To celebrate the beginning of Fairtrade Fortnight on February 27, Tunbridge Wells Farmers’ Markets Manager Bruce McDonald talks to Mandy Flashman-Wells, who runs the town’s Fairtrade group, about the importance of sourcing products from developing countries where the farmers and producers are paid a sustainable price
THIS March, Tunbridge Wells celebrates a decade as a Fairtrade town with a pop-up shop and special exhibition. Showcasing popular food, drink and craft products sold under the Fairtrade banner, the shop will be located in Royal Victoria Place shopping centre.
This year, the annual Fairtrade Fortnight runs from February 27 through to March 12, and its theme for 2017 is ‘Putting Fairtrade in Your Break’. The group want to encourage us to consider the farmers and growers of the tea and coffee – and the sugar sweetening our cakes and biscuits – while we take a few minutes’ break from work or household chores.
Fairtrade is important to our town. Drive into Tunbridge Wells and you’ll notice that below the twinning with Germany’s Wiesbaden and the pride in winning the South & South East In Bloom competition signs, there’s a third declaring: ‘We are a Fairtrade Town’.
Indeed, for the past five years Wiesbaden has also been recognised by the official Fairtrade Foundation as being a Fairtrade city. Around 800 Fairtrade products – such as coffee, tea, chocolate, biscuits, cocoa, honey, bananas, fruit juices, wine, rice, roses, sugar and textiles woven from Fairtrade cotton – are now available to both British and German consumers.
Mandy Flashman-Wells, leader of the Tunbridge Wells Fairtrade Town Group, says, “This year we have lots of fun events planned, working with local schools, churches and businesses in order to inform and educate people about what buying Fairtrade-certified products actually means.
“The people of Tunbridge Wells know that the decisions we make on how to spend our money can make a real difference to those who produce our food. Many want to buy sustainable ethical products that not only meet our needs, but also give a fair price to those who work hard to produce our food and drink.”
A decade after a group of passionate local volunteers succeeded in getting Tunbridge Wells official recognition as a Fairtrade town, it’s now a hub of shops, restaurants and businesses offering products from the Divine chocolate range found in supermarket chains such as Sainsbury’s to body butters in high street chemists Boots.
Starbucks’ most popular coffee beverage uses Espresso Roast, a 100 per cent Fairtrade-certified blend, which is sourced from Latin America and the Asia/Pacific region. Sainsbury’s was one of the first of the larger UK retailers to sell Fairtrade products, and is now the world’s largest retailer of Fairtrade goods.
The café in its Linden Park Road store sells Fairtrade tea, coffee and hot chocolate. The Co-operative chain, meanwhile, sells Fairtrade bananas and an own-label range of chocolate using Fairtrade cocoa sourced from Ghana, Peru and the Dominican Republic.
This March, Esther Koskei, a Fairtrade coffee supplier from Kenya, will talking about her experiences of working in the coffee plantations in partnership with Fairtrade. Mandy’s Tunbridge Wells group is hosting Esther’s talk event in the Tunbridge Wells Baptist Church on March 1.
Both a coffee producer and leader of the Kabng’etuny Women in Coffee Association, Esther is keen to share the story of how Fairtrade has made a difference to her life and community.
Each time we buy Fairtrade products, we help smallholder farmers that grow the food we eat and the beverages we enjoy, by making sure they have enough to eat, too, says Mandy.
Esther’s talk will show how her Growing Women in Coffee project and similar ventures are working to solve global problems of hunger in the developing world as they receive their own land and resources, such as coffee bushes.
Mandy points out that cane sugar is the world’s biggest commodity in the Fairtrade family. The Co-op supermarket sells sugar from Malawi and supports farmers in Belize supplying the sugar sold by Tate & Lyle. Oxfam is also a major supplier of Fairtrade goods, particularly crafts.
