Herbs, Spice, and Everything Nice: Mountain Rose Fights for Fair Trade Certification Opportunities
Thanks to a deep commitment to fair trade, 60 small, family farms in India that grow organic and sustainable harvest herbs and spices for Mountain Rose Herbs now have fair trade certification.
In 2013, Mountain Rose management decided to take their commitment to fair trade to the next level. Their product catalog contained some fair trade herbs and spices, but they knew that companies that sold coffee, tea, and other commodities can themselves be certified fair trade — from top to bottom in all aspects of their supply chain. However, such certification wasn’t available for an herb and spice company.
So Mountain Rose set out to change that.
The company began working with the Institute for Marketecology’s (IMO) Fair for Life Programme, a fair trade certifier that is among the most stringent in the world. Fair for Life doesn’t just certify products but ensures a commitment to human rights, healthy and safe working conditions, and fair wages through the supply chain of agricultural, artisan, or cosmetic companies — and now, thanks for Mountain Rose, herb companies, too.
For Mountain Rose Herbs to be certified, the company had to make sure its supplier farms earned Fair for Life certification, too. But doing so isn’t a top priority for small farms with limited resources. So Mountain Rose decided to help the family farms they work with in India to meet the standards.
“Becoming a Fair for Life certified farm is an expensive proposition for each farmer,” says Jennifer Gerry, executive director of operations at Mountain Rose Herbs. “While it’s increasingly critical for us to ensure our products are fair trade, it’s also important to us that we continue to support the small family farmers who have grown high-quality herbs for us over the years. Rather than abandon our existing farmers and find new ones, we decided to invest in their certification process.”
Mountain Rose helps their small farms by paying for the certification fees and for the fair trade premiums for workers to improve their communities, mandated by Fair for Life. Those premium funds have helped farmers to rebuild worker homes, repair a precarious footbridge, renovate a school’s kitchen, and provided children in an orphanage with school uniforms and books.
Thanks for Mountain Rose’s commitment, more than 60 herb and spice farms in India to date have been certified Fair for Life, many of them small farms of one to eight acres. Fair for Life certifiers audit the farms and Mountain Rose to ensure adherence to fair trade standards, and Gerrity says the process has changed the farms for the better.
“I think some of the changes we’re seeing at the farm level, with [certification-mandated] equal pay for men and women particularly, I don’t see any way those changes would happen without the Fair for Live involvement,” she says. “I didn’t realize that going into it, but then when I visited the farm, it’s like ‘wow.’”
Mountain Rose Herbs also helps growers employ organic and sustainable farming methods. Last year, it donated organic nutmeg and mace plant starts for test crops, funded farmer trainings for new sustainable methods, and provided compost bins for farmers who had not preciously composted.
“It’s important for us to have ultimate transparency in our supply chain, to know where our goods are coming from, who they’re coming from, and that everything is an healthy as possible with how they’re being produced and the people that are producing them,” say Gerrity.