City man goes for fair trade option

Burlington dad Jeff Byam learned a dirty secret of the candy trade in 2009.

“City Market had a table set up by the (Fair Trade company) Equal Exchange. I tried one of their chocolates, and read a postcard that was attached. It described how some chocolate is harvested through forced child labor in the countries that grow the cacao that becomes chocolate.”

According to, up to 284,000 children toil in “abusive labor conditions in West Africa’s cocoa fields.” Two-thirds of these do not attend school, and about 5 percent of them may have been victims of child trafficking.

“There isn’t a lot of awareness about this, and I thought people would make changes if the idea was brought forward. I wanted to give people an alternative,” Byam said.

To do that, Byam contacted the company Equal Exchange, and arranged for special wholesale pricing so that he could place a large order of individually wrapped chocolates for neighbors, friends and members of his church to distribute at Halloween. He said, “It can be expensive to buy these items in the store, but making it affordable means that more people can consider it.”

He pointed out, “But while it does cost more, paying more means that farmers are compensated fairly for what they do.”
And for this father of two, knowing that this can help farm families in far-off places to earn a decent living, that’s a sweet outcome.

Most of the area’s natural foods and grocery stores stock fair trade options. And if interested in a wholesale option, Byam is placing his 2010 Halloween candy order Monday. E-mail Free Press Correspondent Cheryl Herrick at for more information.

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