By Sarah Carlson, Arts Editor
“Coffee with a conscience” is a term Gary Oliver likes to use to describe Fair Trade coffee.
Fair Trade is a movement that ensures international producers receive fair wages for their products, which range from coffee, clothing, electronics and produce. Oliver, cataloger for the Brown Library, learned about Fair Trade about eight years ago and has made changes in his life to buy Fair Trade products.
An avid coffee drinker, Oliver goes through at least three cups a day. He decided to combine his passions for coffee and social justice by ordering Fair Trade coffee for his per sonal use, and after making presentations to members of the library, Fair Trade coffee is what is brewed during the day at his work.
“As Christians,” Oliver said, “it’s only right that we make an economic decision that is a greater benefit for the poorer people in the world than otherwise.”
After making presentations to Mark Tucker, dean of the library, Oliver talked with Dr. Jack Reese, dean of the College of Biblical Studies. After tasting the coffee and learning more about the topic of Fair Trade, Reese said he was hooked and sent out an e-mail to all faculty and staff in the Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building, asking them to consider serving Fair Trade coffee.
Reese received only positive feedback, he said, as has Oliver, who both are excited to spread awareness of the issues involved with Fair Trade through something as simple as coffee.
Oliver and Reese purchase their coffee from Cafe Campesino, a Fair Trade Coffee company based in Americus, Ga., that works with producers in Central and Latin America to manufacture and sell coffee at a decent wage for the indigenous producers. Many of these producers have trouble competing in the world market, especially against large companies that can manufacture products cheaply and thus sell them at a discounted rate, a rate most farmers around the world can’t compete with.
Cafe Campesino features coffee directly from farmers in Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Sumatra and East Timor, and Oliver said it is easily the best coffee he has ever tasted.
Oliver said Cafe Campesino pays its coffee farmers a minimum of $1 per pound.
“That might not seem like a lot to you and me,” Oliver said, “but to them, it’s the difference of if they can send their kids to school or not. That’s a big deal.”
The price of a pound of coffee from Cafe Campesino ranges from $9.95 to $11.25, depending on the bean and the roast. Oliver said the price is well worth it, and he and his library coworkers figured that considering how many cups of coffee they drink a day, they are paying about 10 cents per cup. Oliver buys the coffee on his personal credit card, and staff members give their monthly share, depending on how many cups they usually drink.
Reese said the funding for the coffee is absorbed from his dean’s budget. He said he thinks that coffee is a community-building aspect of office life and is willing to pay a little extra for a worthy cause.
“Of all people, we ought to be folks who are aware of those who are abused by our consumption,” Reese said.
Oliver said he has contacted Kevin Watson, vice president of administrative services, and Cory Bourg, director of ARAMARK, about serving Fair Trade coffee on campus, especially in the coffee shop that will be built in the upcoming Library Commons and is awaiting a reply.
Other coffee producers, such as Starbucks, which could be possibly be served on campus, do serve Fair Trade coffee, but Oliver said that is not enough.
“If Starbucks was serious about selling Fair Trade coffee, that’s all they would sell,” he said. “I think it’s a marketing ploy.”
He said because Fair Trade coffee is produced by socially conscience people and benefits the less fortunate, it only makes sense that a Christian environment would support it.
“As a Christian institution,” he said, “it seems to me like we should do the right thing.”