According to Jerry Palmer, Cage operations manager, St. Olaf picked up Peace Coffee this year after other schools, including Macalaster College in St. Paul, began serving it.
As coffee has become a world commodity, large corporations have been able to sell it at increasingly low prices. The result is that growers from Ethiopia to South America to Indonesia are not paid a living wage for their product.
As a part of the international Free Trade movement, Peace Coffee seeks to raise wages. It purchases from small farm cooperatives, which means its buyers travel to places like Mexico and Guatemala, come face-to-face with the growers and buy directly. It guarantees growers a minimum price of $1.41 per pound, nearly three times what conventional coffee (not fair trade) companies pay.
Peace Coffees website says that the speculators sent to coffee farms by large corporations frequently take advantage of the fact that the growers lack access to market information and pay less than the market price for their coffee.
From the speculator, the coffee is sent through several more middlemen as it makes its way to the coffee shop. Thus, the growers themselves live in poverty and never see a large portion of the profits of their product.
Peace Coffees name comes from its original goal in supporting the peace movement in Guatemala. About eight years ago, during the aftermath of the Guatemalan civil war, Peace Coffees founders worked with other groups to see that farmers could return to their land and make a living farming coffee. Their efforts helped to reestablish peace and order in Guatemala.
Peace Coffee has environmental as well as social advantages. It is both organically and shade grown. Organic growth reduces the number of pesticides released into the environment. Shade coffee farms, where coffee is grown underneath the shade of other trees, help to provide a nutrient rich soil for birds, according to the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.
For further information about Peace Coffee and where it is sold, go to www.peacecoffee.com.