Contributing Writer: Andrew Hernandez, Produce Manager at GreenStar Food Co+op

Co-op Grown Bananas

GreenStar began our dedicated support of Equal Exchange Fairtrade Organic bananas more than ten years ago. Since 2018, we have sold a whopping 482,000 pounds (2/18/2021)! In 2020 alone, GreenStar customers purchased 152,818 pounds of bananas. That translates to $24,393 paid by Equal Exchange directly to small-scale farmer co-ops. And that’s a big accomplishment, especially in the banana sector – accounting for 26% of the total cost.

Fair trade purchasing also means $1 per 40-pound case of bananas is paid to farmers in addition to the fruit price. In 2020, this meant thousands of additional dollars to support pandemic relief and prevention, personal protective equipment, hygiene stations and healthcare support. Equal Exchange is comprised of 1,416 small-scale banana farmers. They own 1,646 acres of land and supply 450 co-ops and grocery stores and eleven million consumers like you who value Fair trade, sustainability, and cooperative principles.

Other big differences between Equal Exchange Fairtrade Organic Bananas and your basic imported conventional (and even organic non-Fairtrade bananas), is that Equal Exchange partners exclusively with small-scale farmers who own their own land and are organized into cooperatives. There are four cooperatives – one in Ecuador and three in Peru. These cooperatives negotiate pricing and operate by a democratic one-member, one-vote decision making process. That’s something not available to workers on conventional banana plantations.

Rodrigo Cuesta, Señora Blanca, and their son pose in front of their banana plants on the family’s agroforestry farm.

Rodrigo Cuesta, Señora Blanca, and their son pose in front of their banana plants on the family’s agroforestry farm.

“Equal Exchange bring small farmers to ‘the table’, not just raw materials,” explains Nicole Vitello, President of Oke USA Fruit Company. “Investments in healthcare, wages, retirement, infrastructure, creating further jobs and community projects.”

Nicole went on to add, “This also means that GreenStar’s banana program is not only organic and fair trade but cooperative. The producers are organized into co-ops. Equal Exchange is a worker-owned co-op and GreenStar is a consumer food co-op, so we all operate under the same set of cooperative principles.”

Banana Farm

Equal Exchange bananas are organic and Fairtrade-certified. Here, bananas grow on an agroforestry farm, which embraces soil and ecosystem biodiversity.

All of these things are possible because of individual shopper support of the Equal Exchange label. Through that support co-ops like GreenStar are able to collectively show our distributor, Four Seasons Produce, that we value a banana program centered around Small Farmer Cooperative Fair Trade Organic Bananas. In 2018, Four Seasons committed to providing these co-ops full supply and support.

Brian Dey, Senior Merchandiser and Natural Stores Coordinator for Four Seasons adds, “Four Seasons Produce has a very strong partnership with Equal Exchange, and has an extreme focus on their mission and being able to help support small farmers. We are very privileged to work with such amazing people that are focused on providing fairness to farming communities.”

By supporting Equal Exchange Fairtrade Organic Bananas, we contribute to that. So, when you see $.99/lb. versus 25 or 59-cents remember, we’re all working together to provide fairness! Thank you!