May 18, 2010
Should Churches Buy Fair-Trade Coffee?
Responses to a Your Church article on fair trade
Last week, we published "Weighing Fair-Trade Coffee," on YourChurch.net, the home website for Your Church magazine. We became more interested in this topic several months ago, after Kevin Miller connected with Troy Jackson, pastor of University Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. University Christian partners with a Guatemalan village called Santa Maria de Jesus in a direct-trade relationship. That relationship produces La Armonia Hermosa (The Beautiful Harmony), a coffee awaiting fair-trade certification, which the church sells.
In my days as a business reporter and editor, I often witnessed the volatile debates that occur from conversations pertaining to certification and food. In the early 2000s, there were hotly contested discussions among natural foods circles about "organic" certification (many of those discussions still remain). I knew the same held true for the "fair trade" label, as this Wikipedia entry will attest. I anticipated we'd receive a variety of responses after we published the fair-trade coffee article, even though the purpose of the Your Church piece wasn't to take a position on the topic. Rather, it was written to generally define the topic and give some basic parameters for church leaders to understand as they shop coffee options.
Nevertheless, the responses began to arrive. I've posted three of them below. In the meantime, what better place to continue the conversation than here? Should churches buy fair-trade coffee?
From David Kryder, a reader from Green Valley, Arizona:
"Oh, Matt! Please!
Haven't you matured beyond believing "fair trade" products are more than fancy marketing?
For some interesting commentary on "Fair Trade" Coffee see http://www.newscientist.com/blog/environment/2007/03/freds-footprint-how-fair-is-fair-trade.html but especially a comment there by "Pete on March 30 2007 at 8:56 AM" , but many others as well.
Overall your newsletters seem very helpful, but this one....?? Wow! Please no more than church propaganda.
Have a wonderful day - - and drink more coffee - - without expecting "fair trade" to solve the problem.
Best regards, David"
From John Krause, another reader:
"Dear Editor, I just [read] the the article about Free Trade Coffee. Last week I ran into a friend who is a bean roaster for the last 7 years. He provides wholesale pricing to all churches no matter how much coffee they purchase and the coffee is outstanding. What he does may provide a way to take the bean to roast as the author of the article suggests. I wanted to pass the Christian roasters information along to the author but could not find a way to contact him on your site.
The link below (http://abeantogo.com/) may be of interest to the author or others who are looking for high quality coffee from a Christian source.
God Bless you, John Krause"
And one more from another reader:
"I appreciate the sentiment behind fair trade coffee, but when I see
Starbucks offering Fair Trade coffee, I wonder if the Fair Trade label
means anything other than a clever way to market to people who have a
It sorta feels like Nike selling Fair Trade shoes. Not sure I trust
them not to just slap the label on the same old product line."