by: Lyle Luzum, president,
Oneota Community Co-op Coard of Directors
In previous articles in the “Scoop” I discussed the W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s definition of “Good Food”: food that is Fair (does not depend on exploitation of people), Green (does not depend on exploitation and degradation of the environment), Healthy (encourages health, not chronic illness or obesity) and Affordable (available to all, not just the rich).
The concept of Fair Trade works to assure that food certified as Fair Trade results in fair return for those who work to produce it. We have typically thought about this in relation to coffee, chocolate, bananas, and other foods produced in Third World countries yet this concept is equally valid for domestically produced food. Why should we demand that our food be so cheap that farmers have to lose money in order to feed us? Or, why should we accept that small, local farmers be driven out of business because only mammoth, industrial-scale producers can produce our food for the price we have come to expect?
In Third World countries, when many small, local farmers are driven out of business by a few large enterprises, communities die. Around the world, local farmers are the foundation of communities. It is no different in the US. We, in rural America, have seen the same devastating effect on our communities as farms have gotten big and farmers few.
That is why the efforts of the Northeast Iowa Food & Farm Coalition (NIFF) are so important to us in NE Iowa. As the “food” component of our Food & Fitness Initiative, NIFF is striving to re-create a local and regional food system that offers opportunities for producers and processors to provide local food and for consumers the opportunity to buy local food. You can’t have one without the other and together they can keep local economies vibrant.
So, this is basically Local Fair Trade. If our neighbors are going to produce food for us, we should not expect that they lose money doing it. If they can’t support their families doing so, it cannot happen. As small, local farmers disappear, so does the reason for existence for most of our rural communities. By supporting their efforts with a fair return, they produce, we eat, and our money circulates within our economy.
Oneota Community Food Co-op has long been a prime outlet for local producers and currently count nearly 80 producers among its suppliers. Good Food is Fair to producers. Join us at the Co-op and support Local Fair Trade.