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OCTOBER 7, 2007  

Fair trade, coffee, and birds

One of the best films in the Wild & Scenic festival we went to last night was Birdsong & Coffee: A Wake Up Call. It was especially interesting since both Joanne & I drink a lot of coffee. We're a bit ahead of the film in that we already buy Fair Coffee grower with babyTrade coffee from Equal Exchange, but I never understood this clearly why Fair Trade is important.

The biggest reason is shown here: the people. Under the conventional system of trading coffee as a commodity, coffee growers—like the one you see here from the movie—make a few cents for a pound of coffee that sells at retail for $8-10. When they participate in one of the many Fair Trade organizations they make much more for their labor, since less goes to the "middlemen" in the conventional system.

Here's the difference:

Diagram showing the grower-to-consumer chain for coffee

The movie makes it all very personal, using interview with growers, retailers, and students involved in getting their college food service to switch to Fair Trade coffee.

There's a parallel concern involving migratory birds that need the shade of traditional coffee plantations for habitat, hence the "birdsong" in the film's title. As the changing economic conditions drove farmers to cut the trees for more intensive planting methods the birds suffered. Thus, "shade-grown" Fair Trade coffee is best of all.

If you drink coffee, you ought to see this movie before buying your next cup.

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