In my role as your General Manager, I am working to help build the community vision for a grocery store that delivers amazing products in a manner that elevates human dignity across our supply chain. While we are very committed to local agriculture and small businesses, Chicago Market will also be networked with a global food system. Crops such as coffee, tea, bananas, avocados, spices, vanilla, cacao, and more will be featured in our business (and are clearly important to many of our Owners!). When we engage supply chains further afield, our Purchasing Values demand that, beyond the high-quality standards we prize, we are supporting supply from environmentally and socially responsible sources.
(Hint: Dan's the one rocking the stylish hat!)
I serve as the President and Chair of Fairtrade America, the national fairtrade organization in our country that coordinates with producers, marketing organizations, and other nations’ fairtrade organizations through Fairtrade International. We provide respected certifications and work to create fair conditions for producers and sustainable supply. Everything from supporting economic advantages for farmers, to our ban on child and forced labor, to our efforts regarding global climate, are in strong alignment with the values held by Chicago Market.
Recently, I spent time in Kenya to act as the voting delegate for the US in the Fairtrade International General Assembly. It was a whirlwind of meetings, site visits, networking, individual and organizational development, and robust debate. I met with the leadership of Fairtrade Africa at their headquarters and participated in a climate action day with African cooperative producers.
(Dan (right) with Mr. Koume N'dri Benjamin Francklin, (center)
Chair Fairtrade Africa/cocoa producer in Cote d'Ivoire,
and Miguel Angel Munguia, (left) Vice-Chair of Fairtrade
International/head of a beekeeping co-op in Mexico.)
By the end of the international gathering, we passed some important measures - including approving a new, robust toolset with funding for producer networks (which represent millions of cooperative farmers) to continue to improve quality and create efficiencies while working on the sustainability of production driven by small-scale farmers. All of that activity is an effort to empower smallholder farmers, which ultimately benefits all of us. We work to advocate for policies and practices that build gender equity and economic stability and protect habitats. Our work helps stabilize incomes and ensure decent working conditions. While imperfect, fairtrade systems are producing real results for real families.
I had the honor to visit several farmers in rural Kenya and get to know some cooperative organizations there. When I asked if our work was making a difference, I was taken to see a water project that has brought reliable fresh, clean water to hundreds of families and farms. It was the result of the farmers’ democratically decided use of monies generated by fairtrade systems. The water system was sophisticated, using gravity to carry water from a relatively faraway source to the mountain people growing tea and other fairtrade crops. Community projects like that water system are impressive, but the significance of Fairtrade is really in how it helps change systematic injustices and inequities.
One farmer told me the real reason we must keep working is that,
without fairtrade as an option, the farmers are left at the mercy
of those who have no mercy for them.
The fact is that farmers that are growing our food are doing challenging, technically complex work. Add in the rigor of strong ecological accountability and a commitment to honor and treat fairly all stakeholders and you have farmers who have earned the right to be fairly treated and compensated. One look at our Co-op’s values and it is easy to understand why Chicago Market will always be a strong ally of fairtrade systems. In that spirit, I will continue to do the necessary work with people globally and especially right here in Chicago with you fellow Owners.
I was invited by a farmer to plant an avocado tree on his family farm, high up in the mountains hours outside of Nairobi. I dug into the rich, red-brown soil and delicately placed the tree, overlooking a picturesque valley. Later, I was also asked to plant a candlenut tree right by the entrance to Gatunguru tea cooperative facility (shown here). The trees are monuments to our work together to improve the lives of farmers in the global south, and it was quite an honor. Farmers welcomed me as a newly minted Kenyan farmer and we celebrated with a traditional meal and some music. I have never been amongst more gracious or welcoming people. I am hopeful we can manage to work to create a trading relationship that benefits these sustainable farms and our Owners in Chicago, and I am working with contacts in Africa to see what is possible. Stay tuned!