Fair trade is complicated. Most of us don’t have the means to visit farms where our sugar, coffee, vanilla, bananas, chocolate (etc.) are grown. We don’t want to support child slavery or any other form of abuse, but after we put in the effort to be informed about what we are buying, we are left to make a bit of a leap of faith because we can’t personally verify treatment of workers. (This is not a good excuse to do nothing! That’s a whole other post.)
Fair trade is not all about the certified label. Instead, it’s really about what goes on to get food (and anything else) into our homes. While products made in your town or county may not be labeled “fair trade,” it is likely you can find some that are fair trade in practice. (For a refresher on what we mean by “fair trade” here at The Social Eater, check out last week’s post.)
Buying locally made products
- is a chance to support fair trade practices right where we live.
- supports local economy.
- helps preserve the landscape.
- tends to yield freshly picked and/or
- means purchases tend to be fresher and
- are as a result, tastier and more nutritious than their grocery store counterparts.
- fosters a sense of community through relationships with farmers and overall more interaction over food
How to Find Local Farmers and Producers
Look for local cooperatives ( the business is owned by workers who share in the profits/benefits.)
Buy a CSA share. In a CSA, or Consumer Supported Agriculture, consumers pay a fee upfront for the entire season, ensuring that farmers will receive adequate pay for the growing season. In some CSA’s, like Lancaster Farm Fresh, many farmers are involved so that if one farmer doesn’t do well, the rest will help cover the bases. CSA’s are available for a variety of products, including vegetables, fruit, flowers, eggs, cheese, meat, vegetarian meat alternatives, and natural medicines. Some also offer a personalized touch, such as arranging member potlucks so members can meet farmers in a group setting.
Buy directly from a farmer. Farmers Markets are good, but also tricky; sometimes a lot of the produce is shipped in. If you want to know where your food is coming from, just ask! Most vendors don’t mind answering questions (and if they do, they may just be having a bad day). Some, but not all vendors are farmers.
Check out Eat Wild for farms that raise grass-fed and pasture-raised animals in your area.
Check out Eat Well Guide for a listing of farms, CSA’s, organizations, education centers, farmers markets, and stores and restaurants that stock locally sourced foods near you.
If you are in the Reading, PA area, here are a few coops, CSA’s, and farmers I can recommend (I have heard good things about a few others, but these are the groups with whom I’ve had personal experience.):
Meadow Mountain Farm (100% grass-fed beef)
Deep Roots Valley Farm (pastured-raised chickens and eggs)
Shollenberger’s Organic Poultry (can be found at The Shillington Farmers Market year-round and the seasonal West Reading Farmers Market) (chicken, eggs)
B&H Organic Produce (produce and chicken)
Amazing Acres Goat Dairy (goat cheese)
Lancaster Farm Fresh (CSA’s for eggs, meat, vegetables, fruit, herbal remedies, and flowers)
The Seed (a worker-owned-and operated cafe and community space; sources local and organic ingredients whenever possible)
West Reading Farmers Market (All vendors are local.)