Pineapple Coffee Fizz

This effervescent coffee cocktail matches cold brew with sweet pineapple and gin. Mix it up for endless summer vibes! We like it best with fruity Ethiopian coffee.

 

A cold brew cocktail with a wedge of pineapple
0 from 0 votes
Print

Pineapple Coffee Fizz

Bubbly and sweet with a serious kick.
Course Drinks
Keyword Coffee, Cold Brew, Gin, Pineapple
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings 1

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coffee, prepared as cold brew, Equal Exchange Organic Ethiopian.
  • 1 (1.5 oz) shot gin
  • 2 tsp simple syrup
  • 2 tsp fresh pineapple juice
  • tonic water
  • fresh pineapple chunks

Instructions

  1. Add cold brew, gin, simple syrup and juice into shaker
  2. Shake with ice
  3. Strain into a glass and add fresh ice
  4. Top with tonic water
  5. Garnish with pineapple

Here’s to summer!

Coffee Scrub for Face and Body

Why pay for a fancy scrub when you can make one at home using fair trade ingredients?

To make this scrub, we mixed Equal Exchange’s Palestinian Organic Virgin Olive Oil and ground Organic Coffee (both known for the antioxidents they contain) with brown sugar (for exfoliation).  For little extra tingle, you can add a few drops of tea tree oil, too.

 

Coffee Scrub Proportions:

  • 1/3 cup ground coffee
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1-2 drops tea tree oil (optional)

 

A bowl of ground coffee and sugar sit next to a measuring cup of oil and some measuring spoons.

Instructions:

  1. Mix coffee and sugar.
  2. Stir in olive oil and tea tree oil to form a paste.
  3. Get your skin wet and apply the scrub to your face or body. Rub it in, using a gentle circular motion. (Sensitive skin? Test your scrub on a small patch of skin first.)
  4. Rinse well with cool water. Ahh!

 

Shop Organic Coffee >>

 

 What else can you do with fair trade products? To find out, sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter.

By providing Equal Exchange with your email, you’re giving us permission to communicate with you electronically. Read our Privacy Policy for more details.

The Search for Sustainable Packaging

We’ve been selling organic, fairly traded coffee since 1986 and our coffee bags are without a doubt one of our most recognizable products. When you’re in the grocery aisle, those bright red mylar bags are hard to miss.

But those red mylar bags are single-use and destined for the landfill in every municipality we sell them in. We are on a mission to change that.

Seeking a Righteous Alternative

We’re not on this path alone. Packaging is a clear opportunity for companies wanting to offer more sustainable options. And for good reason — 30% of US household trash on average comes from product packaging (Allaway et al pg. 5). Equal Exchange’s Environmental Sustainability Committee has been tracking our impact on various environmental metrics since 2015 and because of that we know about 30% of our company’s solid waste tracked goes to a landfill, much in the form of mylar coffee bags. Unfortunately, in seeking a righteous alternative, we’ve discovered that there are no simple solutions.

Compostable options have been leading the way in terms of alternative coffee packaging, so we’ll focus on them. Biotrē, made by Pacific Bag, accounts for coffee’s need for shelf stability with paper-based bags that have a lining of PLA, a plastic made from plant materials instead of petroleum. There’s a good article on Biotrē here.

But based on our research, this material could be problematic for two reasons.

A worker puts bags of coffee into a box

The Downsides of Compostable Packaging

First, most of these bags never actually get composted. Yard debris compost facilities rarely if ever accept packaging. Facilities that accept food waste and yard waste together are more accommodating, but still about half of all food waste composters won’t accept compostable plastics, and only an estimated 4% of US households have access to pickup food waste composting collection (Platt et al, Allaway et al pg 17). For example, many of our worker-owners live in Portland, Ore. which is one of those municipalities that only accepts food waste for composting. So, if they bought a Biotrē bag they would either have to compost it in their own backyard heaps or put it in the landfill. Any compost made with compostable packaging or utensils cannot be used on organic farms according to USDA standards, because they are considered synthetic inputs — much of which is derived from GMO corn (Sullivan).

Second, there is the full life cycle of environmental impacts that packaging has (beyond just its disposal) to consider. In 2018 The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released a comprehensive review of academic studies on packaging covering the previous 20 years and concluded that “compostable packaging that is composted does not consistently fare better than non-compostable packaging that is either landfilled, incinerated or recycled” across a wide array of environmental criteria (Allaway et al pg 11-12). The report goes on to cite that “higher impacts for compostable options are due to several factors, including higher production-related emissions” (Allaway et al pg 12) and the fact that composting doesn’t enjoy the “higher benefits of recycling,” (Allaway et al pg 13) which reuses materials, thereby cutting down on resource extraction. Biotrē was not evaluated in any of the studies covered by the DEQ’s review and may have lower production-related emissions than the compostable packaging that was studied, but we do not know.

Even if it is, we come back to the limited infrastructure for composting.

Where Does it All Go?

Some companies and thinkers in this arena have been adopting a “build it and they will come” approach, suggesting that if more and more companies adopt compostable packaging, more composting facilities will be built to handle the demand. We don’t know if that will happen. We do know that recently several Pacific NW composting facilities have stopped accepting compostable food service ware (which is different from packaging, which this post is about, but still telling) and released this press release on why. Even if waste management caught up and most “compostable” packaging was able to be composted, we’d have the higher energy inputs for alternatives to consider. Furthermore, viewing this issue solely from a greenhouse gas emissions perspective, David Allaway (DEQ) says, “If Oregon could recycle or compost 95 percent of its waste (all waste, not just packaging), we’d reduce [Oregon’s] greenhouse gas emissions by about six percent” — driving home again the fact that the greatest energy impact of any packaging material is incurred upstream at the time of its manufacture, and that recycling and composting are helpful but insufficient by themselves.

There are well-intentioned people on both sides of the compostable packaging debate, but it is our view at Equal Exchange that we need to keep searching for a more environmentally sound solution, ideally one that is recyclable. We’re keeping an eye out for one, and will continue evaluating compostable options and considering any that turn out to be lower-impact at the production stage.

