So what does one do? People have to eat. This is a question that has lingered in the back of my mind throughout a lot of Greenpeace forest campaigns. Yes, it is excellent that McDonalds has stopped buying soybeans from recently deforested land in the Amazon, but what are those farmers doing now? My guess is they are still cutting down trees to plant soybeans.
This conundrum has million of permutations and will clearly require just as many solutions; here is one in the form of a non-profit called As Green As It Gets run by an expatriate, Franklin Vorhees. I listened to Franklin speak at the Rainbow Reading Room, a gringo hang out in Antigua that hosts leftward leaning speakers every Tuesday in order to attract the Chaco-wearing crowd. The following Sunday, I took the bus to nearby San Juan del Obispo to join Franklin, his two NYU grad student volunteers, and a handful of local farmers to plant trees. Fortunately for them, about 30 more farmers showed up than they had been expecting, and they showed up at the crack of dawn. So, when I rolled up at 9 o’clock, there were no more trees to be planted. Instead, I followed Franklin and his posse around to the abodes and workshops of a couple local artisans: a jade cutter (pictured), an iron worker and a furniture maker. I returned to the jade cutters house twice the following week to make a birthday present for Jen.
During his talk at the Reading Rainbow,
Through community cooperatives, micro-loans, volunteer work and direct trade networks in the
What about the coffee? By roasting some of it themselves and selling the coffee directly to consumers in the US, As Green As It Gets farmers get more money per pound than big coffee would have paid and more even than Fair Trade requires. ( Read why they opted not to pursue the Fair Trade certificate.) The following season, the farmers are able to pass the wealth on to their neighbors by buying some of their beans from them at higher prices and employing them during the harvesting and sorting process. How much does the coffee cost? $8/lb. plus shipping ($9.80/lb. for 5 lbs shipped to D.C.) which cleanly beats Starbucks' Guatemala Antigua blend at $10.65/lb.