“What’s in your cup” – Radio interview MetroFarm & Dean’s Beans
January 28, 2008
I got an email on Friday from Alison at Sound Horticulture who is a freelance consultant in the agriculture industry. She gave me a link to a website doing a live radio show on coffee titled “WHAT’S IN YOUR CUP”.
I then sent an email to METROFARM commenting how I feel Fair Trade is not Fair and of course they quickly replied asking me to call in- which I did from GUATEMALA.
With out going into lengthy monologue about why I think Fair Trade is often good, sometimes bad, but rarely ideal or great I’ll spare you listening through an hour of coffee talk and share that the subject was never broached there either. I thought it prudent to be careful with my words NOT because the featured guest owns and operates a 100% Fair Trade coffee company, but because I’m not good at live interviews =)
However I did learn much from Dean Cycon who is both a wealth of information and owner of Dean’s Beans which is also 100% Organic. As a proprietor of a business that operates exclusively on Fair Trade coffees he has done much homework and gone the extra mile in connecting and learning about the people that produce his coffees rather than just purchasing certifications for the marketing power that they do in fact have. If everyone purchasing Fair Trade coffee made half the effort Dean does to connect with origin, Fair Trade would in my opinion be much more in line with the spirit of Fair Trade. I think that agencies that certify Fair Trade products do a fantastic job at meeting their goals and mission statement. However I question how sustainable is Fair Trade?
Bottom line accountability is expensive and I believe it is only quality that is sustainable in the long run. If the only value in a product is that it is guaranteeing a fair wage to people at origin with no quality criteria, there is no incentive for excellence, rather reward for mediocracy. It is concerning to me that so many in agriculture who produce what is the second largest commodity in the world are producing something that intrinsically is increasingly worth less BECAUSE of charity. Again, the issue of sustainability in FT is not really discussed, but Dean does a wonderful job educating listeners about many of the real social concerns related to coffee growers, as well as sharing about some excellent programs that help address these problems.