 

This article was co-written by Equal Exchange worker-owners Ellen Mickle and Lincoln Neal.  Questions? Email Ellen: emickle@equalexchange.coop


Want to stay up-to-date with issues in the food system?

By providing Equal Exchange with your email, you’re giving us permission to communicate with you electronically. Read our Privacy Policy for more details.

Maftoul Chicken or Lamb Soup

Maftoul soup with chicken
0 from 0 votes
Print

Maftoul Chicken or Lamb Soup

Course Main Course, Soup
Keyword Palestinian Products

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds dark meat chicken or lamb shoulder pieces you can use all drumsticks or a combination of drumsticks and thighs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large fresh tomato pureed
  • 1 tbsp whole allspice berries
  • 1 large minced onion
  • 5 cloves garlic each one sliced in half
  • ½ can tomato paste
  • 1 cup canned garbanzo beans optional
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 cups Equal Exchange Maftoul in Middle Eastern markets — can substitute traditional maftoul as well

Instructions

  1. Put the chicken in a large pot and add about 2 tsp of salt, onions, cinnamon stick, allspice berries, halved garlic cloves and bay leaves. Pour in enough water so that there is at least 5 inches of water above chicken. Place pot on the stovetop over high heat until boiling. Remove any scum that rises to the top with a sieve.
  2. After the water reaches its boiling point, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Then add tomato paste and tomato puree and let boil for another 25 minutes. Let the soup cool lightly.
  3. Using tongs, scoop out the chicken pieces and set aside in a large bowl. Using a another large stainless steel bowl and large sieve, pour the broth through the sieve and into the bowl to strain out the bay leaves, allspice, cinnamon, and onion. Return the broth back to the pot and reduce heat to simmer.
  4. Add in garbanzo beans, simmering them for another 15 minutes.
  5. In another pot, melt the butter, and then add the two cups of couscous and brown until butter is melted.
  6. Carefully remove 4 cups of tomato chicken broth from the main pot and add to the maftoul. After the maftoul mixture boils, cover and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes. (Cooking time and liquid required may vary depending on type of maftoul, make sure to follow package directions for doneness and add more liquid needed.)
  7. Return chicken to the soup and make sure it is warmed through.
  8. To serve, scoop maftoul into a bowl, and use a soup ladle to pour broth, chickpeas, and meats over maftoul— serve immediately

Recipe Notes

Recipe & photo courtesy of Blanche, feastinthemiddleeast.com.

Sun Tea

Here comes the sun! On a hot day, it’s easy to make a refreshing beverage from fair trade and organic tea without turning on your stove, as long as you don’t mind waiting. Tea leaves will impart their flavor to water at any temperature – and a blast of sunshine speeds up the process. It’s so simple, we hesitate to even call this a recipe, but here goes:

 

 

a pitcher of tea and a cup
5 from 1 vote
Print

Sun Tea

This tea can be made with your favorite variety of organic black, green or herbal tea.

Course Drinks
Servings 16

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon cool, filtered water
  • 8 bags organic tea
  • simple syrup, honey or agave
  • lemon, desired
  • ice

Instructions

  1. Fill pitcher or gallon-size canning jar with water.

  2. Add eight teabags and leave in the sun to steep.

  3. Wait 2-3 hours, until the tea is the color you prefer.

  4. Sweeten with simple syrup, honey or agave and add lemon.

  5. Serve over ice.

Want more recipes like this?

By providing Equal Exchange with your email, you’re giving us permission to communicate with you electronically. Read our Privacy Policy for more details.

Congregation Spotlight: Grandview United Methodist

Dorothy Killebrew is a member of  Grandview United Methodist Church in Lancaster, PA, one of Equal Exchange’s top faith based customers. Here is Dorothy‘s description of how her congregation connects with fair trade and social justice:

“Ours is a growing church with an average attendance about 250 members, with new members joining all of the time. This is because we’re an open and affirming Reconciling Congregation which makes people feel comfortable and safe. And whenever a new member joins we give them a gift of an Equal Exchange product whether it’s a box of tea, a bag of coffee, or a can of cocoa.  

We make it easy for people to access and purchase the Equal Exchange products throughout the week; they‘re available in a heavily-trafficked room where neighbors come to drop their kids off for Scouts or to participate in exercise classes. We also don’t seek to make a profit; we don’t use the products as a fundraiser. And we occasionally do things like Sunday school lessons and announcements to educate people about fair trade and the people it affects.

We also sell Equal Exchange products through an honor system where people can take the products they need and leave a check. Finally, as a member of a clergy choir in Central PA, I bring products once a month to display at every choir concert. What this means is that by May this year I will have taken a display to 26 different churches. My clergy colleagues always buy; but those attending the concert often purchase as well!”

Keep up the amazing work, Dorothy and friends!

 

To be featured in the Congregation Spotlight, please send a few paragraphs about how your congregation uses Equal Exchange products to promote justice. Don’t forget to include some photos, the higher the resolution the better!

Learn more about how you can sell Equal Exchange products in your congregation or community here>>

Image shows samples of Equal Exchange coffee, chocolate and tea.

 

Decaf Coffee: We Remove Caffeine, Not Flavor

Experimenting with ways to eliminate those too-much-coffee jitters or sleep better at night? You don’t necessarily need to give up coffee. Decaf can be a satisfying substitute — especially when you choose a decaf made through an all-natural process that leaves the flavor intact.

What is Caffeine, Anyway?

Go-juice. Caffeine fix. Jolt of joe. Day-starter. Jet fuel. All these nicknames for a cup of coffee refer to properties that come from caffeine. But what is caffeine? It’s a substance that naturally occurs in coffee beans — likely the reason why humans domesticated the coffee plant in the first place. Speaking more precisely, caffeine is an organic compound, a stimulant chemically derived from xanthine. It temporarily blocks adenosine receptors in the brain and stimulates parts of the central nervous system.

