Fair trade coffee: Backpacking trip to Nicaragua changes course of entrepreneur’s life (Nov. 14, 2013 Globe and Mail)

The story, which you can access here, introduces Tracey Clark, managing director of Bridgehead Coffee, a small fair trade coffeehouse chain which now has fifteen outlets in Ottawa.

Here is the opening Q & A in the article:

1. Let’s start with the basics. Can you briefly describe your business, including when it was founded, what it does, and where you operate?

Bridgehead, Canada’s first fair trade coffee company, was originally founded in 1981 as an act of solidarity by social activists and United Church ministers with small-scale farmers in Nicaragua.

I acquired the Bridgehead Trading Company in 2000, including its trademarks. Since 2000, we’ve been putting fair trade coffee in the cup and telling the seed to cup story to anyone who will listen. We now operate fifteen coffeehouses, a roastery and a scratch bakery and kitchen in Ottawa.

[End of excerpt]

I am reminded of Fair Grounds Organic Café & Roastery

The Fair Grounds Organic Café and Roastery story is outlines at its website:

  • Fair Grounds, unlike most coffee shops, did not start as a business plan. Rather, it started as a passion for supporting communities abroad in their attempt to sell quality products at a fair price. The owner, Jeffrey Stinson, began doing research on coffee for another business, when he realized that not only is coffee the most sprayed crop next to cotton, but that farmers are losing money in its production and being further pushed into poverty. Upon gaining this knowledge, he thought it was an important cause to support, and roasting coffee seemed like an interesting hobby. He began roasting coffee with a friend in a warehouse, selling the beans at local farmers markets. The passion that Jeffrey developed for this cause has not wavered, however his hobby has grown into a flourishing coffee shop.

[End of excerpt]

The story brings to mind as well Birds & Beans

Birds & Beans shares the following overview at its website:

  • Coffee is a huge global industry. There is a lot of money in the coffee industry, but very little goes to the growers. The price of coffee is set by global commodity markets. The forces at work in these markets are skewed by the interests of a few huge multinational food companies. These forces are completely out of the control of growers. As a result, coffee prices fluctuate from prices that can sustain the lives of growers near the poverty line in good years to below the price of production in others. The lives of these growers are uncertain and marginal.
  • The notion of fair trade is to by-pass the global coffee distribution chain and define another kind of trade. Trade that provides stability to the growers by offering credit, establishing long term trading relationships, and establishing minimum prices that enable a decent life to growers.
  • Long term relationships give coffee farmers and their families confidence in their future. With this confidence children can go to school believing that they will have the opportunity to complete their studies. Access to credit enables growers to band together in co-operatives and invest in alternate processing and storage facilities and establish their own export companies that deal directly with importers into North America, Europe and Australia.

[End of excerpt]


A Huffington Post article, downloaded July 19, 2015, is entitled: The Myth of the Ethical Shopper.

Also of interest: The Rebel Sell: How the Counterculture Became Consumer Culture (2004).


1 reply
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    One of the general principles that I like to keep in mind is that there is a distinction between a marketing story (related to Fair Trade or any other topic) and a story that is based upon an impartial, balanced, fact-driven effort to seek corroboration for such a story.

    Sometimes the marketing story may indeed accord with the story that emerges following an independent, evidence-based investigation of it.

    Until the facts of a marketing story are verified, however, it’s a good idea to keep the distinction closely in mind.


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