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Have a responsible Hallowe’en. October 31, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Happy Hallowe’en, everyone! This post isn’t about keeping your kids and pets safe this Hallowe’en, important as that is. Nor is it about overindulging at some Hallowe’en bash and getting arrested for DUI on the way home. Instead, it’s about chocolate.

Living just hours from Hershey, PA, as our friend Ben and I do, not to mention also living near Lititz, PA, the home of Wilbur Buds, it’s easy to think about chocolate being made here, and just as easy to forget that the cocoa that goes into that chocolate comes from West Africa. But I was reminded of this by an article in yesterday’s local paper, the Allentown, PA Morning Call, about a group of moms who were trying to make a difference this Hallowe’en by emphasizing Fair Trade chocolates and other responsible treats. (You can read the article, “Trick-or-Fair-Trade Treat!”, online at  www.themorningcall.com.)

Fair Trade, a system in which plants are grown sustainably and the workers who tend and harvest them are paid a fair wage, is best known for coffee production. Fair Trade coffee tends to be shade-grown, which means that the coffee trees are grown in the shade of rainforest trees, as opposed to the rainforest being razed to create coffee plantations. It’s also typically organically grown, saving both the environment and the coffee workers from exposure to toxic pesticides and herbicides.

Our friend Ben and I had not realized that cocoa was also typically produced under horrific conditions until I read this article. I quote: “The U.S. State Department estimates that 284,000 children work in abusive conditions—14-hour days with no pay—on cocoa farms in West Africa, and that 64 percent of them are under the age of 14.” The article goes on to explain: “When a chocolate is fair-trade certified, farmers are paid a fair price, their workers are paid a fair wage and no child or slave labor has been involved in growing it. When it’s organic, the environment is not damaged in its production. It is shade-grown in forests, its natural environment. And it’s sustainable, requiring no irrigation, pesticides, or other synthetic output.”

No child or slave labor has been involved. Good God have mercy!

Like Fair Trade coffee, Fair Trade chocolate costs more than its mass-produced counterparts, sometimes as much as three times more. But the moms in this group, the Lehigh Valley Eco-Mom Alliance, are on top of that. Some are offering trick-or-treaters pens or pretzels instead of candy. Others have saved money by participating in costume swaps (brilliant idea!), making their own costumes, getting costumes at yard sales, or finding them free at Freecycle (www.freecycle.org).

The paper informed us that October is Fair Trade Month, and that food isn’t the only thing that can now be purchased under the Fair Trade umbrella: apparently sports balls (www.fairtradesports.com) and flowers (sold by Sam’s Club and 1-800-Flowers) are also available.   

I know that, like us, all of you reading this will already have your Hallowe’en treats on hand. (In our case, Snickers, an OFB favorite, and Butterfingers, one of my own faves; we always buy stuff we actually like just in case we have any leftovers.) Ignorance may not be bliss, but it’s no cause for guilt. We didn’t know, you didn’t know, so enjoy that candy (we plan to!). But it’s certainly food for thought for next year—and for the upcoming holiday season. I know none of us want to enjoy our holidays on the backs of children and slaves!

             ‘Til next time,



1. Lzyjo - October 31, 2009

These are such good points! I’m sure I never considered the environmental implications of gobbling up candies made almost exclusively from imported sugar and cocoa. I do love the endangered Species brand of Fair Trade chocolates, not only is the farming ecologically sound, but some of the proceeds go to animals charities. Expensive, but delicious. I’m glad I don’t eat as much candy/chocolate as I used to.

Ha! When I read this article, all I could think was “thank heavens I almost never eat chocolate or drink coffee”!!! I’ll check out Endangered Species chocolates. Good to put your money where your mouth is!

2. Jen - October 31, 2009

Thanks, Silence – I’m going to make more of an effort to look for Fair Trade chocolate and coffee products. I always think of October thru Easter as “candy season” – Christmas, Valentines, Easter – all big candy holidays – and coffee? I need the stuff all year round!

Hi Jen! The article noted that all the Wegman’s stores carry Fair Trade chocolates, if they’re in your area. And apparently all the big chains now carry Fair Trade coffee! (Hopefully that means Fair Trade coffee ice cream, too!)

