted by the producers and buyers of agricultural commodities and hand-made crafts that are designed to advance many economic, social and environmental goals, including:
• Raising and stabilizing the incomes of small-scale farmers, farmworkers, and artisans
• More equitably distributing the economic gains, opportunities, and risks associated with the production and sale of these goods
• Increasing the organizational and commercial capacities of producer groups
• Supporting democratically owned and controlled producer organizations
• Promoting labor rights and the right of workers to organize
• Promoting safe and sustainable farming methods and working conditions
• Connecting consumers and producers
• Increasing consumer awareness and engagement with issues affecting producers

 

What Impact is Fair Trade Having on Farmers & Their Communities?

Bananas:

According to the USDA, the average American eats 27 pounds of bananas per year. That’s a whole lot of bananas – and a big opportunity for impact. The banana industry is infamous for unfair labor practices, dangerous working conditions, and perpetuation of global inequalities. You can read more about that here. Equal Exchange envisioned a total departure from this system when it first ventured into fresh produce in 2006 with bananas. Equal Exchange works directly with three small farmer cooperatives in Peru and Ecuador: AsoGuabo, CEPIBO, and APOQ. Through these democratically organized co-ops, farmers leverage collective resources and obtain access to global markets – maintaining agency over their business, land, and livelihoods. 

Community members of Asoguabo Co-op and Equal Exchange Worker Owners in Ecuador

Together, Equal Exchange and their banana partners are creating a trade model that respects farmers, builds communities, and supports the environment. Buying Equal Exchange bananas from your local food co-op not only keeps money cycling through our community but also ensures that communities of farmers in Ecuador and Peru are receiving a fair price for their products, which then keeps money flowing through their communities, as well. In a way, eating fair trade bananas gives you a two-for-one, as you are able to support both your community and the cooperative community of farmers that grew the fruit. It may not have been grown physically close to our Co-op, but it creates an interconnected network of solidarity between communities. You are choosing to connect yourself to these courageous banana farmers who are making history for themselves, and quite possibly, for the entire banana industry. Click here to read more about the progressive small farmer banana cooperatives that partner with Equal Exchange.

Avocados:

In 2013, Equal Exchange partnered with pioneering farmer cooperatives in Mexico to establish a supply chain for Fairtrade, organic avocados. Their farmer partners are located in Michoacán, Mexico, considered the ‘avocado capital of the world’. Working together, they circumvent a largely consolidated and volatile industry to provide U.S. avo-lovers with the popular fruit.

Equal Exchange visiting the farmers from the PROFOSMI avocado cooperative

These two small-farmer cooperatives, PRAGOR and PROFOSMI, export directly to Equal Exchange. PRAGOR is composed of 20 producer members who each own an average of 10 acres of land, all 100% organic. Many of the members transitioned to organic 10 or more years ago, a revolutionary move at the time. On several of these farms reside the oldest Hass Avocado trees in the region, now 60 years old, still producing avocados. Despite the excitement each producer has for the future, a major challenge is finding trading partners who believe in their mission and will engage in the respectful and fair business relationship their members deserve. As you can imagine, there are not many organizations like Equal Exchange. PRAGOR’s strength and perseverance is a lesson for anyone committed to working for change in the world.

Farmer cooperatives increasingly recognize that production through industrialized agriculture methods has placed pressure on the natural environment, and have elected to weave environmental sustainability into their missions, vision, and goals. One such initiative is Las Mujeres Polinizadoras de Tingambato, a women’s apiculturist cooperative that was established by Equal Exchange’s partner cooperative, PROFOSMI. The initiative seeks to offer entrepreneurial skills to economically disadvantaged women through beekeeping. PROFOSMI used fair trade premium dollars to offset the cost of materials and technical training, and the women soon had the tools they needed to become an autonomous and independent cooperative. 

Equal Exchange’s Ravdeep Jaidka and Meghan Bodo with farmer-partner Alfredo stand beside rows of hives from the women’s beekeeping cooperative

 

In an effort to maintain a year-round supply of organic, fairtrade avocados, Equal Exchange began a partnership in 2018 with LaGrama, a Peruvian company providing essential services to small-scale farmers in Peru. A major advantage for Peruvian avocados lies in their seasonality for exports, which roughly extends from May to August. This serves as a good complement to the Mexican export season, which lasts from August to May. After extensive research with industry partners and a sourcing trip to Peru,  Equal Exchange was thrilled to find partners like LaGrama that align with their mission and vision for change in the avocado industry. 

