Lent Project Day 9: Fairtrade Fortnight

Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com

We’re just about half way through Fairtrade Fortnight (who else loves calling to two week periods Fortnights? So much more refined!) Anyway, Fairtrade Fortnight is a campaign from the Fairtrade Foundation in the UK that brings awareness to food scarcity and the campaign to give farmers (especially exploited farmers) a fair wage, decent working conditions, and good environmental protections and practises. It can also cover things like not employing child workers.

I have a hierarchy of ethical shopping and sustainable sourcing that I try to adhere to: Local (local can have different meanings at different times, but as local as possible, as often as possible). Includes farmgate, farmers markets, my gentleman associate’s cousins who provide our beef and pork (and sometimes eggs). Organic – includes my own garden, but also I’d prefer to not have pesticides as much as possible, thanks. Fairtrade – Farmers and their workers should have living wages. They should not have to pollute their water supplies with unsustainable practises, and they should not need to exploit child labourers to make ends meet.

I was trying to noodle though a thought, so I asked my gentleman associate what products he thought of when I said “Fair Trade”. And then the thought progression took a hard left turn. He said dairy and canola. Wait, what? He said that fair trade, to him, was about farmers that were exploited because the government controls where and with whom you can trade, and fixes prices on the goods you trade. I never thought about that. Exploitation is exploitation, no matter what country it happens in. I think of tropical crops like coffee, bananas, sugar, and chocolate/cocoa from developing countries; countries that have NGOs helping to facilitate the trade partnerships between farmer/producers and traders or consumers. He was thinking more locally.

I thought I was going to plant a seed about Easter chocolate, since most of the world’s chocolate is produced in places where there’s child labour, and unfortunate exploitation of natural resources. When we get a big basketful of eggs that are provided at the expense of someone else’s child, or the health of their neighbourhood, or their access to clean water, it’s not nearly as sweet. So maybe we consider some more ethical choices this year?

But now, it’s about learning more about where all your food comes from. Circling back to the conversation with my gentleman associate. I asked him what he thought consumers could do to make the situation better, because voting with your dollars is a decent way to help facilitate change. Some thoughts:

  • Make sure that your dairy, and the dairy used for milk products is Canadian. If someting is packaged in Canada, but the source Milk comes from Wisconsin (nothing against Wisconsin), you’re not helping the Canadian Dairy industry as much as you think. Srsly, look for the Dairy Farmers of Canada Quality Milk logo.
  • Source your food as close to home as you can. I go to Elmira to get my maple syrup from a Mennonite farmer. I get honey and bee’s wax from a local apiary. I get my flour from 1847 Stone Milling, which is grown and milled within about half an hour of the Casa di Swears. I do a BacoHunt randomly (as needed) with my gentleman associate or my dad to a bunch of wineries in the Golden Horseshoe to get my favourite vintages. There are lots of choices for cider, like our favourite Shiny Apple cider, or the happy surprise of the Niagara College Teaching winery, that has a very respectable Cherry Cider. Our visit to Niagara College also coincided with their fall Mum sale, where the horticultural students were selling what they had grown. We got some herbs, we got some chrysanthemums. Win-win.

I mean, sure, there aren’t any coffee growers or olive orchards or native vanilla orchid colonies or saltwater fish farms nearby, so for those things, I have to make different choices to shop ethically. And think about local businesses beyond food, too. We spent part of our morning at Phidon Pens in Galt (and purchased a fountain pen converter, another pen, ink, and a notebook… because I can only go in a notebook store so many times before I NEEEED a notebook). Mano stocks cards and paper stock made by local artists in addition to things she imports, and I’m happy to support her supporting them. I regularly make my gentleman associate pick up an order from Buck Naked Soap Company. And consider where your clothes come from – maybe don’t choose Faster Fashion (read: Disposable clothes of questionable quality) if you can avoid it. That’s a big one. I put a few companies on my personal Shitlist because their manufacturing plants in Bangladesh and Guatemala had fires, but the companies still didn’t want to put proper safety protocols in play because it would raise their manufacturing dollars. That’s not OK at all. But I also like my yogapants, so I needed (and continue) to do some research into ethical supply chain and manufacturing – be careful about greenwashing language.

During Lent, may I remember the value of my purchasing power to improve the lives of others. This Lent, may the sweetness in my life be the result of conscious actions.

Extra Credit:

Buying Local vs. Fair Trade (Infographic)

I’ve created landing pages for the last 2 years of Lent Project. You can access them from the Reflections Projects option in the menu bar. Happy reading, friends!

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