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Coffee seedlings under a canopy of old leaves. [Flickr: jakeliefer]

With October here (and winter peeking around the corner) the harvest at local farmers' markets is leveling off. In many areas, summer CSAs are dropping off their final shares of the season. While the change in weather is making it harder to buy food from local and sustainable sources, it leaves us a perfect opportunity to celebrate Fair Trade Month.

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Sorting coffee cherries in Guatemala. [Flickr: jakeliefer ]

Since we might not be able to make as big an impact on our own community during these colder months, why not make an effort to make a positive impact on other communities with our buying choices? With Fair Trade purchases, you may not be supporting your local community, but you can be sure you are affecting someone's local community and life in a fair and just way.

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The Fair Trade Label used in the United States. [Label: TransFair USA]

With so many food terms being bantered around on a daily basis, I find it satisfying to actually look up some of these definitions every once in awhile. So what does Fair Trade mean exactly?

TransFair USA, the nonprofit group that certifies Fair Trade products in United States and is running this month-long celebration says:

Fair Trade is a system that empowers farmers in the developing world to lift themselves out of poverty by guaranteeing a fair price for their harvest. Fair Trade certification requires fair prices, safe labor conditions, direct trade, community development, environmental sustainability, and democratic and transparent organizations.

You can check in with TransFair USA every day in October to find Fair Trade events in your area, to learn facts and new ways to support Fair Trade, and to read profiles on Fair Trade farmers, workers, and companies.

For instance did you know that there are towns, cities, and communities that have committed to becoming Fair Trade Towns?

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[Flickr: Fair Trade Towns USA]

While the organics movement is so often about ourselves (our bodies, our health, our exposure to chemicals), the Fair Trade Movement really opens the dialogue to acknowledge the people on the other side of our chocolate bars. We love to put a face to the tomatoes and butternut squash that we buy at the farmer's market, so why not start making an effort to do that with all of our food?

Plus, the types of products that have Fair Trade options are just all so darn delicious and it's pretty unlikely that you can buy them locally in your community. You can find Fair Trade Certified coffee, tea, chocolate, bananas, rice, sugar, vanilla, honey, flowers, wine, and herbs. If you don't see Fair Trade options at your local store, pipe up and ask for them.

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