Rueben G. (in Food Services at
the Kootenay Co-op)
Why Organic Farming Practices and Fair Trade Are
Important to Me and the Cocoa Industry
I have always taken an interest in farming. Maybe due to my ancestors, homesteaders in Alberta; or from working for so many years in the food industry. Food, especially organically grown, has always held a special place in my heart.
Born in Nelson B.C. and raised in a family where there was always food on the table. Fortunate enough to have access to clean water and the means to buy and grow organic produce. Maintaining my health was so easily taken for granted.
Gratitude I would learn as a young adult. Realizing that most of the world hungered for the life I was living in Canada. As I travelled, I was always fascinated by the local food I would encounter. Strangely shaped fruits, vegetables alien to my eyes and taste buds. Traditional dishes, forms of cultural expression. Rural communities centered around farming, their means for survival.
Spending a year in Ecuador, a witness to life seemingly unchanged for generations. Indigenous farmers, ancient techniques, men and women, woven baskets. I connected with these people, as much as they connected with the land. Learning their language, I learned to see the world through their eyes. Leathered hands, heartwarming smiles, hardworking, honest…organic. Planting and harvesting, with respect for the environment. Caretakers and humble stewards of our planet; salt of the earth.
My first hand account to this way of life drew comparisons with our First Nations in Canada. How they also lived in harmony with nature, until the arrival of the white man. Guilt and shame, at the sight of my own hands. A youth, coming to terms with history, acknowledging that nothing can change the past- though we are still responsible for shaping our future.
Fair trade. A social movement, where people are able to work together and form symbiotic partnerships on an international scale. Creating a line of hands, carrying food from farm to table. Making sure that indigenous cultures are not taken advantage of; as so often has been the case in the past. A system in place, to provide not just employment to those living in poverty, but an opportunity for communities to thrive.
I have only worked at the Co-op for a short time, though each day I go to work, feeling proud to be apart of a business that supports and facilitates organic and fair trade products. Partnering with companies such as La Siembra/Camino, a co-operative centered around the fair trade cocoa industry. Canadian importers that “work directly with 18 producer crops, supporting more than 36,000 family farmers, in 9 countries.”1
Fostering relationships with local growers in South America and West Africa; fairtrade not only helps humans- but the environment as well: “Fair trade chocolate is typically organic and shade-grown, meaning it is grown under the canopy of the rainforest rather than in a clear cut field”.2 “A natural shade canopy helps to protect species living in cocoa or coffee producing areas, providing a much needed habitat for many species of birds and animals.”3 Information native cultures have known for centuries; caring for the earth, as it cares for us. Now more than ever, we must look to these people for wisdom and guidance. If we are to survive as a species, fairtrade and organic farming is not an option- but the only way forward. With future generations in mind, we must learn from our past, form healthy relationships, work cooperatively with our brothers and sisters, and walk together…confidently into the future.
Check out the other staff essays here: