The Billings Outpost

In search of fair trade

By JANE WHITE - The Billings Outpost

“Fair trade farmers get a higher price for shade-grown coffee,” said Candace Forette, executive director of Global Village Billings, a retail store that seeks to end unfair business practices such as exploitation of children, dangerous workplaces and subterranean wages.

She added, “Typically, it is not market forces that build community and feed families ... [Fair Trade] seeks to build a peaceful world through economic and social justice.”

She explained in an interview how two principles of fair trade - responsible stewardship of the environment and earning a wage reflective of the work done - encourage coffee farmers to grow their plants in a way that helps the environment.

“Organic shade-grown coffee is grown slowly ... there is only one harvest of coffee beans per season,” Ms. Forette said. “Sun-grown [coffee], on the other hand, those coffee plants produce many harvests per year, so more pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are needed to get the plants to produce.”

Such practices are said to destroy the environment and deprive species in the canopy of the jungle of a nurturing environment, added Ms. Forette. “When the coffee plants are grown in the canopy, that leaves habitat for birds and animals and they are able to forage for fruits and nuts.”

A Roundup resident, Wilbur Wood, said he once picked coffee beans in a village in Mexico, at a place where he was staying.

“They [coffee plants] hung over the roof of Don Remihio’s casa, and I climbed onto the roof to pick them, under the Don’s direction,” he said. [The coffee plants] They grew mostly in shade. They were not a monoculture. Coffee trees grew all around the town. That’s the way to do things.”

Mr. Wood said he is all for shade-grown and fair trade coffee.

“Organic, too. That’s all I buy,” he said.

Ms. Forette also said that part of the idea of Fair Trade is building long-term business relationships so that predictability in the business cycle would enable farmers to adapt to a year of steady sales in coffee or sugar, for example, instead of a “when it rains, it pours” ideology. She said there are also Fair Trade organizations devoted to other industries, like sugar.

In addition to conserving the environment, some of the nine principles of Fair Trade include earning a fair wage, providing safe and dignified workplaces, avoiding the exploitation of children, creating accountable practices, creating opportunities for marginalized workers, developing transparent and accountable relationships, building capacity and promoting fair trade.

A portion of the money earned by her shop from the artisan-made items the store sells is donated to deserving artists and farmers participating in Fair Trade businesses worldwide. In the store alone on Third Avenue North, the products available represent about 40 countries all over the world.

Ms. Forette’s organization, Global Village Billings, helps further these efforts by raising funds: a key fundraiser takes place at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, May 4, in the atrium of the Valley Federal Credit Union. Tickets, for $30, are available at 259-3024.

Guests will have no-host beer and wine, tapas and a silent auction of iron sculptures and jewelry made by Haitian artists. Money raised from the fundraiser, silent auction and donations received defray expenses for struggling artisans in varied cultural communities everywhere in the 40 countries representative of Ms. Forette’s welcoming store. One of the principles of Fair Trade espoused by Forette is respecting cultural identity. Check out www.fairtradefederation.org for more information.

Ms. Forette has an army of volunteers who staff the shop when she is out fundraising and promoting Fair Trade business principles in Billings.

One of these volunteers is Jan Hawk, originally from Moscow, Idaho, but who now claims Billings as her home of 20 years.

She said she is part of a great crew of volunteers whom Forette recruits through word-of-mouth, intern programs and various church organizations.

“We have had many great interns from Rocky Mountain College and MSU Billings and other schools in the area,” she said.

The store started selling Fair Trade items 26 years ago and is a strictly local Billings organization not affiliated with other chapters, the executive director said.

For more information, visit Global Village, Nonprofit Fair Trade store, 2720 Third Ave. N., Billings, MT 59101, call 259-3024, or check out www.globalvillagefair.org.  

According to a printout on recycled paper, “When customers purchase goods from our store, they become partners with producers in the Fair Trade process.”

Prominently painted on the wall is, “When you buy something at Global Village, it’s a gift for the person who receives it and a gift to the person who made it.” The quotation is attributed to Bebe Fitzgerald, 1924, a member of the first board of directors.

Correction - The May 2 Outpost inaccurately reported several points about Global Village, a nonprofit organization. Although Candace Forette is the executive director in Billings, she manages but does not own the retail store.

Global Village does not donate money to artisans after their sales. Paid up front, the artisans receive money reflecting the work they do - a living wage. Money earned from the sale of fairly traded goods in Billings are used to purchase more goods and to pay the costs of operating the store front.

Ms. Forette works with volunteers who staff the store, and all of them, when invited, deliver presentations to local organizations advocating Fair Trade and educating people about the mission of the nonprofit Global Village.

For more information, check out globalvillagebillings.org.

Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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