Today's guest blog post is brought to us by Operation Groundswell , a travel organization that has generated a movement of socially conscious and globally aware activists, better known as 'backpacktivists.' It takes participants on a Fair Trade journey through Guatemala, where they deconstruct myths about Fair Trade and learn about the complexities of the coffee industry, all while working alongside local coffee farmers. Read on to learn more about the unique experience from Lindsey Berk, Guatemala Program Manager for Operation Groundswell. Program dates for this adventure are May 27-July 4, 2014.
You consider yourself an informed consumer. Walking into a new coffee shop, the first words out of your mouth might be, “Is it Fair Trade?” or perhaps, “Is it organic?”
But how does that coffee earn those labels? What are the intricacies of those certifications? It’s more than a label, more than a buzzword; it’s a way of life for millions of people.
Operation Groundswell  is here to pull back the curtain and give you a look at how complex the coffee industry truly is. This summer, bring your passion for fairly traded products and spend six weeks in Guatemala, the land of volcanoes, coffee and resounding resiliency. Learn the ins and outs about how a producing nation operates, survives, and attempts to thrive in an increasingly competitive world. We will discuss globalization, economic sustainability and workers' rights. We will show you all sides of the coffee industry, discuss Fair Trade and direct trade, and shed some light on what we know to be a confusing topic for many consumers: how to shop ethically. We will also delve into other agricultural and non-agricultural products: cacao, honey, macadamia, amaranth and textiles.
Operation Groundswell has organized an intense exploration that goes beyond the textbooks and taglines.
In addition to coffee, we will deconstruct myths of “developing” countries while trekking through mountainous regions and working with rural communities on capacity building projects. We will go on farm tours and participate in harvesting workshops, attend meetings with local advocacy groups and learn how to cook authentic national dishes. We will learn local history ignored in textbooks, we will talk political and economic issues with community leaders and discuss current events with student advocates. We will farm alongside our partner coffee cooperatives, both Fair Trade and fairly traded. We will meet with politicians, regulators, distributors and everyone in between to gain an understanding of not only the coffee trade, but also the daily lives, struggles and successes of today’s chapines (Guatemalans’ affectionate term for each other).
We will discuss political change and social transformation with local organizations while immersing ourselves in Mayan culture. Wikipedia “temazcal.” You will bathe in one, and love it. We will eat our weight in tortillas, test our comfort zones in more ways than one, and gain an appreciation for how long a day really is.
We'll have the opportunity to meet with the real human faces working to make a difference in Guatemala as we:
- Get our hands dirty cultivating coffee alongside local coffee farmers
- Meet with former guerrillas who have traded in their guns for farming tools
- Hike one of Central America’s highest volcanic peaks and swim in one of its most pristine lakes
Oh, and we’ll also enjoy a cup or two of the freshest coffee you’ll ever drink.
Operation Groundswell is a non-profit organization dedicated to ethical travel. We facilitate programs that combine experiential learning, responsible volunteering and off-the-beaten path adventure all around the world. For more information about this amazing program, check out: http://operationgroundswell.com/programs/where-we-go/summer/guatemala-fair-trade/