Sunday, August 14, 2005

Red Tomato: domestic fair trade produce

A recent email from a former student provoked me to look into Red Tomato, a distributer supporting a domestic version of the fair trade principles behind Equal Exchange coffee and other products. According to a write-up from Oxfam America:

Fair trade: Low in calories. High in moral fiber.* Red Tomato is as much about values - namely that of making trade fair for small farmers - as it is about sweet corn and strawberries. Founder Michael Rozyne, who also co-founded Equal Exchange Fair Trade coffee roaster, discovered his mission nearly two decades ago, while working on farms and for a food cooperative. "It's not satisfying to do business knowing that the whole formula ultimately is driving the suppliers out of business," Rozyne explains.

Be it coffee or produce, the fair trade mission to keep small suppliers in business is fundamentally the same. However, unlike Fair Trade coffee - which secures a set price for farmers - Rozyne maintains that fair trade for produce is more about establishing the systems and networks that enable small farmers to compete in today's marketplace.

Red Tomato is doing just that. Working with disadvantaged growers and growers without access to capital, in five short years, Red Tomato has secured spots for small farmer produce in Stop & Shop, Whole Foods Market, and other food markets. To achieve these gains, Red Tomato is uniting growers, trade buyers, and consumers around one thing they all feel passionately about: great produce.

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