Worldwide coffee break helps promote fair trade

Michael Bradley, center, and Rachael Perry, right, both of Lawrence, chat while drinking coffee Saturday during the Two Hands Worldshop coffee break at Watson Park. The coffee break was one of many throughout the country today to try to break the world record for the biggest simultaneous coffee break ever. The break was to celebrate World Fair Trade Day and to raise awareness about Fair Trade for farmers, consumers and the environment.

On a chilly Saturday, a Lawrence couple were warming up with a mug of fair trade coffee at Watson Park.

Brady Swenson and his wife, Alicia Erickson, invited others to join them and also to warm up to the idea of supporting fair trade products.

The couple started Two Hands Worldshop, which offers handmade goods that are fair trade certified by the Fair Trade Federation, two years ago.

They hosted Saturday’s event, “Fair Trade Coffee Break,” which was part of World Fair Trade Day, to raise global awareness about the benefits of fair trade and how it affects farmers, consumers and the environment.

Worldwide, at least 5,000 people were needed to attend similar events to break a world record for the world’s largest simultaneous coffee break.

Fair trade is an alternative way of doing business focused on eliminating global poverty by promoting fair wages and working conditions in developing countries that produce products such as coffee, sugar and crafts.

“Fair trade’s important for several reasons,” Swenson said. “To meet the fair trade criteria, first of all we have to pay producers of coffee more. We give them a premium, which they then use for community development purposes, building hospitals, improving infrastructure, things like that.”

Secondly, fair trade is linked with sustainability and organic production, he said.

“A lot of the coffee plantations that are producing fair trade coffee are also producing it organically, which helps the environment and people working in fields because there’s no chemicals,” he said.

About 25 people came out in support of the day and for the love for coffee.

Dirk and Laura Felleman, of Lawrence, had their cup of joe and received a free organic bag full of fair trade goodies from a raffle. Dirk Felleman said they support the concept of fair trade and try to buy fair trade products when possible.

“In general, I think we’re thinking more about where our money is going,” he said.