Alter Eco - Organic Hom Mali Rice - 1 lb. (16 oz.)
Alter Eco Organic Hom Mali Rice is grown in Thailand. Rice is so central to the world diet that in many Asian countries, the literal translation of “I’m hungry” is “I’m hungry for rice.” This celebrated crop has been cultivated in the lush tropical terrain of Thailand for centuries; archaeologists have found primitive rice seeds and ancient farm tools dating back 9,000 years.
90% of the world’s rice is grown by small-scale farmers. While conventional farming practices, monoculture crops and the global grain market have driven many of these families to lose their land and their livelihood, co-ops like Surin are helping them get back on their feet. These direct relationships are also helping to reestablish lost heirloom varieties, as the farmers hold the memory and the seeds to expand both palette and palate.
Meet Their Farmers
Phakphum grew up in Thailand’s northeast region, where he has been working in his family’s field since he was seven years old. When he was 13, he dropped out of school to help his single mother with the farm work. The family used to struggle greatly with the financial imbalance of conventional rice farming practices, making a meager profit after extensive fertilizer, labor and herbicide costs to maintain the yield of the depleted soil.
Now Phakphum no longer worries about loosing his ancestor’s land because he, his sister Sohm Rien, and his mother Coo-eye represent one of the 7,500 families currently selling organic Fair Trade rice through a farmer cooperative. The Fair Trade price has allowed Phakphum to make the three-year transition to organic farming. Subsequently, his pesticide-related respiratory illness has subsided, and the health of his fields has improved. He has not only been able to pay off the debts he incurred under conventional trade, but also has invested in more land and buffaloes.
Phakphum is the leader of his village’s committee through which farmers annually set the rice price and enforce organic standards. This cooperative structure also gives Phakphum and his neighbors yearly dividends and a community savings fund. Most important to Phakphum has been the return of his dignity. As he looks out over a golden rice field he says,
“I like to be self-reliant. Rely on my two hands and my head. It’s safe for my life and other people’s lives.”
They believe the health, happiness and future of the families who grow their food are just as vital as their own. Through Fair Trade and direct relationships with their partner cooperatives around the world, they are helping to put delicious meals on your table and theirs.
Fair Trade and What it Means to Them
As proud partners of Fair Trade USA and the Fairtrade Labelling Organization (FLO), all of their products are Fair Trade Certified. This means the producers have been paid a price that ensures sustainable production and living conditions, along with a premium to support the growth and advancement of the cooperatives and their communities.
Contract prices between Alter Eco and the supplying farmers are 10% to 30% higher than the local market price, with an additional Fair Trade premium set every year by the Fairtrade Labelling Organization (by product category and country of origin). In a global food system where farmers often carry debt three times their annual income, Fair Trade provides concrete opportunities for a stable, prosperous life.
Since 2007, Alter Eco has provided:
- $1,116,000 beyond market prices
- $150,000 in premiums
- Sustainable development for 6 co-ops
- A living wage for 5,300 farmers
When producers tell them about the shift in their life after becoming a Fair Trade farmer, many describe the same proud moments you would, sending their kids to school, attending to the health of their families, and looking forward to the future. They also work together to build programs that benefit their entire community.
Experience real stories of how Fair Trade has impacted real people:
- VISIT - Fair Trade Rice Farmers in Thailand
- MEET - Beth, Robert and Miss Mujar - Fair Trade Sugar Cane Producers
- SEE - a Fair Trade Financed Community Center
- EXPLORE - the Connection Between Fair Trade and Gender Equality
Alter Eco sources 100% of its products from small-scale, farmer-owned cooperatives. Empowered farmers working for themselves invest their money directly into improving food production and living standards.
In addition to Fair Trade practices, they work directly with their co-op partners to create a supportive and mutually beneficial business relationship.
Eliminating middle men creates savings they can redistribute, providing farmers with higher prices for their goods. They sign long-term contracts and prepay for crops so that farmers can better plan for the future, maintaining consistent quality and output. Additionally, they act as guarantors on loans-and pay the interest on their behalf-to allow the farmers to properly prepare for a successful planting. Since 2007, Alter Eco has:
- Provided $257,274 in pre-financing
- Guaranteed $1.2M in loans
In-person visits are a cornerstone of these partnerships, giving them a chance to truly know the people who grow their food, and to support them in attaining self-sufficiency at every level. Food sovereignty is at the top of that list. Most co-ops have a shared garden where they grow their own organic, local food, diversifying their diets. They also retain a set percentage of their cash crops each year for personal consumption and seeds. Beyond the field, they have initiated and supported a variety of programs to meet specific needs, from providing new technology to starting a nursery and building a healthcare center.
No food system can be sustainable if it requires more resources than it yields. They take environmental responsibility very seriously, going beyond Fair Trade and Organic certification to work toward becoming a carbon positive business.
Certified organic farming assures preservation of the land and safety of the people who farm it. It eliminates the use of petroleum-based fertilizers, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic engineering. Without these foreign inputs, soil quality, food flavor and farmer health are all greatly improved.
