What's the Deal with Fair Trade?

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You see it scribbled across bags of coffee and stamped on chocolate bars, but what exactly does “Fair Trade” mean?

Rodney North, of Equal Exchange (who sell organic coffee, tea, sugar, cocoa and chocolate bars produced by democratically run farmer co-ops in Latin America, Africa and Asia) offers us a straight-forward explanations of the ins and outs of the Fair Trade movement.

"Fair Trade is an alternative approach to the import and export of agricultural commodities that consciously addresses the chronic economic vulnerability and poverty of small-scale farmers in developing countries.

"Through the provision of affordable credit, direct exports by democratic farmer cooperatives, and guaranteed prices, participating farmers receive a higher portion of the retail price, and - very importantly - their communities are able to take more control over the economic futures. Most, but not all, manufacturers of Fair Trade foods participate in a certification system that is characterized by a small

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a black and white Fair Trade Certified™ seal that you can find on the packaging.

(photo at left: Rodney North and Sr. Luis Diaz Aylas, an organic cocoa farmer and member of the CACVRA co-op in the Rio Apurímac Valley of Peru.)

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Sara Kate is the founding editor of The Kitchn. She co-founded the site in 2005 and has since written three cookbooks. She is most recently the co-author of The Kitchn Cookbook, to be published in October 2014 by Clarkson Potter.