Coffee:

This is where it all began! Way back In 1986, the founders of Equal Exchange started their journey with a Nicaraguan coffee — which they called Café Nica — and they haven’t looked back. The impact over the years has been incredible and your purchases of fairly traded coffee have helped build pride, independence, and community empowerment for hundreds of small farmers and their families. One of their latest projects, the Women in Coffee series, highlights women leaders across the Equal Exchange coffee supply chain and represents an opportunity to spark community discussions around Fair Trade, gender empowerment, and relationships across food supply chains. You can find the featured Women In Coffee Series coffee, Congo Rising, in our bulk department.

Another fantastic project brewing at Equal Exchange is their Congo Coffee Project. Equal Exchange founded the Congo Coffee Project with the Panzi Foundation as a means to bring Congolese coffee to market in the United States and raise awareness about the alarming rate of sexual violence that takes place every day. Sexual violence has affected thousands of people in the Congo over the last two decades, and for women, men, and children in need of medical attention there are not many options; they are sometimes ostracized, abandoned, or ignored with nowhere to go.  Survivors of sexual violence seek refuge and assistance at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DRC, a bustling place with more than 360 staff and thousands of visitors each year.  The hospital treats patients with various ailments but has become known as a safe place for survivors of sexual violence to seek treatment and heal from their trauma.   

Since its inception in 2011, the Congo Coffee Project has raised more than $100,000 for survivors of sexual violence, and Dr. Denis Mukwege, the physician responsible for treating survivors of sexual violence and raising awareness of their plight, was awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his work. You can read more about that here and you can support Dr. Mukwege’s work by purchasing the Congo Project coffee in our Bulk Department.

 

Chocolate:

The global cocoa and chocolate industries are riddled with profound social and economic problems. Workers on cocoa farms are often subject to unacceptable forms of exploitation, including debt bondage, trafficking, and the worst forms of child labor. The standard models for global cocoa trade have left farmers impoverished, economically vulnerable, and powerless to advocate for better conditions.  The small farmer-grown cacao sourced by Equal Exchange demonstrates the power of alternative trade in an industry built on exploitation and forced labor. Under Fair Trade standards, the farmers and co-operatives must abide by key covenants of the International Labor Organization, including those forbidding inappropriate child labor, and forced labor. All Equal Exchange cocoa is sourced from Fair Trade, organic small farmer co-operatives in the Dominican Republic, Panama, Ecuador, and Peru. Even the sugar in their chocolate bars is fairly traded and sourced from a small farmer co-op in Paraguay. To read more about child labor in the cocoa industry and the efforts made by Equal Exchange thus far to eradicate this issue, click here

Laura Bechard of Equal Exchange and Orfith Satalaya Tapullima of Oro Verde cacao co-op

Supporting Small Cooperative Farmers During the Pandemic:

Equal Exchange works with farmer co-ops in over 20 countries, and their model is to actively seek and partner with marginalized farming communities. These remote communities face significant challenges during the best of times. During
a pandemic, the challenges become more acute. Equal Exchange intentionally works with farmers who have organized themselves into democratically-run cooperatives. They believe this structure helps change the balance of power long-term. They’re seeing that during the pandemic, the co-op systems have provided lifelines to farmers, helping them in ways that would not have existed were it not for the existence of the co-op.

Here are a few of the ways that these democratic farmer co-ops realized and responded to their members’ needs, in ways that their national governments or health care systems could not:
  • Cocoa co-op Acopagro in Peru used recent advanced Fair Trade premium payments from Equal Exchange to provide food, masks, and cleaning supplies to co-op members in 2 different communities where they work. 
  • Coffee co-op members from San Fernando in Peru focused on the fact that they had productive land at a time when many of their children were living or studying in the city without reliable access to healthy food; they collectively filled a truck with their homegrown produce and delivered the food to their children. 
  • Banana co-op AsoGuabo in Ecuador used Fair Trade premium funds to purchase PPE for medical workers in the community and mobilized its logistics operations to transport medicines and supplies to local hospitals. This was critical support at a time when transportation was significantly restricted as a result of curfew measures.
  • Sugar Co-op Manduvira in Paraguay donated money to local health clinics, intentionally directing part of their limited resources to other trusted organizations that in turn help their members.
Manduvira-Co-op in Paraguay

Spotlight on Alaffia

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Alaffia this week and Co-op member-owners can enjoy 20% off of their full line of Fair Trade Certified, Co-op-made body care products from 15th – 21st! Many Alaffia products are already featured in our Co-op Basics program, so this Member Deals discount will be in addition to the everyday low price on those items! It’s a great time to stock up and save! Read on to learn more about Alaffia and their efforts to alleviate poverty and empower communities in West Africa through the fair trade of shea butter, coconut, and other indigenous resources:

