Posted by Melanee, the Minnesota Beer Activist
This past weekend Peace Coffee exhibited at the 14th Annual Food and Wine Experience. We had a booth next to one of our favorite local companies, Etica Fair Trade. Their booth was incredibly popular considering they were awarded the Best of Show in the Imported Red Category for their Fair Trade Chilean Carmenere. Etica Fair Trade is the first business in the US to import and sell Fair Trade Certified Wine.
Earlier this winter I had a chance to interview the owner of Etica Fair Trade, Tiffany Tompkins. Here is what she had to say about her rapidly growing business.
When did Etica Fair Trade start?
I started selling fair trade handmade crafts in November 2005 and started selling wine in November 2006. We were incorporated in September 2005, so that makes us just a little over 1 year old.
Why did you decide to sell fair trade products?
I received my masters in International Trade Policy and was recruited to work in China upon graduation. While living in China, I taught WTO trade policy classes to Chinese businessmen and government employees. Realizing how WTO rules were only benefiting a select few, I started exploring other trade relationships as a model for better business, economic growth, and sustainable development. I moved on from my teaching job and began volunteering with Action Aid International China. At AAIC, I researched the impact the WTO’s agricultural policies were having on poor farmers and minority groups. This research led to an understanding of the concept of Fair Trade.
I wrote a Fair Trade in China research paper to identify what was happening with Fair Trade in the country. This project allowed me to visit Fair Trade projects in Yunnan and Tibet, and interview Fair Trade Labeling Organization (FLO) tea certifiers. In the winter of 2005 I moved to London and volunteered with the Fairtrade Foundation (the UK’s equivalent of Transfair). I helped with preparations for Fairtrade Fortnight, and the Trade Justice Movement’s Fair Trade events at Whitehall. At this time I was also contacting Fair Trade suppliers and ordering samples and was writing a business plan for Etica.
What made you want to sell FT wine?
While living in London I saw all the products that were being certified fair trade. I was really excited about all the wine that was coming into the market. I love wine and got into it while I was going to school in Monterey, California. It wasn’t hard for me to figure out that Fair Trade + wine was a great combination for me and I was convinced that it was about time the US got to enjoy these wines as well.
Have you been to the vineyards that grow your wine?
I have! And I hope to continue to visit them every year. This is my favorite part of my job. I get to meet with farmers, workers, family members, sommeliers, coop presidents, social fund managers, worker representatives, and just about everyone that is involved production, from grape to packaging. Visiting the vineyards allows me to see how Fair Trade has helped the cooperatives and the region. I can also see first-hand what needs are still prevalent and discuss solutions with the workers and farmers.
You can read more about the specific wine regions and cooperatives in Chile and South Africa that grow the grapes for Etica’s wine, just click here.
What is your favorite wine that you sell?
I love all of our wines but right now I’m in my “winter shock” phase and have been in the mood for spice. Needless to say I am drinking a lot of Carmenere and Merlot from Chile. They are perfect with hearty, well-seasoned dishes.
Start your wining!
Etica Fair Trade Wine is sold at various restaurants and retailers in the Twin Cities and other select states. It is also available online. Here’s a complete list of places that sell it.
Contact info for Etica Fair Trade:
Phone: (612) 823-7609