3. Victoria - October 31, 2009

A really good, timely post. Here in the UK, most of the big supermarket chains produce their own brand of Fairtrade chocolate, which means it’s really easy to buy it, and the price doesn’t seem to be much different.
PS: I’ve been to Hershey. Loved the Hershey Kisses lamp posts!

Ha! Then you’re ahead of me, Victoria! We still haven’t made it to Hershey! But lucky you to have the chocolates everywhere at the going price.

4. elephant's eye - October 31, 2009

Lots of Fair Trade food in Switzerland. That was where I met the concept. In South Africa I have to settle for, organic where possible.

We’re all for organic, Diana! And surely there’s a catalogue or two or an internet source of Fair Trade goods that will mail-order. I think my first contact with Fair Trade was via the Green Mountain Coffee catalogue.

5. Barbee' - October 31, 2009

Have you not seen in the past few days the expose’ of child labor in U.S.A.. The film footage and most of the report were about harvesters of blueberries, but it went on to say they are used everywhere fruits and vegetables are picked by hand. Their little hands can fit in the spaces and can pick quicker. Footage showed a precious 5 year old struggling to carry two full buckets of blueberries that her parents and brothers had picked. Her brothers were under age 12. Migrant families do the harvesting and their children are part of the family. Fines for the grower, if caught, and they usually are not caught, is one or two thousand dollars per underage child found working. That’s not even a good slap on the hand.

Aaaarrgghhh, Barbee’!!! Since we don’t get television reception here, if a story doesn’t make the papers, we don’t see it, and we missed that one. I’ll go online and check it out. Your point about the little hands makes me wonder if that’s why children were prized for various kinds of factory work back in the bad old pre-Child Labor Laws days of the Industrial Revolution!

Barbee' - October 31, 2009

It was on ABC’s evening news with Charles Gibson. One of their investigative reporters gave the report and footage. It lasted several minutes. I don’t know if it will make the newspapers.

Barbee' - October 31, 2009

Here is the URL. Scroll down some to see the video.


Thanks so much, Barbee’!!!

6. Victoria - October 31, 2009

Wow, Barbee, that’s a good story. Thanks – I’ll get one of our chaps to follow that one up.

Thanks, Victoria, glad you’re picking it up!

7. Barbee' - October 31, 2009

Silence/Ben, sometimes it is better not to know. I will read the paper and watch TV news programs for a while until I begin to feel physically sick because of it all, then I skip them for several days. I once worked a job that was sales. Our advisers told us not to read the morning paper before work. We needed to be emotionally, and psychologically “up”, and if we read/watched them, it would drain us at least a little even if we didn’t realize it. One of the nicest compliments I ever had was from a reader in another country who told me: “Barbee’, when the world starts closing in too close, I go walk through your garden and spend time there.” Of course, he was referring to my website for he was on the other side of the world. I treasure that message. I don’t think he follows my blog, though.

We agree, Barbee’! It’s just too graphic/ambulance-chasing for us. We have vivid imaginations, and can get all the mental images we need from reading about the deaths and catastrophes without having to look at them. Fascinating that your sales group realized that, too. And I agree, what a lovely comment from your website visitor! We feel that way just looking at the opening photo on your blog. Ahhhh!!!

8. Daphne Gould - November 1, 2009

I too eat Endangered Species chocolates. Not only are they fair trade and shade grown, but they are some of the best chocolates out there. I’m a real chocoholic and had done a lot of taste tests. ES wins in every one. But for Halloween I did buy the typical candy. Usually I buy Necco wafers since they are local and no one else gives them out yet the kids love them (I’ve asked they like the variety instead of getting all snickers or milkyways). I was sad this year to not find any for the first time. Mostly it was the same old chocolate candy you always see. Sigh.

Thanks for the ES endorsement, Daphne! Now we’ll have to look for them! As for Necco, I remember passing the factory on the way from Boston to Gloucester. Until then, I had no idea that Necco stood for “New England Candy Company” and wasn’t just one of those made-up names from the 1930s, when everything seemed to end in “o”, like “neato”!

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