So, caffeine is a drug — a legal and popular one. It wakes you up, makes you feel more alert. It keeps you up, staving off drowsiness. But what if you don’t want that?

If you’re trying to cut out caffeine, one option would be to simply stop drinking coffee.  But if you’ve come to truly love the taste and smell of coffee, the way I do? If you appreciate the feel of a warm mug in the hand? If you look forward to the morning ritual of brewing a pot at home or sipping a cup in a cafe with a friend? Well, quitting can be hard to do.

A better option: you could switch to decaf.

Why Try Decaf? (Or the True Story of a New Decaf Drinker)

Decaf gets a bad rap. Before I ever tried it, I heard lots of negative things about how it tasted. But when I decided to switch to decaf, I was pleasantly surprised. True confession time: I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between my old regular coffee and the new decaf varieties I tried.

One explanation for this is that the decaf I was drinking was high-quality coffee — 100% organic Arabica beans, sourced from farmer co-ops in direct trading relationships. It had been roasted by people who really knew what they were doing and it was freshly ground. The all-natural decaffeination process probably also helped. Still, I was surprised how little I missed what I’d always thought was an essential component to coffee.

When you think about it, though, there are all kinds of ways people modify coffee already. Many of us add milk or sweeteners or both. We serve it over ice. We experiment with different brewing methods. And we all have different sensory equipment — different taste buds, different receptors. Why not give decaf a spin and see what YOU think?

Shop Decaf >>

Equal Exchange’s Decaffeination Process

Equal Exchange’s decaf coffee is decaffeinated with a process called CR3 Natural Liquid Carbon Dioxide Decaffeination, first patented in Germany in 1970. Here’s how it works:

  1. Unroasted (green) coffee beans are moistened with water and pressurized in a chamber with liquid carbon dioxide, which draws the caffeine out of the bean.
  2. The CO2 is circulated through an evaporator to separate the caffeine from the CO2.
  3. The CO2 is then recondensed and recirculated through the coffee. This cycle repeats until the decaffeination is complete.
  4. The coffee is dried to return it to its original moisture content.

The use of carbon dioxide and water poses no risk to your health (think of carbonated water – it contains the same natural liquid carbon dioxide). This process removes 99.9% of the caffeine, yet leaves the bean and its natural oils intact.. These are the two reasons why Equal Exchange switched from offering Swiss Water Process in 1996 to the CO2 process — more caffeine is removed and the taste is fantastic!

Stay up-to-date with all things coffee.

By providing Equal Exchange with your email, you’re giving us permission to communicate with you electronically. Read our Privacy Policy for more details.

New Legislation Will Hit the Pause Button on Mega-Mergers

For Immediate Release: May 22, 2019
Contact: Rob Everts, President
774-776-7383

EQUAL EXCHANGE SUPPORTS MORATORIUM ON AGRICULTURE AND
FOOD ACQUISITION AND MERGERS

New Legislation Will Hit the Pause Button on Mega-Mergers

In the wake of unprecedented concentration in the agriculture and food sectors, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Jon Tester (D-MT) and Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME)  introduced legislation today to place a moratorium on large agribusiness, food and beverage manufacturing, and grocery retail mergers and acquisitions. Known as the Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2019, the bill would also establish a commission to review mergers, concentration, and market power in those sectors.

“We commend Senators Booker and Tester and Representative Pocan for taking this vital step forward on this critical issue,” said Rob Everts, President of Equal Exchange. He added, “We urge Congress to act now to stop mega-mergers until their full impact can be assessed and market safeguards put in place. While independent food stores are being crushed by corporate grocery consolidation, farmers are being squeezed at both ends by corporations with abusive levels of power, from the sellers of inputs to the buyers of farmers’ goods. Meanwhile, food workers’ wages remain low and consumer choice is greatly diminished.“

While the largest multinational agribusiness corporations are posting record earnings, farmers and independent retailers are facing desperate times. Since 2013, net farm income for U.S. farmers has fallen by more than half and median on-farm income is expected to be negative in 2019.

In just the past two years, chemical and seed company acquisitions and mergers have allowed three companies to control two thirds of the crop seed and nearly 70% of the agricultural chemical markets. When these acquisitions and mergers were announced it led U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley to call the wave of mergers a “tsunami.”

Over the last three decades, the growth of market concentration and market power has spun out of control. During this period, the four largest multinational corporations have gained control of 71% of the pork market, 85% of the beef market and 90% of the grain market.

The Food and Agriculture Concentration and Market Power Review Commission which would be established by this legislation will develop recommendations to establish a fair marketplace for family farmers and their communities. The commission would be specifically required to review the impact of vertical integration, packer ownership of livestock, and contracting practices by large agribusinesses on family farmers and suppliers.

Equal Exchange is worker-owned cooperative that pioneered the practice of “fair trade” food importing in 1986. With sales of $74 million, the coop roasts organic coffee at its roastery in West Bridgewater, MA, and markets fairly trade organic coffee, tea, chocolate, cashews, bananas and avocados to stores, cafes, congregations and direct to consumer in all fifty states.

Media Contact:
Rob Everts
774-776-7383
reverts@equalexchange.coop

Why Peruvian Avocados Matter

If you’re a U.S. consumer, 8 out of 10 times your avocado will come from Michoacán, Mexico. There are various reasons for this Mexican dominance of the U.S. avocado market: geographic proximity, ease of trade restrictions due to NAFTA, and a fairly long growing season that extends from August to May. However, as consumer demand has continued to boom, Mexico has struggled to keep pace with the burgeoning demand.

In order to diminish the gap between supply and demand, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cleared Peru for export in 2009, cleared Colombia for export in 2015, and has been pushing to open the Mexican state of Jalisco. While Mexico may still continue to be the biggest player in the U.S. market, it has become clear that other origins are needed to provide a stable and reliable year-round supply for consumers.

