A Fair Deal

October is Fair Trade Month! Throughout this month-long celebration, we’ll feature many fun store promotions on Fair Trade Certified items. Look for them in our weekly sales, weekly Member Deals, and a coupon in the Addison Independent. We also want to spread the word about the meaning behind the Fair Trade Certified label. Read on to learn about this important certification and the impact that fair trade is having around the globe:


We all want to feel good about our food choices, and buying produce from a local farmer makes it easy. But what about food that comes from afar? In some communities around the world, impoverished workers are paid low wages while their land is depleted by industrial agriculture. Luckily, the Fair Trade Certified label can help us steer clear of foods grown under such conditions.

When a product sports a Fair Trade Certified label, it means producers were paid wages that allow them to support their families and contribute to the betterment of their communities. Fair Trade farmers deal one-on-one with importers (rather than middlemen), and Fair Trade encourages democratic decision-making, transparency, gender equity, and independence.

By choosing Fair Trade, we can support the environment, too. Since Fair Trade supports small-scale farmers, it encourages biodiversity (think shade-grown coffee and cocoa, which protect wildlife habitats) and sustainable practices like organic farming. There’s no need to sacrifice quality with Fair Trade either; one emphasis of Fair Trade is supporting farmers in improving the quality of their crops.

Click here to check out the 2014-2015 Global Fair Trade Impact Report

Fair Trade Certification is not yet available for every kind of food, but it’s a growing trend; you’ll spot the label on coffees, teas, spices, chocolates, sugar, vanilla, fruits, wines and other foods. Fair Trade Certified non-food items like clothing and accessories, body care items and home and garden products are also available. There are more than 1,100 different Fair Trade products available in the United States. Fair Trade goods benefit over 1.5 million farmers and workers in 74 countries!


On your next trip to the co-op, try looking for the Fair Trade Certified versions of your favorite products—and feel great about helping to improve the lives of farmers and conserve the environment. Here’s a list of some of the brands & products to look for in our Co-op offering Fair Trade Certified products:

  • Alaffia body care
  • Alter Eco quinoa
  • Bud’s Beans coffee
  • Frontier bulk black pepper
  • Bulk organic rainbow quinoa
  • Choice Tea
  • Dean’s Beans coffee
  • Divine chocolate
  • Dr. Bronner’s body care
  • Eco Lips
  • Eco Teas
  • Endangered Species chocolate
  • Equal Exchange coffee, chocolate, bananas, & avocados
  • Farmhouse Chocolates
  • Green & Black’s chocolate
  • Lake Champlain Chocolates
  • La Riojana wine
  • Lily’s chocolate
  • Love & Tea Co. tea
  • Mount Hagen instant coffee
  • Nutiva
  • Pascha chocolate
  • Runa Tea
  • Sunspire chocolate
  • Theo chocolate
  • Tierra Farm chocolate
  • Traditional Medicinals tea
  • Vermont Tea & Trading tea
  • Wholesome sweeteners


Alaffia joins the Co+op Basics lineup!

Do you know about Co+op Basics? Through this program, we’re able to offer every day low prices on many popular grocery,  household, and body care items. From milk and bread to laundry soap and paper towels, you’ll find brands you know and trust at prices you can afford. We’re constantly working to expand the list of products featured in the Co+op Basics lineup, and we’re feeling particularly excited about the recent addition of several Alaffia products!

Alaffia lineup

You will now find Alaffia’s Everyday Shea body washes, body lotions, shampoos & conditioners, along with their Everyday Coconut line of body lotions, shampoos & conditioners sporting a new price tag –  $9.99 for a 32 oz bottle! Just look for the Co+op Basics signs:

Alaffia Co-op Basics Sign

We’re excited about this great low price, but what thrills us most is the opportunity to feature such an exceptional company in this program.

What’s so great about Alaffia?

Alaffia Logo 2

Alaffia was founded in 2004 to alleviate poverty and empower communities in West Africa through the fair trade of shea butter and other indigenous resources. Fair trade is 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 the indigenous raw ingredients, and the Alaffia team in Olympia creates the finished products.

