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Taking a break for fair trade

If you're like most New Yorkers, you probably take your daily coffee break with a handful of coworkers or friends. But how about sharing a cup of joe with thousands of others across the country?

That opportunity was presented nationwide as part of World Fair Trade Day, Saturday, May 10. Organized by the Fair Trade Resource Network, the hope was to gather 3,000 people over an afternoon to help spread awareness of fair trade products and practices.

That expectation was met and exceeded; as of press time, the tally was up to 7,400 participants in 78 communities, according to Sara Stender of Fair Trade Towns USA. The final tally will be posted on ftrn.org.

Locally, the Mango Tree Imports store on Route 50 in Ballston Spa was the place to be for fair trade coffee drinkers.

Fair trade coffee, like all fair trade products, involves businesses that strive to pay fair wages and provide safe working conditions for workers in developing nations.

According to Kim Anderson, who owns and operates Mango Tree Imports with her husband, Chris, fair trade is all about developing a connection between the producer and consumer of a product.

In many of the conventional trade routes, a product will leave a producer and potentially go through an exporter, distributor, a U.S. wholesaler there can be multiple steps along the way before it reaches a store, said Anderson.

"What happens with fair trade is that the route from the producer to the consumer is a much shorter path, often the producer to the store."

By cutting out the middlemen, a better wage can be offered to artisans or farmers.

"It's really all about respecting the artisan or the farmer," said Anderson. "The primary goal of fair trade is poverty alleviation in the Third World."

Mango Tree offers products from about 50 countries of the developing world. Anderson said her store takes great care to make sure everything for sale is free-trade certified.

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