Retailer Marks & Spencer offers its customers a variety of Fairtrade goods, including Peacock Tail Sauvignon Blanc wine from Stellenbosch in South Africa, and loose-leaf tea from the slopes of Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kenya.
However, there are plenty of independent cafés and shops in and around Tunbridge Wells also offering Fairtrade products. The Bicycle Bakery in Camden Road offers Fairtrade coffee and the Fine Grind coffee house in the High Street uses certified beans sourced from Horsham Coffee Roaster in Surrey. Online, locally-based coffee specialists Perk & Pearl market a blend known as Krafty. Described as a ‘fruity coffee with deep toffee tones’, it boasts a rich blend of beans from Peru, Honduras and Ethiopia.
Seen by some as a ‘marketing exercise’ to promote and sell items ranging from sugar and chocolate to gold jewellery and craft goods, Fairtrade actually works with local producers in countries as diverse as Papua New Guinea, Malawi and Bolivia to support small-scale, sustainable production.
The organisation’s mission is to seek ‘better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world’.
Today, there are over 600 Fairtrade towns in the UK, and it has become a global phenomenon with nearly 2,000 worldwide.
“The fact that we are a Fairtrade town says a lot about the community in Tunbridge Wells, and our concerns for those who produce our food both locally and globally,” says Mandy.
She is now looking for volunteers around the borough who can open and organise local groups with the aim of getting the whole area recognised by the Fairtrade organisation.
If you’d like to help farmers, producers and makers get a fairer, better deal for their products, have a look at www.twfairtrade.org.uk or The Fairtrade Foundation: www.fairtrade.org.uk
Spaghetti with crab, lemon, chilli, parsley and radish shavings
Preparation: 5 mins
Cook: 15-20 mins
What you need:
550g dried spaghetti
5 tbsp fairtrade extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 large red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
150g white crabmeat
50g brown crabmeat
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1 large bunch of parsley, shredded
Fairtrade sea salt and black pepper
50 French breakfast radishes very thinly sliced
What you do:
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.
Cook the spaghetti according to the packet’s instructions.
While you are waiting for the spaghetti to cook, in a large frying pan, heat the olive oil, add the garlic and fennel seeds and cook over a medium heat until the garlic starts to turn golden brown.
Remove from the heat and add the chilli, crab, lemon zest, juice and parsley.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain thoroughly and then add to the pan with the crab sauce.
Season with sea salt and plenty of black pepper, mixing well.
Divide between 4 warm bowls, sprinkle over the radishes and serve at once.
These delicious sweet treats are made with Fairtade chocolate and Tate & Lyle sugar
Preparation 15 minutes
Cooking 8 minutes
Makes approximately 20
What you need:
200g desiccated coconut
1 large egg white
50g ground almonds
50g salted pistachio nuts, chopped
50g pumpkin seeds
50g Tate & Lyle Light Soft Brown or Light Muscovado Sugar
2tbsp Lyle’s Golden Syrup
1-2tbsp dried raspberry flakes (optional)
What you do:
Preheat the oven to 190°C, fan oven 170°C Gas Mark 5.
Tip the coconut into a dry frying pan and cook over a high heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon to toast lightly. Cool for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, use a fork to lightly whisk the egg white in a mixing bowl. Stir in the coconut and add the ground almonds, pistachio nuts, pumpkin seeds, Tate & Lyle Light Soft Brown or Light Muscovado Sugar and Lyle’s Golden Syrup.
Spoon the mixture into a silicone mini muffin tray (or similar) to make approximately 20, cooking in batches if necessary. Transfer to the oven and bake for 8 minutes.
Cool, then ease the treats from the tray. Sprinkle the dried raspberry flakes on top (if using). Keep in an airtight tin for up to 2 weeks.
Cook’s tip: You could use chopped almonds, hazelnuts or peanuts instead of the pistachios.
If you prefer, tip the whole mixture into a lined 23cm square cake tin and bake for 10-12 minutes.
Cut into squares when cool.