Fair Trade Coffee FAQ --- Media Tips for Promoting Fair Trade --- Helpful Day of Action Downloads

DEC. 8, 2001

While the world confronts a terrorist crisis, Mexico and Central America are facing a severe famine intensified by a crisis in the international coffee market. Today's world market prices for coffee are at their lowest point in history. While coffee companies reap huge profits, millions of coffee farmers and workers face unemployment, land seizure, and starvation. An alliance of concerned organizations (see below for sponsors and endorsers) invite you to support the world's coffee farmers by taking part in a Fair Trade Coffee Day of Action December 8 and promoting and/or purchasing fair trade coffee in your local stores and cafes.

If you want to get involved in the Fair Trade day of
action please email simon@organicconsumers.org

Click here for a list of cities
participating in the Day of Action

Helpful Downloadable
Materials For
Day of Action

Next Steps for Fair Trade Coffee Day of Action


Before you do anything, check the Transfair USA web-site (www.transfairusa.org) out to identify stores in your area that sell fair trade coffee (click Where to Buy).  If you can't find any, then look through your phonebook and call around to health food stores, coops, coffee shops, and private grocery stores in your area first and see if they carry Fair Trade Certified coffee.  Make sure they check for the Transfair Fair Trade Certified label (since there's a lot of pseudo fair trade / "organic" coffee that roasters try to market as being fairly traded).  If you can't find any private grocers or coffee shops that stock fair trade, you should be able to identify chain stores in your area that carry Fair Trade coffee – Whole Foods, Wild Oats and Safeway generally carry some Fair Trade Certified coffee. If possible, try to go the store yourself and confirm what they have and how much. If you find stores that carry FT coffee but are not listed on Transfair's website, please email them the contact information for the store (info@transfairusa.org).


You can definitely still participate if no store in your area sells fair trade coffee.  One way would be to organize a “fair trade coffee fair” at your church or community center.  Both Casa Bonampak (www.casabonampak.org) and SERRV (www.serrv.org) have resources for doing this.  You could also negotiate with the grocery store owner about handing out information on the coffee crisis and postcards for people to give the management where they would pledge to buy fair trade coffee if the store stocked it.  We are discouraging negative protest actions for this particular day since you will get kicked off store property pretty quickly and will undermine this day’s goal of broad outreach and expansion of the fair trade consumer base.


Once you have identified the store and the kind of coffee which is available in the store, please write down the names of the roaster companies and contact Morgan Guyton at nicanet@afgj.org to share information about the Fair Trade Coffee company and store name. We will help faciliate contacting the roaster directly to see if they are interested in trying to serve and promote their

Fair Trade coffee on December 8. If the roaster is interested, he/she can handle negotiations with the store directly to see if they can set up a tasting table with information about Fair Trade. In this event, we would make sure that you and the roaster are in touch so that you can help volunteer at their table.


If you and/or the roaster(s) cannot set up coffee-tasting, you will need to approach the store directly to negotiate setting up a table (either outside or inside the store) to distribute literature and speak to customers about the coffee crisis and Fair Trade coffee.  Use the background information we have provided with this packet to help you make a good sell with the store manager.

If the manager will not agree to a table, ask them if they would permit you to simply stand in front of their store to distribute literature about the crisis and Fair Trade coffee.  You have the right to distribute literature without their permission if you’re on a public sidewalk a certain distance from the door (check local regulations).

If you are dealing with a large chain store (Giant, Safeway, etc) ask for the number of their regional public affairs or marketing office (often one mid-level bureaucrat for every 5 states or so).  Write that number down and send it to me at nicanet@afgj.org so that we can make the appropriate negotiations from the national level (the reason for this is they will require an accredited 501-c3 non-profit group to reserve the space).  The manager should have an application for you to fill out as well.


The Nicaragua Network is raising humanitarian aid for the Nicaraguan Ernesto Gonzalez foundation to feed starving coffee workers camped out in large cities with Nicaraguan produce.  If you would like to support this effort, please contact us at nicanet@afgj.org.  You will definitely need to ask permission from the store to solicit donations on their property.  An alternative method if they don’t allow solicitations is to take financial pledges from people, write down their names, phone numbers, and emails, and send that information to us.


