Fair Wages and Fair Prices

 

As we transition from purveyors of locally grown and locally made pure and natural food (www.edenviewfoods.com) into the world of the global food market we are learning that the global food chain is in need of some improvement.

We as American consumers have come to expect cheap food that is at least moderately pleasing to the palate and hopefully safe for our dinner tables.  We assume that we are doing good for someone somewhere when we buy coffee and spices, a coconut or a star fruit at the grocery store. 

We believe that fair wages are paid, and the farmers who provide for us have earned enough to feed and care for their families, but sometimes that just isn’t true. 

Being an Informed Consumer

The more I learn, the more I experience, and the more I understand, the more I believe that many of us want to be informed consumers.  We want to learn a little more about how our global food system takes advantage of many families in those less fortunate developing countries. (And believe it or not, we have learned of communities in Florida comprised mainly of Mayan folks where these shortfalls come to fruition right here!  More on that at a later date…)

So, if you are someone who wants to know more, please continue along with me…but if you’d rather not, now is a good time to stop.

I was inspired to write this posting as I was reading Contagious; Why things Catch Fire by Jonah Berger. A book about why certain goods and services go “viral” or see huge success, while others never take hold. 

One example he shares is the apparent unquenchable hunger for the McRib sandwich.  Briefly stated, the sandwich initially failed, but through targeted marketing and creative commercials, they “got” us as a society, hook, line, and sinker! 

According to an article from Chicago magazine in 1995, the McRib is nothing more than a product of “restructured meat technology” which is a mixture of heart and scalded stomach mixed with salt and water. 

Now, I know that some Inuit tribes in the arctic north actually crave the taste of raw stomach washed in river water from their fresh caribou harvest, but for the rest of us, stomach does not meet our definition of meat… Much less rib meat!  But, we want our food quick and cheap…and the less we know the better.

The Farmers of San Pablo Village

The Farmers of San Pablo Village

That story immediately made me think of our friend Thomas from San Pablo Village in Belize.  You see Thomas was a produce farmer who was really excited to join us in the turmeric project when we met in February 2017. 

He planted his stand and was eagerly awaiting the second phase of the project when we would introduce allspice and morenga to inter-crop throughout their fields.   When we returned to Belize in November of 2017, we couldn’t find Thomas anywhere.

Thomas had taken a job on the banana plantation!  He had children that were ready to graduate into middle school and because education isn’t free in Belize, he needed more money than his fields would yield to pay for tuition, uniforms, and books. 

Today Thomas is working 6 days a week, 8am until 10 pm, for about $.75 per hour.  …and we go to the grocery store and grab up those bananas for $.39 per pound!  But, we want cheap food, and the less we know, the better… So much for the old saying, “A hard days work deserves a fair days pay”. (No, I am not identifying a problem without suggesting a solution, read the 1st blog for our solution!)

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Last week we had the opportunity to introduce our line of Maya Mountain Coffee and Spice Company products at the local indoor winter farmers’ market.  We had Nutmeg, Allspice-whole and ground, Turmeric, Annatto, Green Cardamom, Coconut oil, Cohune Nut Oil, Coconut Oil, Jippijappa art, and fresh Ginger! 

Above Fair Trade Prices

It was a pretty good start for our introduction into this exciting business as mission venture and the customers were mostly very receptive.  But there were a few who specifically questioned our pricing for the Fresh Ginger–$8.00 per pound. 

Both were seemingly offended by the price, and when I told them that we were trying to pay the farmers a fair wage, they simply walked away saying that they could get it cheaper at a local grocery store.  But, most consumers simply don’t understand.

At $8 per pound the average business person would walk away from the product as part of their business model.  You see, we’ve got a farmer in Belize who deserves a fair wage. The time and fuel to transport the product a few hundred miles through a third world country to the port, then the export brokers fees, dock fees, ocean freight, import broker fees, customs fees, FDA clearance fees, over the road trucking fees, then the time involved in selling the product at the market. 

Yes, all of these fees are spread over the entirety of our shipment, but I guarantee you no one is getting rich. For an hourly wage, we might be better off peddling those McRibs I spoke of earlier.   But, as American consumers we want cheap food and few understand the complexities of the global food chain.

Individually, farmer by farmer, and community by community, we at Maya Mountain Coffee and Spice Company plan to bring changes to this system by shortening the food chain. The less steps from the farmer to the consumer, the more money we can keep in the farmers pocket. And as a farmer, I know that all of the farmers who grow your food deserve a whole lot more than what they are paid.

At Maya Mountain Coffee and Spice Company, we have worked hard to price our goods at levels that are comparable to high-end grocery store pricing. We continue to achieve our goal of compensating the farmers an above average rate.  As we grow and see success, we will be investing profits back into the farms and communities to help them better provide for their families.