Cosmic Cow Pie: Connecting the Dots


Glocal #3 Brazil, Coffee, Certified Fair Trade

Glocal #3 Brazil, Coffee, Certified Fair Trade

"Thinking Global Acting Local" lessons continue as we journey up the Amazon River.

Confronting The Coffee Crises:

On our way to Brazil, the largest coffee exporter in the world, we had the opportunity to listen to Lee GrossLee Gross on the Amazon explain his Masters research on small scale coffee production in the Dominican Republic. We are traveling down the Amazon River on the ML Explorer with the Spring 2011 Semester At Sea voyage learning new concepts from the voyage theme: Thinking Globally to Acting Locally on a daily basis.

The information Lee shared was really an awakening for me to really embrace the concept of supporting  Certified Fair Trade products.

I must admit I have been on the outside looking in with really understanding the importance of using my consumer dollar to support the environment and small scale farming families. Lee’s presentation “connected the dots” for me in understanding why we should buy “Certified Fair Trade” products.

Interesting facts about coffee production:

• 25 million families are “sustained” by coffee and its connected production products
• Shade grown coffee helps with soil conservation, provides habitat for bird life and consumptive fruits to families
• Brazil produces 1/3 of the world’s coffee
• Small production farms would be the size of a backyard in an American subdivision.
• Coffee is handpicked by millions of laborers and grows in remote mountainous areas. The largest cost to bring the coffee to market is the transportation by mule to the cooperative and export overseas
• Coffee is harvested only one time a year which creates a cash flow problem for small farmers
• Coffee is the 2nd most traded commodity in the world behind OIL
• Most small coffee growers receive $1 to $1.40 per pound
• President John F. Kennedy started the ICA International Coffee Agreement regulating coffee prices
• In 1989 the ICA was terminated which has resulted in an extremely volatile coffee market
• It takes 5-7 years from planting a coffee tree to harvest
• Farmers have all the risk with weather, disease and pests
• 63% of the coffee market is controlled by 5 big corporations: ie. Kraft, Proctor & Gamble, Nestles, Tchibo. who in 2001 at the heart of the coffee crisis experienced significant earnings
• Coffee can be differentiated through specialty coffee organizations, which purchase the highest quality coffee i.e. Starbucks, Green Mountain, Cooperative Coffees, Peats Coffee. Coffee can also be differentiated by purchasing single origin coffees
• Fair Trade is a certification, which ensures that farmers are paid a minimum price ($1.38-$1.50) plus a social premium for good practices, democracy in organization and additional premiums for organic production. Coffee by any roaster can be Fair Trade certified
• Certified Fair Trades growers have to produce products under specific condition to obtain the certification
• Many developing countries spend more in military expenses than in the education of their people
• There is no incentive to grow organic so only the consumer can help the farmers by paying more for certified products
• Organic certifications certify the productions method
• Fair Trade certifications certify the process of trade (i.e. labor practices, minimum price, transparency, etc.
• Many farmers do not have title to their land and cannot obtain loans

How can you help make a difference in supporting small farmers?  Follow the links below for a cliff note lesson!

1. Read about the Certified Fair Trade products, Specialty Coffees and Relationship Coffees. Don’t buy coffee in a can. Know where it comes from and that workers were paid a fair price. Buy certified and single origin coffees. Be a conscious consumer, your dollar speaks!

2. Be willing to pay more to help the environment and sustainability of the world. Support companies who can ensure transparency in process, social and environmental best practices.

3. Learn more about injustice happening everywhere and share with your friends.

sorting coffee beans

When I posted information about the class and helping small coffee growers on facebook the first person to comment was my friend Sadie Harris from France. She has been buying Certified Fair Trade products for years and makes a conscious effort to support the movement. Many Europeans are acutely aware of how this impacts the world. Traveling around the world, learning from educators in all fields of sustainability is certainly helping me connect more dots!  We are taking the global lessons and applying them to our local practices!

One person DOES make a difference and if that person shares with one other person who becomes aware of the environment and injustice then modifies their buying behavior the world can change. Remember to Buy Certified Fair Trade Products!

I am excited to hear back from you!  Read all the links and then let us know how it touched your life and what you are doing to share?

This post took days to finish with the bad Internet connection so thank you for your patience!  More to come Connecting The Dots Around The World!  Be sure to check out the contest to visit one of the seven wonders of the world!  Win an opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon and Williams, Arizona.


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Cosmic Cow Pie

Carra Riley

Comment balloon 13 commentsCarra Riley & Declan Kenyon • January 23 2011 08:46AM


Hi Carra, This is really cool stuff! I had no idea it took 5 to 7 years from growth to harvest. That is a long time!