A) To recruit volunteers to help you with tabling and to get others to support fair trade coffee day as individual consumers, spread the word about this day to your friends, family and colleagues.Download Day of Action Flyer (pdf).

B) Begin gathering contact information of your local media outlets to use during the week of the event (please see media tips section).

C) Read your background information materials to prepare yourself to talk to store employees and recruit volunteers to help you.

D) Contact me if you have any questions or other suggestions.

Thanks again for your participation!!!!

Morgan Guyton

Nicaragua Network



Frequently Asked Q & A’s About Fair Trade Certified Coffee

What does Fair Trade Certified Mean?

Coffee with the Fair Trade Certified label guarantees consumers that the farmers who grew the coffee: 1) are paid a fair price for their harvest and  2) are organized into democratically-organized cooperatives that sell direct to buyers in consuming countries. Under Fair Trade, farmers can more than double their incomes, allowing them to afford basic needs such as education and healthcare for their families. Because they are encouraged to use sustainable practices, Fair Trade farmers usually grow their coffee in the shade of taller trees and tend to avoid the use of pesticides. The presence of TransFair’s certification label on a bag of coffee means that every step involved in getting your coffee from the crop to your cup has been monitored and certified by an independent, third party certification agency to ensure the farmers really received a fair price for the coffee.

Why is Fair Trade needed?

Many small coffee farmers receive prices for their coffee that are less than the costs of production, forcing them into a cycle of poverty and debt. With little or no income between harvest months, farmers are usually forced to sell their next crop in advance to exploitative middlemen, who pay far below the harvest’s value. The farmer’s situation is exacerbated by the fact that the world market price is extremely volatile, frequently experiencing steep price drops when overproduction causes world coffee surpluses. With few other options for income, such drastic price drops cause many coffee farmers to lose their farms and become hopelessly in debt.

Does Fair Trade Certified mean organic too?

Although the two terms are not synonymous, almost all the Fair Trade Certified coffee presently in the US is also certified organic. While about 15% of Fair Trade farms are certified organic, approximately 80-85% of all Fair Trade farms do not use pesticides, but have not yet been certified. Fair Trade coffee is always grown on small farms by family farmers who tend to avoid the use of pesticides and take meticulous care of their crops. Revenues from Fair Trade cooperatives are often used to train farmers in organic farming techniques, such as composting and mulching.

Is Fair Trade Certified coffee also bird-friendly or shade grown?

Although the two terms are not synonymous, most Fair Trade Certified coffee is also shade-grown, bird-friendly coffee. This is because all Fair Trade coffee is grown by small family farmers, most of whom own traditional, shaded farms that host a high diversity of birds. In addition to providing a rich habitat for birds, these shade trees often bear fruit, providing additional food or income for the farmers and their families.                                                                      

Does Fair Trade Certified coffee cost more for companies or consumers?

Not necessarily. Fair Trade coffee is usually within the same price range as other gourmet coffee. Since most Fair Trade Certified coffee in the US is also Certified Organic, which tends to be priced at the upper range of gourmet coffee prices, consumers should expect to pay about the same price as regular organic coffee. The main reason coffee farmers earn a better income under Fair Trade is that the farmer cooperatives export directly to importers, cutting out the conventional middlemen who typically capture more of the profit.

What’s the difference between Fair Trade and Free Trade?

Fair Trade guarantees producers a better price for their product than what they would earn under conventional trade. By providing direct trade links between consumers and producers, Fair Trade companies promote social justice in a manner that socially and economically empowers farmers. Fair Trade is not charity; it provides a market-based approach to increasing small farmer self-sufficiency.

Free Trade, in contrast, implies a system of trade that favors large multinational corporations, often at the expense of local human communities and the environment. Free trade is not about helping small farmers gain self sufficiency; it’s a system of trade that increases corporate profits for multinational companies that benefit from lower labor costs and looser environmental regulations in Third World countries.                                                                      

If an importer pays at least $1.26/lb price for coffee, does that mean the coffee is automatically considered Fair Trade Certified?

No. The importer would have to be licensed through TransFair USA and import the coffee from cooperatives that are listed on the international Fair Trade Register. Furthermore, simply paying a minimum of $1.26/lb does not guarantee that the farmer received a decent living wage for their harvest. In fact, there is very little “trickle down” to the farmer in conventional trade. Most of that price likely went to exploitative middlemen, with only a very small amount going to the farmer. TransFair’s certification label assures consumers that the farmer really received a fair price for the coffee.

