Equal Exchange belongs at the Farmers Market

Two women smile at an outdoor table displaying packaged fair trade coffee and chocolate.

This guest post was written by Rev. Cynthia Wickwire Lundquist (pictured above, left, with Anneliese Bruegel, manager of the Fredonia Farmers’ Market.)

The Idea: Food Justice

It happened at a planning session for our church mission program. We had recently established a food justice program and wanted to expand it. “How could we better serve our community?” we asked ourselves.  And one of our church leaders said, “Why don’t we sell our fair trade food at the local farmers market?”

We had sold some Equal Exchange products to our church members for several years. Then we started to use the coffee in our coffee hour, then the sugar packets, and eventually the compostable paper cups. But this was a chance to do more. It would allow us to take the message of fair trade beyond our four walls.

It seemed to be an inspired idea in the truest sense. First, we were in a university town so we felt sure that there would be a market for these organic and fair trade products. Also, it meant that we were expanding our international mission outreach in that we could increase our support of the farmers all over the world who are Equal Exchange trading partners.

A group of elderly churchgoers show off the fair trade products they plan to bring to farmers market.
The group of people who reached out to the farmers market: Cindy Rechlin, Tom Gordon, Carrie Divine, Tom White, Betsy White and Cynthia Wickwire Lundquist.

Approaching the Farmers Market

But, we asked ourselves, would the farmers market welcome us? Their mission was to provide a market for crops raised by local farmers. We made contact and described our goals:

  1. To help international farmers
  2. To spread the word about the importance of buying fair trade products
  3. To increase the availability of organic products.

We also agreed to sell only products not carried by our local farmers, such as granola bars and jams. Finally, we told them that we would be selling the products at essentially wholesale prices so this was a non-profit endeavor. (In fact, we did round up the prices in a few cases. We use this to cover the cost of renting space at the winter indoor market and the cost of a tent, tables and display pieces. If we ever make a true profit, we plan to donate it to the Fredonia Farmers’ Market.)

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Then the market agreed to let us come and the experiment started. And what a success it has been! We are now in the top 5% of Equal Exchange’s sales to churches and community groups.

But that was not the biggest surprise. The biggest surprise is that our presence has benefited the farmers market. At the beginning, we only participated twice a month (two Saturdays out of four) but soon, if we weren’t there, people began to ask about us. We became a draw for the market. As the market manager said recently, “It is a symbiotic relationship.” They helped us spread the word about fair trade and we helped them bring more customers to the market. And the real winners are, of course, the farmers near and far.

Now, we have expanded our participation in the market and the variety of products we sell. We are grateful to Equal Exchange for their high quality products, of course, but most of all, for helping us expand our ministry of food justice for all.

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