 

Alaffia was founded in 2004 with Fair Trade as the fundamental foundation of their organization, which is comprised of the Alaffia Village in Sokodé, Togo; the Alaffia Coconut Cooperative in Klouvi-Donnou, Togo; and the Alaffia headquarters in Olympia, Washington. Their cooperatives handcraft indigenous raw ingredients, and the Alaffia team in Olympia creates the finished products. Proceeds from the sales of these products are then returned to communities in Togo, West Africa through Alaffia’s nonprofit arm, the Alaffia Foundation, helping to alleviate poverty and advance gender equity through the Fair Trade of Indigenous resources and community empowerment projects. With every purchase, you directly support Alaffia’s social empowerment projects.

 

What impact have your Alaffia purchases had in these communities thus far?

 

 

Each year in sub-Saharan West Africa, 160,000 women die due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Over her lifetime, a woman in sub-Saharan Africa has a 1 in 16 chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth, compared to 1 in 4,000 in developed countries (UNICEF, 2015). There are several reasons for the high maternal mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa, including extreme poverty and inadequate infrastructure.  It is possible to save lives with basic health care and gender equality.

Alaffia’s Maternal Health Project has two parts; The first is a direct approach by which Alaffia provides funding for full pre-and postnatal care, including special and urgent needs, to women in rural Togo. Alaffia product sales have paid for the births of 5,597 babies in rural Togolese communities through the Togo Health Clinic system!

The Alaffia Women’s Clinic Project is the second part of their women’s health efforts. In 2007, they formed partnerships with local Togo clinics to provide information and training on all women’s health issues, including nutrition, preventing female genital mutilation, and much more. They believe that saving mothers is a necessary step in reducing poverty. When a mother dies, her surviving children’s nutrition & health suffer, and they are more likely to drop out of school, reducing their ability to rise out of poverty.

 

 

The future of African communities depends on the education and empowerment of young people. Since Alaffia founded their shea butter cooperative in 2003, they’ve provided school uniforms, books, and writing supplies to children in Togolese communities to offset the financial burden these items have on poor families. They also donate desks and install new roofs on schools to make learning a more enjoyable experience. Since 2011, Alaffia product sales have funded the construction of 16 schools throughout Togo and provided school supplies to 37,521 recipients. They now partner with retail stores to collect school supplies – if you would like to help collect pens and pencils for this project, please contact them at foundation@alaffia.com.

 

 

In rural areas of Togo, students walk up to 10 miles a day to attend school. There are no buses, and families cannot afford private transportation. As a result, school becomes very time-consuming, and most students decide to quit school in order to fulfill their family obligations. In rural areas, less than 10% of high school-aged girls and only 16% of boys attend school (UNICEF). In 2004, Alaffia began collecting and sending used bicycles to Togolese students to encourage them to stay in and complete school through their Bicycles for Education Project. Now, with over 10,817 bicycles sent and distributed, they are seeing a real impact on exam scores and retention in rural schools. 95% of Bicycles For Education recipients graduate secondary school.
Alaffia collects used bicycles in and around their communities in Washington and Oregon, with the help of their retailers, volunteers, and staff. All costs of this project – from collecting, repairing, and shipping bicycles, to customs duties, distribution costs, ongoing maintenance, and follow-up – are paid for through the sales of Alaffia products. This project brings communities in the US and Togo together. Bicycles that would otherwise be destined for the landfill are encouraging students in Togo to stay in school so they can lead their communities out of poverty. To find out how you can be involved, visit their web page or email foundation@alaffia.com

 

 

Deforestation and climate change have had a devastating impact on West African farming communities. Alaffia product sales have funded the planting of 99,964 trees by Togolese farmers to help mitigate erosion and improve food security for their families. They also conduct trainings to discourage the cutting of shea trees for firewood and charcoal to preserve this important indigenous resource for future generations. Through their Alternative Fuels Project, they investigate sustainable fuel alternatives, such as bio-gas and bio-oils, to reduce the demand for wood and charcoal.

 

 

In Togo, it is extremely difficult for visually impaired people to obtain eyeglasses. An eye exam costs as much as one month’s wage and a pair of eyeglasses can cost up to four months of wages. Alaffia collects used eyeglasses at retail locations throughout the US and employs an optometrist in Togo to correctly fit and distribute the glasses. A pair of eyeglasses is life-changing for a child struggling in school, the elderly with failing vision, and adults who have never been able to see clearly. To date, Alaffia has collected over 30,852 pairs of glasses.