Peru Emerges As An Avocado Player

Peru has emerged as a prominent player in more recent years. It is important to mention that Peru has a thriving agricultural economy. Peruvian coffee and cacao are well known in specialty markets. More recently, the coastal region of Peru has emerged as major hotspot for produce production. Peru has become a produce powerhouse, accounting for a large percentage of asparagus, grapes, and mangoes imported into the U.S. For this reason, it comes as no surprise that Peruvian avocados are gaining a bigger share of the U.S. market.

A major advantage for Peruvian avocados lies in their seasonality for exports, which roughly extends from May to August. This serves as a good complement to the Mexican export season, which lasts from August to May. This timeline has provided Peruvian avocados with a tremendous window of opportunity, as Peru has been able to supply avocados when sparse product has been available on the U.S. market.

To shine some numbers onto this growth: In 2010, the USDA reported 300,000 pounds of imports from Peru, while in 2018 Peru imported an impressive 180 million pounds of avocados (USDA ERS). In 2018, Peruvian avocados accounted for 8% of all avocados imported into the U.S. While conventional Peruvian avocados have been a large percentage of that growth, organic and/or Fair Trade Peruvian avocados are a more recent addition to the U.S. market.

LaGrama Avocados Sunset
An avocado farmer with some of his harvest for the day, against the backdrop of a gorgeous sunset in the Andes mountains.

 

Equal Exchange Enters The Peruvian Market

In 2018, Equal Exchange launched its Peruvian avocado program in partnership with LaGrama, a Peruvian company providing essential services to small scale farmers in Peru. Equal Exchange saw the opportunity to bring in a Peruvian program during the summer months, when supply of organic, Fair Trade Mexican avocados is fairly limited. More importantly, Equal Exchange’s mission has always been to create space for small farmers in the global marketplace. This has been true in coffee, tea, cacao, and bananas.

As the Peruvian avocado market expands, we saw the need to give small farmers a share of that growing market. The Peruvian avocado industry is young, dynamic and developing. We have an opportunity here to include small farmers into the mix at the very onset of this emerging industry. After extensive research with industry partners and a sourcing trip to Peru, we were thrilled to find partners like LaGrama that align with our mission and vision for change in the avocado industry. This summer, we are excited to be offering a second season of small farmer grown, Fair Trade, Organic Peruvian avocados.

Oscar Estela, Fairtrade, talk to producers Adapo cooperative.
A LaGrama team member talking to avocado farmers about best practices for avocado production, part of essential technical services provided by LaGrama to avocado farmers.

Lessons Learned One Year Later

Building a successful program takes time and patience. After our first season of Peruvian avocados, we now understand that there are some inherent differences between Mexican and Peruvian avocados and given the Mexican dominance of the U.S. market, retailers and consumers are more familiar with the characteristics of a Mexican avocado. This understanding was part of our learning curve during the first year of the program.

While both the imported Mexican and Peruvian avocados are Hass varieties, there are crucial differences in the climate in which these avocados are grown. Mexican avocados are grown in semi-warm or temperate climates with natural rainfall patterns. In Peru, avocados are grown in an arid climate with the help of intensive irrigation infrastructure. Since avocados are not native to Peru, Peruvian avocados are under constant climatic pressure.

Some of the perceivable differences between the Mexican and Peruvian avocados, such as the texture of the skin and difference in color, are a result of these contrasting climates. Other factors come into play as well. Because of the geographical proximity of Mexico, Mexican avocados can be harvested at a much higher oil content, as dictated by USDA regulations. Peruvian avocados, on the other hand, are harvested at a lower oil content due to the longer transit time. This means Peruvian avocados require more handling as they need more time to ripen.

We now understand that it will take some time for consumers and retailers to familiarize themselves with Peruvian avocados, especially within the organic and Fair Trade market. We strongly believe that with more education and exposure, the U.S. consumer base will become more accustomed to Peruvian avocados. Until then, we will continue to provide the information and tools needed to build a small farmer movement in Peruvian avocados.

EE Staff in Peru
Equal Exchange team members, Jessica Jones-Hughes and Ravdeep Jaidka, during a trip to visit LaGrama in March 2018.

Being part of an alternative business means not only responding to demand, but actively creating demand for alternatives that lead to positive change in the food system. Equal Exchange did not get into small farmer, Fair Trade bananas because there was a demand for it. We got into bananas because there was a need for it. We are here to do the same with small farmer grown Peruvian avocados.

 

Episode 7: Organizing for the Long Haul

In 40+ years as an activist pushing for a more equitable food system, Rob Everts has seen a lot. Now he’s one of Equal Exchange’s Executive Directors and he’s still fighting the good fight. In this episode, hear some organizing stories from back in the day, and learn about how you can take part in the upcoming Summit. (You can RSVP here.)

Want to attend the Summit? Make sure to RSVP by May 24th here.


You can hear #StoriesBehindOurFood on:

Stitcher (on both Apple and Android.)

Apple Podcasts (Apple devices only.)

Google Podcasts (Android devices only.)

Spotify

or wherever you enjoy online audio!


We bet you’re fired up now! Subscribe to The Stories Behind Our Food to hear the newest episodes, right when they release. And don’t forget to review!