Posted by Jackie Connelly-Fornuff, "Moving at The Speed of YOU!" (Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Babylon NY) almost 10 years ago

Carra, I enjoyed learning about coffee, while I drank my coffee this morning. One person really can make a difference.

Your Friend in Charlottesville

Posted by Charles McDonald®, REALTOR®, Principal Broker®, Owner (Charlottesville Solutions) almost 10 years ago
Carra , I'm so excited for you & you are sharing so much on this adventure...never realized about the coffee in the
Posted by Ginny Gorman, Homes for Sale in Southern RI and beyond (RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate) almost 10 years ago

Carra, thanks for sharing these links.....I have some reading to do.

Have fun and be safe!

Posted by Ann Allen Hoover, CDPE SRES ASP e-PRO Realtor - Homes for Sale - AL (RE/MAX Advantage South) almost 10 years ago

Carra, there goes the illusion of Juan Valdez coming down the side of the Colombian mountain. Coffee also taste different outside of our country and the Brazilians claim that the best coffee gets exported, but I didn't think that when I tasted it there. Enjoy

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 ) almost 10 years ago

Jackie~  So glad you think this is cool stuff... when we are on the water so long we learn.. and then we are now in port.. so will have some more fun posts with pictures and videos. 

Charles ~  Wonderful to share the concept that one person CAN make a difference..... Thank you.

Ginny ~  Some days I am overwhelmed with the amount of information available to us on this floating University!  I can go into any of the classes and the instructors are right there eating with us.. so one of the most "stimulating" experiences I have ever had.. on top of that.. the concept of community is being reinforced and will really make a difference on what I do when I return to my local community!

Ann~  So happy to open a new door.. it was one I had not opened and now I just walked in!

Ed ~  You are too funny!  I will have to drink some with new taste buds.. we have been on the ship and now tomorrow will be in the jungle.. so will see how the coffee is for breakfast!

Posted by Carra Riley & Declan Kenyon, Helping people Transition at all ages! (Brokers Guild Cherry Creek Ltd) almost 10 years ago

Carra, I think of you every day and your wonderful journey. This was a huge post to put together and with such limited internet has to be quite challenging. I just want you to know I am enjoying each and every word and link..Speaking of links “Certified Fair Trade”is not working.  

 I did not know.."Coffee is harvested only one time a year...."

Looking forward to more of your thoughts as you travel around our world.


Posted by Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400, Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome ( HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400) almost 10 years ago

I love a good cup of coffee. A dash of Hazelnut cream. Yum. Have a great trip.

Posted by Robert L. Brown, Grand Rapids Real Estate Bellabay Realty, West Mic ( almost 10 years ago

Carra ~ Fantastic story.  It sort of reminds me of Paul Harvey's 'Rest of the Story.'

Posted by Ken Speer (Alpha Global Associates) almost 10 years ago

Margaret ~  I am so happy you are enjoying the journey.. my days are so filled with learning new things I hardly have time to write.  We now have 9 days across the Atlantic to Ghana, Africa so I hope to get caught up with some great information on Brazil and how what is happening there relates to our local communities.  Thanks for letting me know about the fair trade link... I have fixed them so check out other fair trade products and let me know what you think.

Robert ~  Thank you and right now learning from all ages so it is amazing!

Ken ~  That sure makes me feel great.. to be compared to Paul Harvey!  Thanks!  It is an important message that all real estate people can take to their local communities to make a difference.



Posted by Carra Riley & Declan Kenyon, Helping people Transition at all ages! (Brokers Guild Cherry Creek Ltd) almost 10 years ago

  I just got a message from Margaret about your posts. Now I have read all of them for your trip so far. I'll make sure that I don't miss any in the future.

I really like this one about Certified Fair Trade Coffee. Most of the coffee that I buy is Certified Fair Trade Coffee. The main exception is French market coffee from New Orleans which I like because it contains chicory.

Posted by Gary Coles (International Referrals), Latin America Real Estate (Venture Realty International) almost 10 years ago

Gary ~  I am so happy we connected through Margaret.. I have some very exciting information coming up about  "WATER" so again, I am thrilled you are watching.. love the comments it makes me feel in touch with my friends across the country even though right now I am in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.. we just crossed 0 longitude and 0 latitude yesterday.... only 4 more days till we get to Cape Town.  Thank Gary

Posted by Carra Riley & Declan Kenyon, Helping people Transition at all ages! (Brokers Guild Cherry Creek Ltd) almost 10 years ago

How interesting that Fair Trade is a certification that also has a social premium for good practices and democracy in organization. I guess other countries have problems just like we do here.

Posted by Jim Frimmer, Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist (HomeSmart Realty West) almost 10 years ago