The on-line coffee shop is called Coffee Kids. An entire list of the projects meeting the other needs of coffee growers can be found on the project page of their website.
We learned of the fair trade concern by coming across an interview with Coffee Kids director Carolyn Fairman. In a story for newspaper the The Santa Fe Reporter, writer Charlotte Jusinski talks to Fairman about the nature of the coffee business.
Coffee farmers only earn 3 to 4 cents per pound. Why so little?
Coffee is one of those commodities that, even though it’s the second highest-traded legal commodity after oil, coffee farmers are about the only people who don’t get to say what the price is for their coffee. It’s a world-market price. The coffee cherry will rot in 24 to 36 hours if it’s not processed, so it’s a take-it-or-leave-it price.
So what does the world market mean for coffee?
Here’s an example—it depends largely upon what happens in Brazil. If Brazil has a frost or any kind of trauma to their coffee crop, the prices can go up, and the rest of the world’s farmers are happy. If not, there’s a glut of coffee, and the farmers don’t know what else to do besides grow more coffee to try and make more money. But that doesn’t really solve anything. That’s why Coffee Kids is about alternatives to coffee so that farmers can continue to harvest their coffee, even when prices are low. Because coffee farming is what they do—it’s their culture; it’s their passion.
What is it about coffee that is so unsustainable?
Coffee is harvested three to five months out of the year. Farmers are supposed to make enough money in those three to five months to feed themselves for a year, but they barely make enough to feed themselves through the harvest. So when Coffee Kids can provide alternative projects like microcredit [for funding gardens or small non-coffee businesses], people who haven’t had access to the local economy are contributing when there is no money from coffee. People like to talk about sustainable coffee, but there is no such thing as sustainable coffee. It’s sustainable communities.
What’s it like to visit the farmers?
They often live in wooden shacks. They give you the one chair that they have in the house to sit in. And I learn so much from the coffee farmers when I visit. One woman, a member of a microcredit group in Veracruz, Mexico, in a very rural area, said to me, ‘You know, some days we have meat, and some days we don’t. We’re doing pretty good.’ And I still get teary right now saying it. Why is that OK? You really get a perspective on what poverty is.