Viroqua Food Co+op Blog

Equal Exchange: A P6 Cooperative Trade Co-founder

Posted by Charlene Elderkin on Sat, Aug 02, 2014 @ 09:25 AM

EqualExchangeLogoGreetings from Equal Exchange and Happy P6 Month to all P6 Store members and staff!  We’re so proud of everyone’s commitment to honoring the 6th Cooperative Principle:  Cooperation Amongst Cooperatives… and what better way to celebrate than by designating August, P6 Month!

In honor of this celebration, the worker owners at Equal Exchange, one of P6 Cooperative Trade’s co-founders, would like to share with you some of what’s new at our cooperative.

New products that make us proud

AVOCADOS:  The Michoacan province of Mexico is home to the highest quality avocados na-ture can produce. It is also home to drug cartels, violence, corruption, extortion and armed vigi-lante groups. Moreover, the dramatic increase in avocado exports to the US is not necessarily empowering small farmers in Michoacan, who have been growing Hass avocados for the last 50 years. So when PRAGOR, a cooperative of 20 small avocado producers approached us to begin a direct relationship, we understood that the need for Authentic Fair Trade in this sector was tremendous.  By September of last year, we had their avocados in the marketplace and are very proud to offer them to all of you and to grow this exciting new partnership:  PRAGOR's strength and perseverance is a lesson for anyone committed to working for change in the world.

DRIED FRUITS & NUTS:  Do you know where your dried fruits and nuts come from?  Do you know who grows them and how?  Can you name one producer group supplying the nuts and dried fruits in your trail mix?  Equal Exchange wants to change the way we think about these foods, as well as the conditions under which these farmers live and work.  For this reason, we’ve created our newest category, FAIR FOODS.  Our goal is to revolutionize everything about our relationships to these products.  Small nut and fruit farmers today are some of the most anonymous in our co-ops and many of their organizations are small and somewhat precarious.  Through our trade model, we aim to support our pineapple, apricot, mango, raisin, cashew and almond producer partners to gain fairer prices, better living conditions, and build stronger organ-izations and communities.  Now that we’ve launched Fair Foods, we won’t stop until we’ve shown a light on small nut and dried fruit producers and have transformed the way that shoppers think about these products.

New ways we are promoting our Authentic Fair Trade model

THE HISTORY OF AUTHENTIC FAIR TRADE COMIC BOOK is now available and can be or-dered or downloaded from our website.  Through this comic book, we attempt to present the ori-gins of the Fair Trade movement, its betrayal by the Fair Trade certifiers, and ways we can work together to fight for true structural change in the food industry and systems of trade.  We hope you enjoy reading the story, learn more about our work, and are inspired to join with us to create real change.

THE SMALL PRODUCER SYMBOL (SPP, for its Spanish acronym): Equal Exchange is proud to launch our first 8 blends of SPP coffees!  Tired of the betrayal of small farmers by the Fair Trade certifiers and frustrated by their lack of voice in the system, Latin American small farmer organizations decide to create their own Fair Trade certification system.  Ten years in the mak-ing, this farmer-owned, farmer-led certification system is the first to be created and implemented by the very farmers for whom Fair Trade was designed to support.  Equal Exchange has been working with the SPP since its inception and last October we were able to launch our first eight blends of bulk coffee bought under SPP conditions. Look for them in your bulk coffee section!

New Partnerships to expand our vision

We all know how challenging it can be to support small farmers, cooperatives, and Authentic Fair Trade in a world where the current flows in favor of corporations, big money, and industrial agriculture.  Equal Exchange believes that we must support these organizations and move-ments in any and every way possible.  

Last year, we seized an opportunity to strengthen a co-operative in the UK that was facing fi-nancial difficulties.   While always having been legally separate, Equal Exchange UK has shared our name, our mission, and our approach since both organizations were founded in the mid 1980s.  We decided to “integrate” with EEUK, thereby allowing us to support a like-minded co-operative selling small farmer products in Europe.  We are all excited about joining with our “overseas cousins” and about the opportunities this presents for working on future projects to-gether.

Similarly, we are now partnering with La Siembra, a worker-owned co-operative in Canada with whom we initially worked to launch our first chocolate bars and cocoa products in the U.S.  La Siembra has also seen some hard times and Equal Exchange will be working to support them and to help ensure the viability of another like-minded, mission-driven co-operative.  We are very excited to see what potential exists through this newly rejuvenated partnership.

Phyllis Robinson,

Education & Campaigns Manager, Equal Exchange

Tags: P6 Producers, P6, Fair Trade