When you see the “Fair Trade Certified” label on one line of a company’s packages of coffee, does that mean that all of that company’s coffee is Fair Trade Certified?

No.  While there are many companies making initial commitments to support the concept of Fair Trade, only the packages with the label guarantee the Fair Trade price was paid to the farmer cooperative.  The idea is for coffee companies to gradually build their commitment to Fair Trade, as more origins (different regions and countries) become available though Fair Trade Certified importers (which will depend on what roasters are requesting them to import). The coffee industry makes decisions based on what their customers are asking for. It is very important to understand that it is only through a concerted effort by both the consumer (creating demand) and coffee company initiative (making the coffee available) will the expansion of Fair Trade be possible.  Thank you for your partnership!

Media Tips for Promoting
Fair Trade Coffee

[Note:  this media guide is taken from the excellent action kit provided by Global Exchange on their website at www.globalexchange.org.  Contact Melissa Schweisguth of Global Exchange at melissa@globalexchange.org or 415.255.7296 for more information.]

There are two basic approaches to media work:

1) You can get a reporter to do a story by faxing a news release and also pitching a story.

2) Or do it yourself: letters to the editor, articles, radio shows, and presentations.

Writing your own story for submission

•Include the basic facts about Fair Trade ,including all the arguments why people would want to support it. Check out our Frequently Asked Questions on the web site to get an idea of some of the common challenges.

•Avoid rhetoric and jargon .State your case simply and clearly.Have a friend who is unfamiliar with your issue read over your story to check for understanding and unknown terminology.

•Sound passionate and committed,but reasonable — you are appealing to a wide variety of people.

Personalize your story .Why do YOU support Fair Trade? Tell the story of an individual farmer and how Fair Trade changed their life.

•Give contact information — how people can get in touch with you (and Global Exchange)for further information or to participate.

• Give ACTION ideas —your last line should contain a punchy action people can take. Let them know how important individual and collective action is,and how Buying Fair Trade coffee is a simple thing people can do on a daily basis to support fairness for farmers around the world.

•PLEASE send us a copy of anything that gets published —with the circulation, so we can estimate how many people we are reaching through the media.

Creating your message

There are three key aspects of a winning message. Without any one of them, your story will lose its coherence or compelling nature. They are:

PROBLEM. Frame the issue. Identify why it ’s important and the broad impact of the situation.

Farmers are poor. Why? What ’s the problem in the coffee industry?

•SOLUTION. What is Fair Trade? How does it solve the problem? How does it impact farmers?

•ACTION. What do readers need to do to change the situation from problem to solution?

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor are one of the simplest ways to counteract misinformation and to draw attention to a

particular issue.

Information about how to submit Letters to the Editor are contained in the Letters section of the newspaper.

•Be direct.Stick to one point.Keep the letter as short as possible.

•Provide supporting information ,such as facts,statistics,and maybe a quote.

•Use a local angle.Be sure to tailor your Letter to the local audience and context .

Be professional — not rhetorical,but state your opinion strongly.

•If you are responding to an article or editorial,submit your Letter as soon as possible — within 24 hours if possible and no more than three days after the article you are responding to appears. Refer to the article you are addressing by title and date it appeared.

•Expose contradictions and fallacies using facts,sound reasoning and logic.

Make a follow-up call to ask if the Editor is interested in printing your letter.

Basic Tips

•Develop and maintain your media database of local print, radio and television media — both mainstream and alternative, national and local. Keep the reporter ’s name, title, company, address, phone, fax number, & email.

•If you ’re going to take the time to send out a press release, take the time to make the follow-up calls.

Return reporter ’s phone calls as soon as possible; respect their deadlines and professionalism.

Prepare a packet of materials that can easily be sent to reporters that are interested in your issue or sent along with articles you submit.

The media kit should have the basic information such as:

-your press release

-fact sheets

-resources and contact information

-photographs if available

-previous published articles on the subject

Press Releases

•Press releases are one-page, clearly written accounts of an event, accomplishment or report.

•Type the date at the top left corner. Beneath it, write “For Immediate Release ”.