Episode Transcript

Intro:
0:02
Everyday grocery store items like bananas, chocolate, coffee. These are global commodities. They pass through a lot of people’s hands on their way from the fields to your grocery cart. This is the stories behind our food podcast, the podcast where expert guests share insight or knowledge about every step along the process. I’m Danielle Robidoux — and I’m Kate Chess — and we’re your hosts.:
Danielle:
0:27
Hi folks. Today we’re here with Rob Everts, president of Equal Exchange.:
Rob:
0:34
Good to be here.:
Danielle:
0:36
Thank you so much for joining us today, Rob. let’s get right into it. Let’s start with your craziest more story as an organizer.:
Rob:
0:45
Yeah, there’s a lot of potential war stories to share. Of course. some are are tragic some are exhilarating, But let me go back to the beginning of my career, one that was actually humorous. So I had dropped out of college to join the United Farm Workers Union. I’m from California, but I got sent to Boston in the heyday of these consumer boycotts — we were boycotting grapes and Lettuce. And at that time, I had organized a group in a western suburb of Boston to hold signs over the Massachusetts Turnpike that said boycott grapes and Lettuce. And we had a lot of people out there. And pretty soon a state trooper pulled up and, told us to get off the bridge. And, I asked him why and bottom line was, he said, because I said, so. So then I said, well, you know, when I ask you a straightforward question, I can’t get a straightforward answer. I just have no respect for the state police. Boom, click, click back of the seat. So I’m in the back of the, of the, cruiser taken to jail. an activist bailed me out and the UFW then launched a, a kind of a tongue in cheek campaign: Free the Newton One. This was in Newton, Massachusetts, Free the Newton One. And, I asked the — I was 19, and so I’d been arrested now and so I asked the director of the office, so what do I do and what you, you got to go hustle a lawyer. So I went and where could I go? Well, you be resourceful. You’re an organizer. So, I uncovered a lawyer at Harvard law school who would work, pro bono. She took my case Jean Kettleson and bless her heart.:
Rob:
2:38
Fast forward to the hearing. We’re in there. There’s a state trooper, there’s me, there’s the judge, there’s my lawyer and there’s the assistant DA for Middlesex County who is prosecuting me. And it’s John Kerry, John Kerry, early in his career, not too many years after he has been very public about his organizing with the Vietnam veterans against the war VVAW. So he does not have his heart in this case, but he’s representing the trooper. And so, so he’s going, yeah, this, that the other thing. And then you could just see that all these characters knew each other. and so the judge was toying with John Kerry and I can just almost hear him all these years later is saying, well, surely you of all people, Mr Kerry, you must appreciate the nature of the activity that Mr Everts engaged in nonviolent, if you will. You know, things like that. In any way. My lawyer proceeded to tie the poor trooper into knots. and the whole thing was thrown out. But it was a, it was a good baptism to early organizing. Having to be resourceful on my own to extract myself out of that difficulty.:
Danielle:
3:47
Sounds, sounds like a rite of passage. That’s a, that’s a really cool story. I, I’m interested Rob, so obviously I’m an organizer for Equal Exchange. what organizing looks like today is obviously really different from, you know, back on the mass pike and, you know, holding up a sign. So I’m curious as to, if you can kind of speak to your experience organizing then and organizing now in some of the major differences that you can see with such largely different contexts, but you know, some, some of the similar same problems.:
Rob:
4:27
Yeah, I think in many ways it hasn’t changed all that much. it’s about organizing is still about building relationships. It’s still about a convincing people that if they are organized, they can build power, that they can have power. In some instances like union organizing, it’s still about combating fear. So in many ways a lot of what organizing hasn’t changed. One thing that has changed, are the tools available. So when you think about technology, I think most people would agree that you know clicks and likes don’t organize people. So that’s, that’s not, that’s not doing it. but when I think about what’s been achieved, I think the first group that I recall doing this was move on.org when they would organize digitally, you know, online these meetups that would get people in the same neighborhoods and zip codes and to meet physically in someone’s living room to then talk with an agenda and, about, you know, a common problem in an organize a strategy together that the blend of some of the technology available with still not losing sight of the importance of being in person, is a real asset in this day and age.:
Danielle:
5:54
Yeah. That’s interesting. Kind of thinking the parallels and really the tools being what are different and thinking about how the problem is, how do I get people to care? How do I get people rallied over a specific issue. What, what do you think makes a good organizer in general, what do you think the best traits to a good organizer are? And you know, you’ve done organizing work then and even today, right? Some of our work is organizing. why are you drawn to this kind of work? Why is it exciting for you?:
Rob:
6:34
I think first in some of the traits of a good organizer, it’s hard for me to put anything above persistence. It can be so slow and the victories can be so few and far between that you have to have a pilot light that is really flaming. and you need to be persistent. And beyond that, I think you need humility. You do need a strong sense of self, self respect. You need to have a love for people, not just tolerate them but like really want to engage. and I think you need to be able to take the long view. So I think all of those are really, critical. I first, you know, got involved in high school with the United Farm Workers when they were picketing a store in my hometown. And I believe that the organizers there, Nancy Elliott, she, she saw me as a potential live wire. There was something, I was pretty shy, but she’s, she, she saw something and so she literally took me under her wing and you know, let me show you how we do it and we walk up to cars and tell them why we’re asking people not to even shop at that store and to please turn around and go away. So it seemed a high bar as opposed to just don’t buy this product. But we did it. And, I got the bug. And so I think what motivates me in some way is, believing that it’s worthwhile and yet that it’s has to be effective. Like when you think about the scale of evil in the world and corporate corruption, I mean, it can be overwhelming. It can be and very disempowering. So it’s not just enough to be outraged at wrongs in the world. You have to believe that there is a path and that you personally can find a role to be effective in that work to effect change.:
Danielle:
8:41
I agree with that. You do need that sense of hope and I do think it’s a lot easier as an individual to kind of see what’s already been done and have this highly critical eye, oh why is it that way? It should be this way. It should be that way. But I think as an organizer you do really want to think about that solution based thinking and having hope and seeing that hey, this is a path forward. So I really liked that you said that here and I’m curious, I actually was a really shy person as well. And do you do just seem to be really articulate, really charismatic, which I do think that human connection and the way we can communicate our ideas to people is important as well. What brought you to that first activity and where you really scared? Did someone push you to go to that kind of first event?:
