Vanilla pods come from orchid plants native to Central America and now cultivated across the world. Madagascar produces the majority of the world's vanilla and the rest is grown in Indonesia, French Polynesia, Mexico, the Comoros Islands, Tonga, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, and India. Vanilla is one of the most labor-intensive crops in the world. A vine may take up to three years to bloom and then it must be painstakingly hand-pollinated. Beans may develop on the vine for up to nine months, followed by additional curing time.
Fair Trade guarantees that farmers receive a competitive price and helps stabilize their businesses and communities. Currently, there is only one consumer-level supplier of Fair Trade Certified vanilla beans and extract in the United States, Frontier Natural Products Co-op. Frontier sources its vanilla from small family farms outside Bangalore, India. Workers are paid above average rates and the farms use sustainable practices such as shade growing and erosion prevention.
• Frontier Natural Products Co-op: Bourbon and Tahitian vanilla beans, extract, flavor, and powder
Fair Trade Certified vanilla is also used by several commercial food producers, including Ben & Jerry's. For a complete list, see:
• TransFair USA Licensed Partners: Vanilla and Spices – Brands
(Images: fairtrade media/Hartmut Fiebig)