In San Ramón, Costa Rica, 550 small-scale growers, who each own between 1 and 5 acres of land, are the first group of independent smallholders in coffee to earn Fair Trade certification.
As the newest participants in our Fair Trade for All  pilot program, the farmers of San Ramón now have access to the many opportunities and benefits of Fair Trade, including: fair prices, safe working conditions, direct relationships with buyers, and the ability to earn community development premiums to empower and improve their communities. Until recently, this group has not been eligible for certification because they aren't organized into a formal cooperative.
“These farmers have long seen and heard about the benefits of Fair Trade in their neighboring communities, but their own participation has never before been possible. We welcome them with open arms as they begin their Fair Trade journey of social responsibility and environmental sustainability.”--Paul Rice, President & CEO of Fair Trade USA,
Including More People; Delivering More Impact
In the coffee sector, Fair Trade has historically been reserved for small farmers organized into co-ops, while in other categories like rice and cotton, independent small farmers can be part of Fair Trade. That's why we're piloting the Independent Smallholders Standard  (ISS), which creates a path for small farmers to choose their own organizational form, and over time, organize themselves into more advanced structures such as cooperatives.
Café de Altura de San Ramón , the first group in coffee to help us test this standard, is a producer-owned and operated organization, though not technically a cooperative. After struggling for years to earn Fair Trade certification under the Small Producer Organization Standard, the farmers now look to the ISS with high hopes that it will yield opportunities to improve the overall health and well-being of their community.
“If we all hold hands and work together, the whole community benefits. Fair Trade is a way to continue doing that. We want benefits for all of the community and not only for a few,” --Cecilio Jiménez, Fair Trade Committee President and a 75-year-old coffee grower.
As required by the Fair Trade standards , the farmers of San Ramón democratically-elected a Fair Trade Committee, which will oversee the investment of the first Fair Trade community development premiums in much-needed healthcare services.
Specifically, the farmers hope to establish a dental care program. Dental treatment is extremely rare and expensive in this part of Costa Rica. Through Fair Trade, farmers and their families will soon be able to see dentists and recieve the care they need...many for the very first time.
This post is part of our new new Innovation Update Series. Please stay tuned as we report on both the successes and challenges involved in launching each coffee pilot, our cooperative-strengthening program Co-op Link , and our progress on Fair Trade for All  as a whole. It's unique opportunity for people to learn about the farmers and workers participating in these programs, what Fair Trade means to them, and how we can work together to build a more inclusive, collaborative approach that supports everyone in the global coffee supply chain willing to commit to a journey of sustainability, responsibility, empowerment and impact.