Letters to the editor

Fair article on Fair Trade

Kudos to [Xpress writer] Stuart Gaines for shedding some light on the coffee trade. I found his article [“The Politics of Coffee,” Jan. 21] to be accurate and informative.

Many coffee farmers are removed from markets. They never know from year to year how much money they will receive for their efforts. But, the costs of production stay the same.

In 2002, Israel Gomez, a small coffee producer in Nicaragua, sold 100 pounds of coffee for $130. Due to a saturated market in 2003, the price plummeted to $45. Gomez’s cost to produce 100 pounds of coffee is $75; as a result, he is in significant debt. Also, he cannot afford to pay 60 contract workers who desperately need jobs. The result [for his community] is debt, child labor and malnutrition. Many coffee-growing regions are experiencing the same problems.

There is an answer: Fair Trade certifiers and cooperative businesses are providing practical methods that balance the inequities of conventional trade practices. Fair Trade ensures that the human beings at the beginning of the production line are receiving a fair wage in humane working conditions. Cooperative business practices ensure that those human beings have more control over their own futures.

In late January, I will be traveling as a representative of the French Broad Food Co-op to Nicaragua. There I will work with the CECOCFEN [Central de Cooperativas Cafetaleres de Nicaragua] coffee-grower cooperative to see firsthand how Fair Trade practices can improve many aspects of farmers’ lives.

It will be interesting to see how the Fair Trade movement evolves. The Fair Trade principles that are causing ripples in the coffee trade will prove that a living wage for all is possible — even in a capitalist system. I look forward to sharing what I learn in Nicaragua with the community.

— Chris McCloud
Grocery Manager, French Broad Food Co-op

Xpress has misquoted itself

A serious error has been made to which I must call your attention. When you ran your article of great quotes from 2003 [“Wagging Tongues,” Jan. 7], you overlooked the single-funniest thing that appeared in the Mountain Xpress last year. Here’s Frank Rabey in his [Nov. 26 feature article on] Anne Murray:

“[There’s] no possible way I can ever outrun those first appalling verses:

‘People smile and tell me I’m the lucky one
And we’ve just begun; think I’m gonna have a son
He will be like you and me, as free as a dove
Conceived in love; the sun is gonna shine above’

It’s like being shot in the head, except that I don’t die. And how fair is that?”

Thanks for correcting the record.

— Charlie Thomas

[Frank Rabey responds: Gosh, I’m all, like, blushing and stuff. And to think I was trying to be so serious when I wrote that piece!]

Hey, emperor — you call those clothes?

If they announce next year the Asheville Film Festival is coming again, you don’t need to gimme a wakeup call, and you very likely won’t see me there. Asheville is just trying too hard. We need to hear from all those people who attended showings that changed their lives, because I’m still waiting.

Me and the wife decided to test the water when the first-annual AFF [on Nov. 6-9] opened. We decided to start at the beginning, and went to a pair of films under the impression from the festival hoopla that the event was a forum for new ,emerging, undiscovered film talent, directors, writers, etc.

The films we happened to start with were the documentary Greater Southbridge on Nov. 7, at Asheville Community Theatre, and a lesser one, a short [student film, Sonny Listening], about training a black kid to be a boxer. It showed some filmmaker promise.

But the other, longer thing was a mess. No story, no script — really nothing but a mishmash leaving a viewer continually struggling to pick up some thread, some direction. The continual cutting in and out — vignettes of talking heads, supposedly ordinary people of Southbridge, Mass. — produced nothing but a distracting incoherency. A huge amount of work went into this, but here was an hour and 25 minutes of a project representing hundreds of hours of hit-and-run filming, which was then cut and spliced in the hope something resembling a movie would emerge.

But our objection to this effort was centered on the technique built almost entirely around camera-in-the-face interviews of people who evidently were either handicapped, doped up or otherwise impaired. The mix included at least two drug addicts, several alcoholics and a generous, random collection of Southbridge’s other unfortunates.

Our net response was sadness at seeing this exploitation of people who actually deserve to be treated with the same respect as any other human being, and not be made the butt of attempts at humor when they actually deserve treatment. People of standing in Southbridge were scarcely shown at all, other than a state Congressman, plus glimpses of a news reporter, a video-store owner and the parish priest.

It’s starting to look as if filmmaking is [little] more than just grabbing Dad’s videocam and shooting.

— Allen Thomas

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