Fair Trade Month-Social & Personal Responsibility
This month, I find myself in a state of anticipation moving ahead in a positive direction. I can feel I’m on the verge of a fresh shot of empowerment, not only for my own personal life and my company, but in my philosophies about the world in general. Freshly back in Brooklyn after traveling throughout Peru to see organic Fair Trade growers, the timing couldn’t be more appropriate. To top it all off, October is Fair Trade Month, which gives us a little extra push to continue to educate ourselves and our communities as well as our customers on the Ger-Nis fruit & vegetable side of things.
As I have mentioned, I believe many times in my blog, I consider myself incredibly lucky to get to do the travels that I do. Meeting the people and engaging in the cultures from all over the world, is both a luxury and a learning experience. It’s no secret that life at the head of a rapidly growing company can be a lonely one– my work hours are long and my stress level high– the intrinsic perishable nature of fresh produce adds urgency to the job that is truly like no other. There are definitely times that I feel lonely and wish I had a “bigger” life outside of work, but then I travel and see the lives of others throughout the world and I am reminded of the bigger picture: not only do I have social responsibility but I have a personal one to and for myself, and it is important that I am living my life trying to make a difference in the lives that I touch.
All that being said, since I was a little girl living in Nicaragua, I’ve been amazed to see people living in poverty as some of the happiest and mentally sane people I have ever met. I am still to this day in awe of the happiness that can exude from the energies of people I meet all over the world, people who have nothing, people who work harder than anything I have ever seen, living real & true happiness. Now, of course, with poverty comes many intense and real problems. These are the problems in which I feel a real responsibility to acknowledge in both my company and my personal beliefs. I am in a position and have been in a position where I can literally participate in the movement to make a difference and it is important to me that I do not forget this responsibility.
The Fair Trade movement seems like it would just be a given in our world, as practices like fair pricing, fair labor conditions, direct trading options, transparent & democratic organizations, community development & give back programs, and environmental sustainability just seem to make sense, it just doesn’t seem to be sane that we would have to fight for these topics to be a real part of our lives both here in the USA and abroad. We battle everyday at making these relatively simple concepts become a part of our reality and a reality in the produce world. We cannot say that it is an easy process, in fact I joke a lot when people tell me how wonderful my job is as they see my traveling, that most of what I do each day is fighting for money for the growers.
Here is an example; we are in the midst of selling organic blueberries these days from Holland. There is a massive blueberry shortage and some of our growers in Holland just happen to have some, so we began to sell them. We had a customer– a wholesale broker– buy a few pallets and claim that they were no good, and that they were going to give us PAS (price after sale) which basically means we will sell them and whatever we get back minus what we want to take we will give you, this is a relatively common practice and a nightmare for growers. We said no. We refuse to let the grower suffer by not having any guidelines. The customer refused to give the shipment back and claimed that they were going to give us a “fair” price. The word fair seems obvious to me, but the sad part is that it is one of those words that in reality is extremely vague and extremely open to interpretation. Despite the fact that Fair Trade has strict regulations and certifying, the overall execution of Fair Trade still lacks the real Fairness that is truly necessary. My trip to Peru was another eye opener and reminder of this. To see and speak and eat with the people gives us a better idea of their true reality. In the world of mangoes, the market is falling and falling the organic pricing structures are barely above conventional prices and mango growers are struggling more than ever. There are many myths about why… some preach over-supply, some preach too many organics (is that possible really to have too many organics?) but the reality is that the price to the end user the person at the grocery store has continued to rise, yet the prices to the growers, continues to decrease year after year, to a point where it is almost impossible to compete selling a Fair Trade mango.
When you get the opportunity to sit and hear the stories of the growers, whether they are organic mango growers in Peru or upstate apple growers in NY, the plight of the farmer is sacred one as far as I am concerned. We are so disconnected from our food source these days that it is crucial for us to understand our own social responsibility. For me, my job and my business gives me direct access everyday to the opportunity to contribute to making a difference to the lives of many in the agricultural world and the plant. I take my own social and personal responsibility on the subject very seriously and am positive that more and more people will continue to jump on this bandwagon and help make a difference.
Learn more about FAIR TRADE and what it means and learn where you can make a difference and a positive social impact on the lives of many more than just you and your immediate surroundings!
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