Fair trade coffee, other goods offer living wage to producers

Categories: Around the Diocese

By Nikki Rajala
The Visitor

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Edy Morales gives Lora Knafla a tour of the Juan Ana Cafe facilities in San Lucas, Guatemala, during a visit in March.

When visitors walk through the front door of the St. Cloud Mission Office, they are greeted not only by the friendly face of its office manager, Lora Knafla, but also with the sights and smells of fair trade goods like coffee, chocolate and handcrafted items, often made from unique materials like recycled pop cans or old rubber tires.

Fair trade means that the farmer, artisan or craftsperson who grew or made the item for sale is the one getting the profit from its sale. Fair trade also allows people to stay on and work their own land. The St. Cloud Mission Office supports these global partnerships by selling goods at a just wage and fair price.

One fair trade product that the St. Cloud Mission Office carries is Juan Ana coffee beans. The office purchases the beans from the Friends of San Lucas; the beans are then shipped to Little Falls, where they are roasted with a special roast.

Knafla was one of a group of six that visited San Lucas, Guatemala, from March 19 to 26, in order to understand the process of producing coffee beans from coffee “cherries,” the fruit of the coffee plant.

“What amazed me about the coffee bean process was all the manual labor involved,” Knafla said. “I could tell there was a lot of care and pride in their product. They only send the best beans to the states.”
Coffee cherries, she said, are picked starting in December and tended carefully over the next two weeks to prevent spoilage, to allow “honey” to be produced and for proper drying. A cherry loses four-fifths of its weight in becoming a coffee bean.

The coffee project started in 1992 with the San Lucas Mission purchasing coffee cherries from six families, Knafla said. Today, it buys from 600 families that own only a quarter of an acre to one acre apiece. The San Lucas farmers are paid more for their product than what they would receive otherwise because a better quality of cherry is expected — and because San Lucas Mission wants the growers to earn a just price.

Why is choosing a fair trade product important?

“The main thing is knowing when you’re buying fair trade items that the people who produced the product have been paid a fair wage for what they produce and that you’re getting a very good product,” Knafla said. “All the fair trade products you will find in our office are very unique; not one is a duplicate as they are not made in mass quantities. It is so interesting what people can create out of so many usable things that others would just throw away.”