The Shelf Elf goes bananas

The Shelf Elf has been busy again, but this time he’s into bananas. He thinks the banana tree, featuring Equifruit bananas — certified by Fairtrade Canada since 2007 — is a particularly nice addition to the store. The attractive Equifruit logo caught his eye, and he decided to investigate further. He discovered that the company was started in Drummondville, Quebec in 2006 by Danielle and Julie Marchessault, mother and daughter respectively. Ownership has since changed, and the team, now headed by Jennie Coleman, has doubled with four women now responsible for most of the Fairtrade bananas imported into Quebec and Ontario. They provide roughly 9 to 13 million bananas annually, or five million pounds. That’s a lot of bananas! Michelle Gubbels, Equifruit’s project manager, explained to me that the four paid members of the company describe themselves as being “passionate about international development, who see Fairtrade as a real alternative to the current exploitative food system.” They are supported by a phalanx of paid event staff who help to spread the word about Fairtrade at events such as the Fairtrade pop-up shop at Karma on Saturday, June 10, or the Buy Good. Feel Good. expo in May. The Shelf Elf loved the pop-up shop, especially the free samples. He thinks you should come next time.

The Equifruit team has been very encouraged by the growth of sales since its inception, particularly in the field of education. There are Fairtrade schools, Fairtrade cities (including Toronto, Edmonton, Barrie, and Vancouver), and perhaps most significantly, Fairtrade university campuses (such as Brock, McGill, Carleton, and Concordia), as well as Fairtrade events, workplaces and faith groups. In each of these contexts, our elven friend learned, becoming Fairtrade-designated involves getting organized, setting goals and making connections between Fairtrade products and the organization.

The Shelf Elf loves a good story, so he asked his new Equifruit friends if they might share a story or two about the banana producers. He watched the documentary Banana Split on the Equifruit blog. It provided background into the unethical relationship between banana growing companies such as the United Fruit Company (known as Chiquita today), and native landholders. After such a tough story, he was looking for some good news. He found it in the story of Victor Marquez. A farmer in Ecuador, he has a daughter attending university in Machala, an opportunity described as unthinkable before fair labour practices changed the life of Victor and his family. The Shelf Elf has many more things to tell you, as he’s a chatty little fellow, but let’s give the last word to the Equifruit team: “People say that organic bananas are a little sweeter and taste creamier than conventional bananas, but we’re in it for that sweet taste of social justice!”

By Sybille Parry