Alaffia’s success is not simply measured by profit. Their success is measured by empowerment. Empowerment Projects are Alaffia’s mission in action, funded by the sales of Alaffia products, which are returned to the communities in Togo that are home to their cooperatives. Alaffia invests in these communities because they feel a moral responsibility and want to ensure that African resources are empowering African communities. The goal is to alleviate poverty and encourage gender equality. Their Empowerment Projects include several Education-Based Projects, Maternal Health, FGM (female genital mutilation) Eradication, Eyeglass Accessibility, and Reforestation. All of Alaffia’s projects empower Togolese communities to provide their skills and knowledge to the rest of the world and rise out of poverty. In short, when you buy Alaffia projects, you make a difference. Read on to learn about the incredible impacts Alaffia’s initiatives are having in these communities :

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Maternal Health & Equality –

Each year in West Africa, 160,000 women die due to complications resulting from pregnancy and childbirth.  This figure is significantly higher than the mortality rate for childbearing women in European countries. Alaffia launched a Maternal Health Project, which follows the World Health Organization’s recommendations for reducing maternal mortality rates both directly, through pre- and post-delivery care, and indirectly, through the Alaffia Women’s Clinic project, which provides training & information on topics ranging from nutrition to genital mutilation practices.  To date, there have been 4,142 births funded through their programs. To read more about these projects, click here.


School Projects – 

The future of African communities depends on the education and empowerment of young people. Since 2003, Alaffia has 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 ten schools throughout Togo and provided school supplies to 23,700 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 Alaffia’s office at 1-800-664-8005.

Bicycles for Education – 

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. Now, with over 7,100 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.


Reforestation Projects – 

Deforestation and climate change have had a devastating impact on West African farming communities. Alaffia product sales have funded the planting of 53,125 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.


FGM Eradication Project – 

As part of their Maternal Health Initiatives, Alaffia aims to educate women about the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), or excision. FGM includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons and is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. The procedure can result in severe bleeding, infections, life-threatening complications in childbirth, and increased risk of newborn deaths. (World Health Organization). Abidé Awesso, Alaffia’s Maternal Health & FGM Eradication Coordinator in the Bassar region of Togo, has been working on this initiative with Alaffia since 2012. Hodalo Katakouna was one of Abidé’s first patients and one of the first women to be supported as part of our Maternal Health and FGM Eradication project. Click here to read her story.


Eyeglass Project – 

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 retailer 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 and distributed over 14,200 pairs of glasses.


Alaffia Empowerment Stats


A Visit From La Riojana Co-op

There are over 2.5 million cooperatives around the globe, including food co-ops, agricultural co-ops, housing cooperatives, artists’ co-ops, credit unions, and even cooperative sports teams! Despite our diversity, we are all unified by the Seven Cooperative Principles, which are a set of ideals that form the basis for how cooperatives around the world operate.

We recently had the opportunity to exercise Cooperative Principle #6 – cooperation among cooperatives, when we were visited by Marcos Carol and his associate, Jose, who traveled all the way from Argentina to meet with us as part of their tour of co-ops in the United States. Marcos and Jose are a part of one of Argentina’s largest cooperatives – La Riojana. La Riojana is a farmer-owned co-op in northwest Argentina that has over 500 members, most of whom are small-scale grape farmers with less than seven acres of vineyards. Many of these farmers come from families that have been part of the cooperative since its beginning in 1940, when when wine growers from Italy first immigrated to the area of La Rioja in northwest Argentina and decided to come together to make wine.


Fair Trade

La Riojana was the first Argentine winery to become fair trade certified in 2006 and has grown to be the largest fair trade wine producer in the world. Since 2006 their co-op has generated approximately $15 million Argentine pesos of support to their members, workers, their families and their local communities. The cooperative guarantees the purchase of grapes at fair prices, resources for transportation of grapes from the vineyard to the winery, access to credit and an emergency fund, profit distribution, free technical assistance, economies of scale for the purchase of diesel and other inputs, collective frost insurance and a policy of one member, one vote regardless of their production size. The co-op reinvests any remaining profits into community projects and infrastructure improvements for the farmers.

One of the most important projects was to establish a fresh running water facility, including a 525 ft deep well, for members and workers living in the village of Tilimuqui who had to endure desperate summers, with temperatures as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit, without a regular water supply. The fair trade premium raised by sales of La Riojana’s wines has also enabled them to build a new secondary school, giving the children of their workers and members access to a free technical secondary education, as well as the children living in the wider local community.


Sustainability & Organic Production

La Riojana became certified as an organic producer in 2000 and has grown to become one of the country’s largest producers of organic wine. They currently have over 850 acres certified for organic production and organic wines make up approximately 12% of total production, though their organic production is set to increase significantly over the coming years as they convert their members’ vineyards to organic production. Their goal is to double organic production by 2017, and to be 100% organic certified by 2025. The 100% organic certification will be largely supported by a new fair trade project, which will fund organic certification of 100% of their small-scale producers, at no cost to them.This action will not only have a great impact on the environment, but also on a social and economic level, which in turn will benefit each family of producers and the community in which they live.

