Episode 131: Iris Madrigal
Dec 16, 2020, Updated Jun 11, 2021
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The Fair Trade movement is now more popular than ever, but what is it exactly and how can you, as a consumer, know that the Fair Trade products you purchased truly are helping improve the sustainability and development of our world?
Iris Madrigal and her husband Alex who is the second-generation grower of Covilli Brand Organics, have owned and managed Covilli for 30 years. Covilli grows a wide variety of fresh produce products you love, like green beans, Brussel sprouts, summer and winter squash, heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, poblano peppers, anaheim peppers, jalapenos, serrano peppers and much more!
In 2015, the shipper and grower company became Fair Trade Certified from Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit. The Fair Trade certification process is lengthy and very detailed, much like the Organic certification process.
Fair Trade USA brought 3rd party service providers to review Covilli Brand Organics to make sure their fair employment processes are in place. Fair Trade USA has high standards for quality, sustainability, development and fair practices they look for. Everything from Covilli’s working environment, wages, safety measures, opportunities for their workers, worker compensation, contracts, employee well-being, social security, and other measures they put in place to provide their workers the best life and working conditions possible was under review.
Covilli Brand Organics is based in the Sonoran desert in Mexico (about five hours down from the U.S.-Mexican border), which, like most farms, is a very rural area. Many of Covilli’s employees are migrant workers, and thanks to the on-location housing Covilli provides, the workers are able to bring their entire family to stay. All housing must meet Fair Trade standards, for example, if a family of six is living with a worker, the house must accommodate that family’s size.
Having a 75% year-over-year employee return rate is very high in the industry and an example of the exemplary conditions and opportunities Covilli provides their workers. They might see that number decrease (which is a good thing) in the upcoming years because of their onsite school for worker’s children. Many children grow up to enter into the farming workforce just like their parents, but with the education they’re being provided, kids are being presented with a wide array of opportunities.
When you choose a Fair Trade product, there is a small premium (a few pennies at most) that is added on to each individual product. That premium goes directly to a premium fund which is owned by Covilli’s workers. The employees and farm workers own the premium fund’s bank account and through a democracy choose where the money goes.
Iris and Alex do not have a vote in this premium as it’s fully owned by the workforce and is monitored by a Fair Trade Committee to make sure the money is allotted in a way that meets Fair Trade USA’s standards. The funding has to be focused on the well-being of the workers and be used for something such as health, education, cultural growth, or social interaction. Anything that helps develop the community, encourage sustainability, and empowers the workers.
For example, healthcare was a big gap for migrant workers and living in a rural area means access to doctors, dentists and hospitals is extremely difficult. Covilli’s employees decided to invest their premium money in medical transport services, so if someone needed to go to a healthcare provider, they would have access. Next, they decided to invest in a healthcare clinic that is onsite at Covilli Brand Organics farms. Not only does it include a general MD, but a dentist as well. The employees have access as well as about 10,000 members in the local community.
“We have been able to reserve $1.2 million dollars in premiums for our workers.” – Iris Madrigal (13:42-13:50)
All of that is thanks to consumers like you who make sure to purchase Covilli Brand Organics and other Fair Trade products! Covilli is focused beyond Fair Trade on their own farm, and is constantly doing all that they can to improve the three pillars of sustainability: environmental, economic and social. They work with partner growers who grow pineapple, lemon, lime, and valencia oranges and make sure the deals are fair so farmers get paid what they deserve to earn. They’re also working to make the farm regenerative through efforts like composting and eventually, make everything self-sustainable.
Want to see how you’re helping the Fair Trade movement? Visit Covilli Brand Organics’ website and you can track your specific Fair Trade premium contribution!
How to get involved
- Join The Produce Moms Group on Facebook and continue the discussion every week!
- Reach out to us – we’d love to hear more about where you are in life and business! Find out more here.
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Previous episodes you may enjoy
- Episode 130: Creating Delicious, Flavorful Meals With Fresh, Sustainably-Grown Herbs With Don Helms, Vice President Of Marketing At Shenandoah Growers
- Episode 129: The Patience And Elegance Of Pears With Erica Bland, Fourth Generation Pear Grower, And Neil Ferguson, Creative Marketing Manager At USA Pears
- Episode 128: Must-Have Thanksgiving Favorites From The Produce Moms’ Family
- Episode 127: Creating Sustainability And Functional Health From Delicious Agua Frescas with Hilary Long, and Sarah Frey, CEO of Sarah’s Homegrown Produce
- Episode 126: Enjoying The Magic Of Cranberries All Year Round with John Stauner, owner of James Lake Farms and Ray Hableman, CEO of Hableman Brothers