•At the top right-hand corner, indicate the name and phone number of someone the media can contact for more information on the day of the release.

•Center and underline a title — an interesting one in BIG print

•Ideally, the 5 “W ’s ”and “H ”—who, what, when, where, why and how —should be covered in the first

paragraph — a dynamic, fascinating lead introduction.

•Be brief. Use short words, sentences, paragraphs, and active verbs.

•The final paragraph describes your organization and reinforced the message of your group,possibly with a quotation from one of your spokespersons.

•End the release with ‘####’.

•Attach extra information such as flyers and relevant documents. If included write “Attached (list of documents)” at the bottom of the page.

•Press releases without follow-up calls do not get placed. If you fax, you must call to pitch and confirm that they received your fax.

Pitching a story to a reporter

•Rehearse your pitch several times before calling.

•Call in the morning while reporters are looking for stories — they ’re on deadline in the afternoon.

•Speak slowly and clearly. If you need to leave a message, be concise, and call back later.

•Begin by introducing yourself. Ask the reporter if they have a quick minute. If they say no, ask what ’s a good time to call back.

•When you get their attention, cut to the chase. Tell them what you ’re calling about and why it ’s newsworthy. “Hi. My name is Super Student and I ’m calling from College Students for Fair Trade.I wanted to see if you ’d be interested in covering an action we ’re doing to promote Fair Trade for coffee farmers on campus next week.”

•Engage them, talk to them,l isten to feedback and ask if they ’re interested in doing a story. If they say yes, offer to fax them more information right away and ask them what materials they need from you. Let them know how they can contact other people to interview.

•If they say no, don ’t be afraid to ask why. Then ask them who else they think would be able to do it from their paper. If they think it ’s a good story but they just can ’t do it, they’ll give you another name. If they don ’t think it ’s newsworthy, find out why. If a reporter turns you down, don ’t be put off. Only a very small percentage of pitched stories get covered.

• When your story gets published, let us know by sending us copies with circulation amount.

For more information on progressive media activism, check out Robert Bray ’s Spin Works! A Media Guidebook for Communicating Values and Shaping Opinion ,available online at http://store.globalexchange.org/spinworks.html

Event Locations

CALIFORNIA Alameda (Java Rama Coffee House), Berkley, Los Angeles, Merced, San Rafael, Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company)
Denver, Boulder, Paonia (Sunnyside Co-op), Fort Collins (Foothills Fashion Mall)
Washington (Bucks County Coffee Company at Union Station and Ronald Reagan Building locations)
FLORIDA Gainesville
GEORGIA Americus, Atlanta, Athens
ILLINOIS Dekalb, Chicago (Hyde Park Co-op 10-2; Heartland Café - 1230 W. Greenleaf 11-2; Kopi Café - 5317 N. Clark will be brewing Fair Trade on 8th, will have flyers; Greenleaf Grocery - 1261 W. Loyola, Ave Brews Fair Trade EVERDAY in their grocery)
INDIANA Indianapolis, Ft. Wayne
KANSAS Lawrence
MAINE Portland
MARYLAND Baltimore (St. Vincent's Catholic Church and Ascension Lutheran Church), College Park, Takoma Park (Takoma Park Food Coop)
MASSACHUSETTS Cambridge, Boston
MICHIGAN Detroit, Ferndale (Xhedo's Cafe)
MINNESOTA Duluth, Minneapolis
MISSOURI Kansas City (Broadway Cafe at 4106 Broadway- 11AM)
NEW JERSEY Princeton (Whole Earth Cafe)
NEW YORK Binghamton, Buffalo, New York City (Integral Yoga 229 West 13th Street from 11 AM to 3pm), Syracuse
OHIO Cleveland, Toledo
OKLAHOMA Stillwater
ONTARIO Kingston (Sleepless Goat Café)
QUEBEC Montreal
RHODE ISLAND Providence (12/8 12-4 PM at Coffee Exchange on Wickenden ST-- 12/9 from 11AM-3PM at East Side Marketplace on Pitman St)
Austin, Dallas
VERMONT Burlington
VIRGINIA Williamsburg
Bainbridge Island, Seattle
CANADA Queens, University

If you want to get involved in the Fair Trade day of action please email simon@organicconsumers.org

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