Rob:
9:31
Yeah, it actually was a sense of, I saw my brother do it — like it was this, it was a liquor store. It was Gallo wine that we were picketing. And I would walk past it on the other side of the street every day thinking I should be able to, I should be there. I should be able to be in that. And you know, I was too shy and not confident enough that I would even know what to say. And one rainy day, my older brother went down to join the picket line for the first time and I just kind of believed, well if he can do it, I can do it as sibling rivalry challenge. And so, and then like, look who stuck with it. Right? So he lasted a few months and I’m doing this 35 years later, you know.:
Danielle:
10:16
That’s awesome.:
Kate:
10:17
That speaks to the power of relationships. Like you were saying, at the foundation of organizing is building relationships with the folks you’re trying to organize. But also with people in the community of activists. Have you had mentors who are notable?:
Rob:
10:33
Yeah. Let me say just one more thing about that, that as much as we think people are attracted to a cause, like it’s all about the cause. People are attracted to you, the organizer. I mean, people win people over. And when I talk about, you know, humility, and not, and not being too self righteous of which I was at that age, I really like anyone who wasn’t boycotting Gallo wine was a complete disaster. Right? Even if they’ve never even heard of the boycott, if they weren’t doing it, they were, I mean, I was really pretty insufferable probably in that age, but so, so you got to find the balance of not being too self righteous, but driven and motivated and engaging and, and with a winning personality because people are attracted to, to people. For a mentor after that first organizer, Nancy Elliott, I think the one who I look up to the most would be Fred Ross, man by the name of Fred Ross. and it’s probably not insignificant that there’s probably not a single person listening to this podcast who’s ever heard of him. and that’s one of the reasons I look up to him because Fred was the person who discovered — I’ll put in quotes — Cesar Chavez, when Fred was looking to organize Mexican Americans in California, he found Chavez in a, in a barrio in, in San Jose. and they worked together for many years before even starting to build the United Farm Workers Union. So Fred worked for probably 60, 65 years as an organizer. And I know him from initially having the story, you know, having trained Chavez, how to organiz, together. Building with Dolores Huerta, building up the United Farm Workers.:
Speaker 2:
12:29
And then I come along as a college dropout at 19. Fred’s there, Fred is leading trainings. He’s accompanying people like me to house meetings. We’re critiquing them at 10 o’clock at night afterwards, while it’s really fresh. 20 years after that he’s working with CISPES, you know, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador doing organizing drives. He’s working with the people who ran the boycott against Nestle’s for the infant formula. and so accompanying people into his eighties accompany people to house meetings and doing debriefs immediately after and never stop training. And so someone like that who had done so much and changed so many lives and someone that no one’s ever heard of it, it just strikes me as a power. For me, he’s always been a mentor.:
Kate:
13:17
I’m glad to get his name out there:
:
13:19
Because it’s back to the humility piece. Maybe that’s why no one’s ever heard of him. Right. Yeah. And to kind of step back, I really did like what you had said about human connection and that kind of being the central point to being a successful organizer. That it is about connecting human to human. And that’s what I really like about Equal Exchange is that we are trying to elevate the stories of people who are a part of making our food, whatever that looks like. And as an organizer, I definitely find it more, I want to know about the people that I’m organizing. I want to know about their lives and their, and their families and why they care about this on a human level. And I think that genuineness of really getting there is, and people feel that, and I think you’re right. It, they’re, they’re gravitated to the person and they can feel that you actually care about then as a human being. So I liked that. I liked that you said that, right?:
Rob:
14:20
Yeah, it really, it really matters.:
Danielle:
14:25
So as for Equal Exchange, you know, we’re an alternative trade organization. We sell coffee, we sell chocolate, we sell tea, we are this for profit business, right? What makes us different and why do you think that organizing is something that’s central to what Equal Exchange should be doing? And as we think about a path forward, what does an alternative trade organization look like, you know, in the next 30 years. Why do you see organizing as a central piece of that?:
Rob:
15:05
I think Equal Exchange is a more unique than we wish. We wish there were many more alternative trade organizations, ATOs out there in the world. like us whose sole mission, right is to change the terms of trade to inject equity and more justice into the, into an international trade in our, in our sector. but I think for us in this era, especially, you could, you could make the case that we should have been organizing in this way with consumers from, from day one, we’ve always put a high premium on education, trying to demystify where people’s food comes from, encouraging people to ask us questions and challenges. But we never have invested in this way. And for us now, it actually feels like a, like a strategy of, survival because, because of market forces and consolidation, corporate change where we all, you know, attempt to sell our food in addition to alternative distribution channels and food coops and things. But they have more control than ever before and their leverage to extract lower prices out of suppliers — And in this case, you know, we are a supplier to stores — it forces us to build an alternative, right? A nonlinear response to that. And I think we need to be, looking at people who consume our products in a way that’s broader than just consumption, not just people who consume. Right? And that’s why we’ve invoked this, this phrase, citizen consumers, because we, we want to engage with actually hundreds of thousands of people around the country who, who, who buy our stuff, in the totality of their being, right? Their whole political beings as citizen consumers, not just, you know, how can I help buy her stuff? How can I help join us? , and I think that’s unique among businesses here where we’re actually inviting citizen consumers people into our, market based organisation, this commercial enterprise to play an extremely important role, ultimately possibly a governance role with a, with a form of membership in this cooperative, that they are influencing decisions that we make, perhaps some day on the board of directors. So that’s the vision, right? And I think we need that in order to be around, you know, for the next 33 years.:
Danielle:
17:47
