The Power of Fair Trade: Produce Workers in Mexico Invest in their Communities
Guest blog from Sarah Falltrick, Business Development Specialist, Produce & Floral
We recently received some great news from one of our fresh produce partners in Mexico about the successes of their Fair Trade Certified farms. This guest blog post comes to us from our very own Sarah Falltrick, Business Development Specialist at Fair Trade USA. Sarah works hard every day to help transform the lives of the farmers and workers on Fair Trade produce & floral farms around the world. Read on to learn more about how your everyday purchases of Fair Trade fresh produce can impact the lives of farming communities, no matter how far away.
The Crisantes family has long supported a commitment to social responsibility and tries to positively impact the lives of their workers. Their family owns two farms in Mexico that grow a variety of organic vegetables and fruits: Wholesum Farms Sonora in Ímuris and Wholesum Farms Pacific in Culiacán, Mexico. They were also integral in Fair Trade USA’s process of designing a program for fresh produce from Mexico that could meaningfully impact their largely migrant worker population. Wholesum Family Farms decided to pursue Fair Trade certification in early 2012.
"We consider it a great honor to offer our customers Fair Trade Certified organic produce that is not only safe, healthy and delicious, but is grown ethically and responsibly." -- Ricardo Crisantes, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Wholesum Farms Sonora
Wholesum Farms Sonora – Ímuris, Sonora, Mexico
Wholesum Farms Sonora is an organic greenhouse facility in a beautiful Sonoran desert town called Ímuris. The farm grows mainly organic tomatoes in their greenhouses. Below you can see Gabriel Atilano, 24, a migrant worker from Eloxochitlan, harvesting Fair Trade Certified organic cherry tomatoes.
On April 9, 2012, workers at Wholesum Farms Sonora voted to elect their Fair Trade Committee, a group responsible for listening to the needs of the workers, choosing how to invest their Fair Trade Community Development Premiums, and implementing each project. The Premiums generated by the sales of their Fair Trade Certified produce enables the farm workers to democratically and autonomously choose projects based on the needs of the community.
One of the biggest challenges facing workers is the distance they travel to work coupled with the high cost of transportation both to and from work and school. Bus fare can cost up to a third of a worker’s daily salary, and is often cost-prohibitive. With this in mind, the General Assembly of workers democratically voted to invest their Community Development Premiums in a bus to transport students (children of workers and/or workers themselves) to campuses that are located six miles away. Below is the son of a Wholesum Farms Sonora worker preparing to ride the newly purchased bus to school.
Another way Community Development Premiums at Wholesum Farms Sonora is impacting lives is through their education programs. Olga Quevedo Castro, 36, is a worker at the farm and attends an evening adult high school course given at the primary school. Olga has been working for four years at Wholesum Farms Sonora and is currently the supervisor for the nursery and primary school that cares for the children of employees. Not only is Olga a participant in the education program funded by Premiums, she also holds a leadership role in the decision-making process concerning the use of their Fair Trade Premiums.
“There are absolutely no negatives from the Fair Trade program as all of the Community Development Premium benefits the workers." - Olga Quevedo Castro, worker at Wholesum Farms Sonora
Wholesum Farms Pacific – Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico
Wholesum Farms Pacific, a farm located in Culiacán, grows Fair Trade Certified organic cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants. The majority of workers at this farm are migrant workers from poor southern states like Guerrero that live at the farm from September to June during the harvest season. Some workers speak limited Spanish in addition to their native indigenous language, and have little formal education.
Mr. Crisantes emphasizes that Wholesum Harvest is dedicated to minimizing its carbon footprint through biological pest management, water & energy conservation, and sustainable agriculture. This is important to their Fair Trade certification as Fair Trade environmental standards are some of the strictest in the industry.
Porfirio Modesto Martinez, 50, is one of the migrant workers on the farm from Ometepec, Guerrero. Here he places insect-barriers inside a greenhouse for Fair Trade Certified organic eggplants. This technique of using adhesive barriers in order to catch possible pests and insects eradicates the need to use toxic pesticides or potentially hazardous chemicals.
Fair Trade empowers communities like Wholesum Harvest’s to make positive changes that improve lives and protect the environment. Every purchase we make from Wholesum Harvest adds to this impact in a direct and tangible way.
"Wholesum Harvest has long been committed to protecting the rights of our growers and laborers,” said Mr. Crisantes. “We are thrilled to be [Fair Trade Certified and] recognized for our dedication to human rights and our desire to improve the economies of the Mexican communities in which we operate."
To learn more about Wholesum Family Farms’ Fair Trade certification, check out this short video here.
If you wish to further impact the lives of Wholesum Harvest’s farm workers, like those of Maria, Martin, and their families, be sure to look for their fresh produce items at stores such as Whole Foods Market, New Seasons Market, Nugget Markets, and more. We hope to see you there!