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Fair Trade Day to include free showing at Bethel of coffee documentary

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Two Newton businesses and area individuals who support and promote global fair trade will celebrate May 9, World Fair Trade Day, by showing a documentary on the Bethel College campus that asks consumers to “wake up and smell the coffee.”

Newton Ten Thousand Villages and Prairie Harvest Market & Deli, along with the youth group of Newton’s First Presbyterian Church and Bethel College, invite the public to a free screening of Black Gold at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 9, in Krehbiel Auditorium of the Fine Arts Center. Prairie Harvest will have special extended hours to serve dinner that evening beginning at 5:45, and the Presbyterian youth will have a coffee bar in the Fine Arts Center lobby before the screening with fair trade coffee and tea for sale by the cup, along with packaged coffee and tea as well as fair trade chocolate available for purchase.

“Since Ten Thousand Villages is all about fair trade, this is a day that we annually make a big deal out of,” said Newton store manager Pandea Smith. “A few months ago, Michelle Coffman at First Presbyterian invited me to [a screening of Black Gold], which they had purchased. I started thinking that maybe we could partner for a screening of this documentary to a wider audience, and they agreed to that partnership. [When I thought] about venues, I really liked the idea of having Bethel College involved.”

In honor of the World Fair Trade Day 2009 theme “BIG BANG!! Beat poverty – Beat climate change – Beat the financial crisis,” Ten Thousand Villages (625 N. Main in Newton) will have a drum circle in the store on Saturday, May 9, during its regular business hours, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. For more information about the drum circle or the showing of Black Gold, call the store at 316-283-0061.

Prairie Harvest’s dinner menu will feature local foods – beef, wheat, asparagus, salad greens and rhubarb. The meal will be served in the Prairie Room inside the store at 601 N. Main in Newton. Reservations are required, with payment of $15 per person at the time of service. Proof of a $25 purchase on May 9 from Ten Thousand Villages is good for one meal at a reduced price of $10. Stop by the store or call 316-283-6623 to make reservations.

Fair trade is the First Presbyterian youth group’s mission focus for the year, said youth pastor Michelle Coffman. Last July, the group traveled to St. Louis to learn about a new Presbyterian fair trade project that has formed a marketing co-op with Peruvian craftspeople.

“During the retreat, we studied Scripture which impressed upon us the need for faithful people to be involved in social justice for the poor,” Coffman said. “We discovered that fair trade initiatives made perfect sense to us, [and called] us to be involved in sharing that knowledge with our congregation.”

Throughout the year, youth have encouraged others in the church “to make gift-giving decisions which support health and welfare for the craftsmen,” Coffman said, by hosting a holiday table of fairly traded gifts at Christmas and Easter, as well as providing fair-trade coffee, chocolate and olive oil. They also showed Black Gold to Sunday school classes to educate members on the living conditions of coffee farmers and “our potential to make a difference in God’s name,” Coffman added.

Black Gold, an official selection of the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, is a 77-minute documentary that traces the tangled trail going back from the two billion cups of coffee consumed daily around the world to the coffee farmers who produce the beans. In particular, the filmmakers, brothers Marc and Nick Francis, follow Tadesse Meskela as he tries to get a living wage for the 70,000 Ethiopian coffee farmers he represents through the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative of southern Ethiopia.

With $80 billion in annual retail sales, coffee is, after oil, the most actively traded commodity in the world. The farmers, however, make as little as three cents for every cup of coffee sold in the United States or Europe, with most of the rest of the money going to middlemen, especially the four giant food conglomerates that control the coffee market. Black Gold sits in on coffee auctions in Addis Ababa, London and New York, where the fate of the coffee growing nations is decided, and witnesses the collapse of the 2003 World Trade Organization summit in Cancun, Mexico, after the African, Pacific and Caribbean countries walk out over the demands of the developed nations.

The film also shows how Tadesse Meskela travels the world selling premium-grade coffee directly to coffee roasters who will pay more for his high-grade product and who support the idea of paying farmers a living wage. Meskela returns the profits to the Oromia Cooperative members, who use the extra income to build the schools and infrastructure needed to develop their communities.

The World Fair Trade Organization (then called IFAT) inaugurated World Fair Trade Day May 4, 2002, as a vehicle for promoting global awareness of fair trade. World Fair Trade Day has grown into a global festival of fair trade with events organized worldwide to showcase fair trade products.

The World Fair Trade Organization was established in 1989 as the International Federation for Alternative Trade (IFAT), becoming the WFTO in October 2008. It represents fair traders across Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America and the Pacific Rim, including the world’s leading fair trade cooperatives, groups and companies, all of which have demonstrated a 100 percent commitment to fair trade. WFTO membership includes 350 fair trade organizations representing 110 million people in 80 countries.

The WFTO operates through elected global and regional boards to create market access through policy, advocacy, campaigning, marketing and monitoring. It is the only global network whose members represent the fair trade chain from production to sale. WFTO members are committed to eradicating poverty through sustainable economic development, to pioneering social and environmental policy and practice and to continual reinvestment in marginalized artisans, farmers and producer communities in some of the most fragile places on earth.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008 and one of only two Kansas colleges listed in Colleges of Distinction 2008-09. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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