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La Riojana is committed to working with their members in a way that is not only sustainable to their way of life, but also the health and future of the land, the environment and the soils from which they make their wine. They were one of the first Argentine wineries to introduce a carbon neutral program for their entire wine-making process from grape to bottle.

Co-op to Co-op

A little over a year ago, National Co-op Grocers (NCG), began working with La Riojana to establish a direct co-op to co-op supply chain, which enables us to offer high-quality wine at a great price and still pay a fair trade premium to the winery and the grape growers. In true cooperative fashion, it’s a partnership that benefits us all:

  • We are able to offer the wines at a great price thanks to the co-op to co-op partnership, which allows us to work more directly with the producers, reducing costs by as much as 30%.
  • Although La Riojana Winery sells a lot of its wine in Europe, it faced significant obstacles breaking into the US market. The co-op to co-op partnership connected La Riojana with co-ops across the United States and is now available in more than 50 co-ops.
  • A one-dollar per case fair trade premium is included in the wine’s price to help fund La Riojana’s community programs. So when you purchase La Riojana wine, you not only get a great product at a great price, you also know your purchase goes to support a small producer co-op making a big difference.

We thoroughly enjoyed the visit from Marcos and Jose! It was fascinating to learn more about their co-op and the admirable work they are doing to support their farmers and communities in Argentina. We sent them off with 40th Anniversary Middlebury Co-op t-shirts, and were delighted a few days later to see this video clip on their Facebook page showing Jose in his MNFC t-shirt playing the piano at the Davis Co-op in California!




Spotlight on Tierra Farm

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Tierra Farm this week to highlight the socially and environmentally responsible practices of this employee-owned business. They provide an array of healthy products to our bulk department that are certified organic, gluten free, kosher, and gmo-free, all of which are produced in small batches in their solar-powered facility in nearby Valatie, NY. They’re featured in our Member Deals program this week, so member-owners can enjoy 20% off their delicious fair-trade coffee, dried fruits, nuts, nut butters, and other healthy snacks! Read on to learn more about this fantastic small business and their commitment to responsible practices throughout the supply chain:


Tierra Farm is a Certified Organic manufacturer and distributor of nuts, dried fruits, and coffee located 20 miles south of Albany, New York. Our customers consist mainly of cooperatives and independently owned grocery stores that value working with an employee-owned, environmentally conscious company that manufactures its own products.

Tierra Farm started as a diversified organic vegetable farm in the Finger Lakes region of New York. The organic nuts & dried fruit portion of the business started in 1999, as a way to generate income in the slower winter months. That portion of the business continued to thrive into what it has become today and we still maintain our original farm.

One of our core values has been to cultivate strong relationships with the best organic farmers in the world. Every year we purchase an increasing amount of our nuts, seeds and dried fruit directly from the farms, some of which we have worked with for over a decade. Our level of knowledge and communication with our farmers allows us to preserve our organic integrity and ensure fair business practices throughout the supply chain.

We offer our customers exceptional value through unbeatable quality at prices that are fair both to the consumer and to the farmer. Our products are made without preservatives, added oils or refined sugars, in our peanut-free facility. We manufacture the products we sell: we dry roast and flavor nuts and seeds, blend trail mixes, grind butter, cover nuts and fruits in fair-trade chocolate, and roast fair trade coffee. Everything is made in small, hand-crafted batches for freshness.

Tierra Farm handles only Certified Organic products which are grown without synthetic pesticides, genetically modified organisms, or chemical fertilizers. This helps sustain biodiversity, conserves fresh water, and enhances the soil. We generate over 70% of our electricity from solar panels and recycle over 60% of our waste. Our boxes are made from recycled cardboard and our deli cup containers are made from over 50% recycled material – both are recyclable after use. We’re continuously looking for better ways to protect the planet.

We also value the importance of investing in our staff. We have an in-house gym, an in-house chef who cooks daily organic, gluten-free meals for our staff – often using fresh produce directly from our farm, a staff masseuse who visits weekly, and we offer many employee health initiatives such as a smoking cessation program that allows our staff to be 100% tobacco-free.

We recently opened a retail store at our headquarters in Valatie, NY, where local customers are able to purchase all of our (almost 200) products. Also, if you’re in the Albany area, please stop into one of our Tierra Coffee Roasters locations for a great cup of coffee and some homemade baked goods.

We also invite you to take a virtual tour of our farm!