I think that’s really powerful. And what is different about that is that you’re actually asking folks to — you’re bringing down the walls, you’re asking for shared responsibility and you’re asking folks to walk this path with you and not to kind of, you know, be seeing what Equal Exchange does from afar and maybe appreciating it until actually there isn’t enough support. And maybe in 20 years if you didn’t go down this path, that actually doesn’t exist because you know, you always see that a co op is going out of business and you know, in the final hour you have everyone running to the store, you know, trying to, you know, save the Co op. But where were you for the past three years when they were struggling showing up and saying, Hey, I care about this. I want to engage in this alternative model. And so I think that getting folks to walk that path with us in a totally different way that no — from what I know anyhow, that no for profit businesses doing to me is actually really powerful.:
Rob:
18:50
And I think in this moment when, democracy around the world, you know, in this country and in many countries around the world is under extreme duress. We’re hedging that, democracy matters to a meaningful number of number of people. And we want to give meaning to democracy, within our world, within our, not just within our worker co op, which is extremely important. but extend it to the whole consumer base that we have an end and try to create a model that really is a democratic, brand in the marketplace.:
Danielle:
19:26
And, and democracy doesn’t work if you don’t have active participation. I mean, since working here, I think I actually might understand democracy more than being a citizen of my own country. You know, you show up on election day and where is your involvement for the rest of the year. And so I don’t want to someone who’s just going to show up on election day, I want someone who has this shared responsibility and accountability to this is our planet, right? This is our food system. This is the food that we’re eating. This is the food we’re feeding to our, to our kids, and how do I actually care about that on a different level and realize that I as an individual have power. Right. And I think that’s the power of an organizer is that’s what we’re here to tell you, that we are actually bringing you along this path and getting you to care.:
Kate:
20:12
One thing I feel like I’m seeing a lot is defeatism. You’ve alluded to the magnitude of the problems that folks are facing and you’ve also talked about how essential it is that organizers have a path forward or have a vision of a hopeful future. But I think that might be one of the generational differences, as young people look back on what seems to be this golden age of protest and organizing in the sixties and seventies that we weren’t alive for. It seems like the problems today are bigger and therefore like, let’s not bother or, or something like that. Do you, do you this defeatism and do you have any advice for younger folks that are trying to get involved?:
Rob:
20:54
I would be lying if I didn’t say I didn’t have my own moments like that. Right? Like, I’m thinking of the present moment democracy under duress in this country, right? Our president is, is trampling on democracy. And in my weakest moments, I think he might win the day, right? Can the public, can we, can we, the people rescue our democracy? I think it’s there. I think it’s … I think to deny it is not helpful. And so to acknowledge it, but then to try to, you know, turn the corner and look at it concrete ways that people can make change. There are so many examples, especially young people these days. when I look at, and it’s not just young people, but Black Lives Matter. When I look at the Parkland students, a lot of organizing around immigration. A lot is young people. A lot is effective, right? There’s challenges, but a lot of this is effective and, and young people, in a way they’re fearless. So I don’t deny that there’s this, there’s this backdrop or bigger context of, of defeatism and, and, and the, the warming planet and you know, it’s getting worse and things like, you know, there’s a lot, there’s a lot there, but there’s also a lot of examples of people doing really good work and being successful at what they’re doing. And so, I would try to steer people in that direction because it’s, it’s, it’s the path that we all need to take.:
Danielle:
22:36
Right. And I guess the overall point would be what does organizing among other organizations who are doing similar work, what does solidarity look like, there, on an organizational level and how can we think about that in the same way and what can we learn from what we do on an individual organizing level, but also, like you said, Rob, there is hope. There is a path, there are folks that are in other organizations doing really cool things and how can Equal Exchange, you know, tap in and connect to some of those and you know, really just pave a path forward that that is positive despite, you know, what Kate had alluded to and that all the things that are going wrong in this world and how can we band together as organizations to, you know, move forward.:
Rob:
23:23
Equal exchange is a worker cooperative. You know, we, we buy from farmer cooperatives, we sell to consumer cooperatives. There are other worker cooperatives around. It’s ironic how difficult it is to cooperate despite the sixth coop principal: cooperation among cooperatives. It can be really hard. And I pull back to other organizing and organizing more often than not is issue oriented. It’s driven by issues. And whereas I really believe, that the overstated phrase, there’s more that unites us than divides us. I do believe that. And so the challenge is to be able to articulate that and to overcome suspicion and to relax assumptions and permit others to influence you. And more than anything to be willing to compromise, not your values, but maybe your priorities. Because there is, if we, if we let our, if we let that sink in, if we let ourselves believe that there truly is more that unites us, let’s name it, let’s name those things that unite us and let’s name the common, you know, I’ll say enemy for lack of a better word. and then let’s see where we can work together because it, it, it can be really difficult. But when it, when it does work, it’s a, it’s a beautiful thing.:
Danielle:
25:06
I’m actually interested to Rob just to think about, you know, clearing out the shelves of that. What are some of the tactics that you used as an organizer? You know, how, what are interesting ways to kind of get people to care? I know there’s, you know, different tactics that folks are using to try to get attention from people. Is there anything from your experience that you have seen that too bad an, you know, really successful?:
Rob:
25:34
One of the most successful things at the pure tactical level was knowing that the media loves to cover itself. Now. Now I’ll take it to around 1980, 1990, the organization, Neighbor to Neighbor, which was, leading an effort, among many others to, end the US involvement in the war in El Salvador. And our focus had been on Congress. but here it’s still the cold war. And many Democrats were just as bad as Republicans in terms of supporting US aid to the butchers in El Salvador, the people who had assassinated Archbishop Romero and the six Jesuit priests later on, and the four American church women and 80,000 more peasants and union people and teachers whose names will never know. we, we wanted, we launched a boycott of their leading export, which was coffee. So it was, so, it was the, the governing party was the ARENA party, the party of the coffee growing elite, President Alfredo Christiani was a big plantation coffee plantation owner, and we said, Congress, the congressional strategy isn’t working. Let’s try something else. And many of us had been in the United Farm Workers Union. And so we looked around the room one day and realized we had a hundred years of collective consumer boycott experience in the room and said, there’s nothing to lose. Let’s go after him. And so we launched a boycott of Salvadoran coffee. We targeted Folgers as the leading user of Salvadoran beans in there blend. And the tactic that we used was we used many and, and I almost don’t have time to talk about them all here, but the role of the longshoreman on the West Coast was beautiful.:
