And no one is more enthusiastic about the people in supply chains than Awilda (“AJ”) Jackson. AJ works at Fresh Blooms, a flower importer based in New Jersey. I got a chance to talk with her recently as she handed out free flowers at a Fair Trade Pop-Up in Georgetown in DC. AJ has worked for Fresh Blooms for over four years and brought her passion for fair trade with her to the company. But for AJ, “fair trade” isn’t just a concept – it’s people. Her face lights up as she tells me about the pictures and letters she regularly exchanges with Gladnys, Charles, Calvin, Richard, and other farmers in Kenya who grow the flowers that Fresh Blooms sells in the United States. Through her work with flower growers, AJ learned of children who were able to attend school once fair trade wages for their community made education accessible, including by building a school close enough to the community for the children to attend. (To get a glimpse into the impact of fair trade, read this letter from a student sharing how fair trade has helped him personally.)
Given the recent focus on the poor conditions of factories that produce clothes sold at bargain prices, I asked AJ if fair trade increases the cost of flowers. It does – a “tiny little bit” – she says, but AJ doesn’t see herself selling a product – she’s selling a story and a concept. A consumer may walk into a store and see two bunches of beautiful flowers, she explains, and “the fair trade option may be a couple of cents or maybe even a dollar more,” but “when you know what fair trade is about – when you know the story” then you want to help, “so you grab the fair trade option.” The premium that is paid “goes directly to the farm.”
How do you as a consumer know what the fair trade option is? “You look for the mark,” AJ states, “If it’s fair trade certified, then it has the mark.” Fresh Blooms is licensed and registered with Fairtrade Canada, but will be continuing with Fairtrade America later this year.
The bottom line: when a business respects the people that comprise its supply chain, your supporting that business supports those people, too.
[Be sure to check out the entire series we at p.h. balanced films did on Mother's Day flowerslast year if you'd like even more information about what your purchase can support.]