Offering support (and chocolate) for Valentine’s Day

In 2003, I met a soft-spoken farmer from the Dominican Republic who convinced me that the phrase “fair trade” is not just an empty marketing slogan designed to move product.

Abel Fernandez,production and export manager for the National Confederation of Dominican CocoaProducers, came to the New York and explained how buying fair trade cocoa would benefit his organization’s 9,000 small farmers and their communities.

At that time, 10 percent of the organization’s annual crop yield was used for the fair trade market and the roughly $150,000 that they earned back was reinvested in both improving product (teaching how to ferment cocoa beans for chocolate bars, for example) and meeting community needs in areas such as health care and education.

June Kim, a United Methodist Committee on Relief executive who works on hunger/poverty and sustainable agriculture and development projects, also convinced me. Her passion for fair trade products – coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, olive oil — has made the UMCOR Coffee Project, launched in 2002, an unqualified success. She literally has walked the fields of some of these farmers.

Kim is a tireless promoter for our denomination’s partnership with Equal Exchange, an employee-owned fair trade organization, and its trading partners, cajoling local congregations into placing orders for coffee hours, church dinners and fundraising projects. Because of her efforts, the United Methodist Church’s top legislative body encourages the use of fair trade products.

It’s kind of a no-brainer. When we buy through the Equal Exchange interfaith store, we support farmers in some of the poorest regions of Latin America, Africa and Asia and also support UMCOR, which receives a small percentage of wholesale sales.

For Valentine’s Day, there’s a special card/candy combo offer, along with the usual enticing array of chocolate bars by the case: Very Dark Chocolate; Dark with Almonds; Mint Crunch; Milk with Hazelnut; Dark Caramel with Sea Salt; Dark with Espresso Bean; Dark Orange; Ecuador Dark (65% cacao); and Panama Dark (80% cacao). Bestow them with love upon your sweetheart, friends, officemates, classmates or fellow congregants.

Here’s how to buy through the interfaith store: On the web Direct from Equal Exchange; emailinterfaith@equalexchange.com; phone, 774-776-7366; fax, fill out an order form and fax to 505-587-5955 [Download order Form]

I’ve already placed a Valentine’s Day order of espresso bean bars (my favorite) and organic Earl Grey tea through St. Paul and St. Andrew’s, my local church.

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