Rob:
27:22
But the one I want to say it was right here in Boston, when we made for $5,000 we made a TV commercial or a 30-second TV ad narrated by the actor Ed Asner that ended up with a Folgers’ coffee mug with blood seeping out of it. You know. And Ed Asner’s saying, boycott Folgers’ coffee: what it brews is misery and death. And we tried to shop this to local stations to run it and it was essentially banned in Boston, right? One station after another. Refused to run this ad. And finally, the local, the ABC affiliate, I believe it was at the time, channel seven here, actually agreed, called our bluff. Yeah. We’ll run that spot. And so we, I quickly had to go and hustle like 10,000 bucks to buy a couple of, you know, slots at non prime time, like 10 in the morning during Family Feud or something like that, just to follow through.:
Kate:
28:20
That’s just when I feel like a cup of blood.:
Rob:
28:23
And so we ran it. And then within minutes, practically, Procter & Gamble that owned Folgers revoked $1 million in ad money from channel seven because he had the audacity to run the Neighbor to Neighbor low budget TV spot. So we were able to convert that into a national story. Like this one was too hot — look at who got punished for, you know, running this ad, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And so we, because the media likes to cover itself, we’re able to get this on the front page of the New York Times, on CNN. It was like massive coverage of this, of this punishment by a multinational over a local station. that had dared run, this low budget, you know, ad for an advocacy organization. So like that’s just one of the tactics, but I also know that , controversy works, when you think about what to advocates have in their, in their toolkit, in a way it’s too bad, but controversy does work. When there ware other things on the Folgers boycott that we did right, that were, that were controversial and it got press coverage, right. And you don’t get press coverage for the sake of getting press coverage. You get press coverage to make the issue, a real life present day right here in this community or in this congressional district. It’s an issue. It’s not something 4,000 miles away that you don’t have to do with no. You have to deal with it.:
Kate:
29:57
Yeah. Yeah. What about humor?:
Rob:
29:58
Humor is a good, good asset. We, when I was with the United Farm Workers, there was a, actually a mushroom farm in California owned by Ralston Purina. And so all the different offices were asked, to start up a boycott of Purina thinking we could do this one pretty quickly. So we went out and rented a Snoopy costume and in front of the regional — you know, the local office of them. Right. We had, you know, Snoopy says — and who knows if we’re within our rights or we’re just breaking or all sorts of, laws, but we had a massive Snoopy snout, you know, on someone a Snoopy uniform — Snoopy Says Boycott Purina Dog Chow. That got covered by TV. It’s funny. You know, it got coverage and it was one of those things,:
Kate:
30:43
It attracts people to your campaign, I think. You talked about making connections with people and yeah, no one wants to be part of a losing battle and no one wants to do something that’s just all like a horrible chore all the time. Like you want to be around people that are having fun.:
Rob:
30:57
Exactly. Because if you’re in this for the long haul, you need to be the, we’re all han, you know, we’re not 100% serious all the time. Yeah. The issues that we’re talking about in grappling with are serious, often deadly serious. But, that’s not the kind of energy that attracts others to the cause and keeps them there for the long haul. And so humor I think is really vital as one of the things along the way that does not diminish the importance of any cause, whatsoever.:
Danielle:
31:33
Rob, thank you so much for all of your information. I definitely think that I could sit here and talk to you about organizing for days, but thinking about Equal Exchanges organizing now and I want to just talk to the listeners about how they can get involved and thinking about Equal Exchange, really being a part of that fair trade movement and the kind of vote with your dollar idea. How can we talk about what we’re doing now, how that’s different and that we’re building upon that story to kind of expand beyond conscious consumerism and how folks can get involved beyond just, hey, I’m buying Equal Exchange coffee. What, what else can can folks do and how can they get involved?:
Rob:
32:23
Yeah. Good. I mean we obviously do ask people to vote with your dollar. We ask them to buy our stuff. But we also are very aware that that is just one layer, right? That that is vote with your fork, vote with your dollar. those are not the end. Those are big. Those are the points of entry. political engagement and involvement is really crucial here. So for us at Equal Exchange, we are, eagerly inviting, people who, who, who support what we do to engage with us and join us. In fact, this summer in June here in Massachusetts, we’re holding our third year of what we’re calling the summit of activists. and, and, eventually we believe members of Equal Exchange to come and engage with us. you know, if you go to our website, you will be steered quickly to, to this activity to how to join. but we, we need you, we need people engage in, in a deeper way than ever before. Doesn’t mean commit your life to Equal Exchange. It means we have a whole multiple, you know, multipart menu of ways you can get involved in help us from buying to talking to others, to talking to your local store, your, your, your church, any number of ways. So we need you and we’d like you, we’d love it for those who inspired sufficiently inspired after listening to this to go to the website and get in touch with us.:
Kate:
33:51
We’ll put links in the show notes as well so you can find them there.:
Danielle:
33:55
I also think what’s powerful about the Equal Exchange summit, and I am one of the organizers of that event, is that you’re actually asking people to show up physically. It’s really a virtual worlds and folks are engaging in that way every day, every minute. And we actually want to see your face. We want to, for you to show up physically, we want to get to know you on a human level. And so that’s what’s really powerful to me is it’s really a gathering of all the folks in Equal Exchange’s, community, our worker-owners, our customers that we want to call citizen consumers. Right? You’re not just as much as your dollar is worth, you’re more and our producer partners. So really just getting folks around. all parts of our supply chain around one table. So just to talk a bit about the details. It’s going to be June 20th to June 22nd in Norton, Massachusetts at Wheaton College. So we would love you folks to come and we will have in the show notes, but in case you’re not going to look at the show notes, it’s Equal Exchange dot coop slash summit so we hope to see you there.:
Kate:
35:08
Thanks again for joining us, Rob.:
Rob:
35:10
Thank you.:
Kate:
35:13
Thanks for listening to the Stories Behind Our Food, a podcast by Equal Exchange, Inc a workaround cooperative. Love this episode? Please subscribe rate and leave a review. Be sure to visit www.exchange.coop to join the conversation, purchase products and learn more about small scale farmers in the global supply chain. This episode was produced by Equal Exchange with hosts, Kate Chess and Danielle Robidoux. Sound engineering provided by Gary Goodman. Join us next time for another edition of the Stories Behind Our Food.