Fair trade: fulfilling the heart of the gospel
By Megan Blank '07
With fair trade products comprising only a small percentage of the retail market, Brian Smucker ’73 and his wife Candi are striving for growth while making a difference through their independent fair trade business in California, called Baksheesh.
Started in 1997, Baksheesh is the largest fair trade store in the United States, with locations in Sonoma and Healdsburg. The largest customer for Ten Thousand Villages, sales at Baksheesh passed $1 million in 2005.
Fair trade promotes equality for the artisans who crafted the products in the exchange of goods. “Fair trade is what the heart of the gospel is all about,” said Brian, “It’s about loving your neighbor and sharing the wealth. It’s something Candi and I want to be involved in until we retire.”
Brian first became interested in Third World issues as a teenager when his father, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry Art Smucker, took his family to the French West Indies to lead early Study-Service Term (SST) units there. As a student at Goshen College, Brian went to Costa Rica for SST.
The Smuckers frequently visit the artisans who create and sell the items in their stores. “Visiting artisans and seeing their lives makes it all worthwhile,” said Brian. “We can’t change the whole world, but we can change it for the people who work with us.”
Among his extensive community involvements in Sonoma, Brian has been a volunteer for 10 years at the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory (GGRO). “For me, it’s a real break from the store, my way of recharging my batteries,” said Brian. In 2005 he received the GGRO Award for outstanding service, the highest offered by the observatory.
For more information about Baksheesh, visit www.vom.com/baksheesh.
– by Megan Blank ’07