When Ken was in his MBA program, he had to do an in-depth economic project on a industry of his choice. He looked no further than our kitchen for inspiration: the coffee industry. Coffee is the second most highly traded commodity in the world, second only to oil. The United States is the world’s largest consumer, drinking 1/5 of the world’s coffee. Unfortunately, prices that are paid to the local coffee farmer are often not a livable wage, and in some cases, do not even cover the costs of production. It sounds an awful lot like slavery, doesn’t it? All so I can have a cup of coffee in the morning.
If farmers aren’t paid a livable wage, their children are more likely to receive a poor education — if they get an education at all, because they are required to work in the fields. The health of the family is at increased risk. The cycle of poverty cannot be broken.
While I pride myself on being frugal, God began to convict me of stealing profits from farmers in third world countries. While I like to save a dollar as much as the next person, I was saving money at the expense of those who needed the money much more desperately than I did. My purchasing habits perpetuated the cycle of poverty. My spending habits were leading to more orphans in the world.
In 2008, Ken and I decided that we needed to be more socially conscious with our purchases, starting with coffee. We decided to buy Fair Trade coffee, which is purchased with as few intermediaries as possible, to keep profits in the pockets of the farmer and in the farmer’s community. The Fair Trade label ensures that farmers are paid a local competitive wage, that the farmers use environmentally sustainable practices, and there is a required investment in community development. Schools are built. Clinics are established. Families stay together. And we get coffee that is second to none.
The most surprising thing about Fair Trade coffee is that it typically costs NO MORE than comparable quality commercial coffee. The bags sit next to other bags of coffee, but bear this label:
No, you won’t find Fair Trade coffee in the large bargain-priced cannisters, but you will find it if you look for it. Most grocery stores now carry at least one Fair Trade line of coffee.
Our support fair treatment of coffee farmers around the world is one reason why we’ve chosen to raise money for our adoption through Just Love Coffee. Their organization roasts coffee to be sold for the purpose of supporting an Ethiopian orphanage. They also have a wide variety of fair trade coffee. Plus we receive $5 per bag to support our adoption.
So each bag purchased helps to support:
- farmers, so they can earn a fair wage in order to support their families,
- an Ethiopian orphange,
- and us!
Who knew one bag of coffee could make a difference in the lives of so many?
Will your next cup of coffee make a difference? One way or another, I believe it will.
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