All of their coop partners maintain their fields within the American and European standards for organic certification. Transitioning to organic farming can take years, and often causes temporary losses in yield as the farmers and the land adjust. Programs like organic agriculture training at Rice Fund Surin, their Thai rice partner cooperative, give farmers vital support and encouragement as they make the change.
All of their co-op partners also have specialists on staff to assist and train member farmers in sustainable methods, and to help them achieve diversity in their fields and their diets. Endemic farming is an important part of this training; reintroducing ancient traditions helps to preserve local culture while improving yields, as these methods often come from centuries of hard-earned experience. Alter Eco currently supports:
46,600 acres of organic farmland
Tractors, factories, trucks, boats, offices: they all require energy to function. Much of this energy still comes from the burning of fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas, which release carbon dioxide (Co2) into the atmosphere and contribute to extreme weather patterns that imperil everyone on earth - especially their food producers. As part of their commitment to environmental sustainability, they have calculated their carbon footprint, and continue to make bold steps to reduce and offset their impact.
They work with their French partner, Pur Projet, to calculate their emissions on an on-going basis. Using ADEME and GHG protocol methodology, they analyze their entire operation, from field prep to planting, harvesting, processing, freight - even the energy used in their offices and your grocery store. You'll find all the details in their 2010 Carbon Report.
As a San Francisco Green Business, they are continually refining their daily business operations to reduce their environmental impact. This includes office composting and recycling, energy-saving light bulbs, water conservation, reduced paper use, and subsidizing public transportation for employees.
Co2 mitigation is a tenet of organic agriculture, achieved through agroforestry practices and other crop diversification activities like inter-cropping. For example, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) reported that inter-cropping cocoa with other trees mitigates 11 tons of carbon per hectare per year. For Alter Eco that translates to:
- 207,856 tons of CO2 mitigated since 2007
Their ultimate environmental goal is to be a carbon positive business, offsetting more than they emit. To this end, they partner with Pur Projet on reforestation projects to identify opportunities within their own supply chain. Their partners in the Peruvian Amazon ACOPAGRO cooperative,,strategically plants native trees in the forest, naturally sequestering Co2, replenishing the forest canopy, increasing biodiversity, protecting against soil erosion, and preserving the fragile ecosystem that provides their livelihood. So far, they have planted more than 2,000,000 trees. Since 2008, Alter Eco has funded the planting of:
- 7,423 trees to offset the emissions for their North American activity
At the heart of sustainability is a very basic idea: perpetuity. If a food is to be sustainable, then by its very definition it must be:
- Delicious enough that you'll want to eat it over and over again and....
- Nutritious enough to contribute to your continued health and well being.
Through direct relationships with their partner co-ops, careful audits of their entire supply chain and a focus on heirloom varietals, they are able to ensure that Alter Eco foods are always reliably delicious.
Whole, Healthy and Minimally Processed
Each visit to their partner coops allows them to build solid and trusting relationships with the people who grow their food. During these visits, they conduct careful audits of the co-ops' fields, operations and finances, ensuring that organic and fair trade standards are being upheld. (Organic and fair trade certifiers also audit their cooperatives.) they are also able to identify and respond to the farmers' needs, implementing programs that ensure the highest standards of quality. Sometimes that means investing in optical readers for quinoa sorting in Bolivia or a new rice mill in the Surin Province. In every instance, they have your taste buds in mind.
To further guarantee the quality of their products, they monitor every detail of their supply chain. B-Corp certification allows them to quantify their impact, policies and practices, and gives you a chance to learn more about how their business works. Their B-CORP score is 128 = Area of Excellence
For their health and flavor benefits, they maintain a focus on whole grains and minimal, local processing. (As food bloggers have pointed out, some of their chocolate bars have as few as four ingredients). They're also committed to saving heirloom varietals, many of which are disappearing in the face of industrial agriculture. Beyond their environmental boon (crop diversification and long term biodiversity), these ancestral foods have unique flavors and rich cultural histories that connect eaters across time and continents. Their Royal Black Quinoa, Mascobado Sugar and Purple Sticky Rice are flavors you won't find anywhere else. And like their organic and sustainability-minded colleagues, they have a zero tolerance GMO policy
About Alter Eco
Alter Eco co-founders, Tristan Lecomte in France, Mathieu Senard and Edouard Rollet in the United States and Ilse Keijzer in Australia are businessmen by training and activists at heart. Before starting Alter Eco over a decade ago, they had experienced first-hand both profit-driven multinationals and on-the-ground NGOs. Seeing the challenges of existing humanitarian aid efforts, they became pioneers in social entrepreneurialism, wielding their business acumen to fight for social and economic justice.
Alter Eco is based on the premise that food is fundamental to life - and whole, healthy, delicious food can make life better for people all over the world. By working directly with the small-scale farmers who grow their quinoa, rice, sugar and chocolate, helping them institute Fair Trade and Organic practices and assisting them in improving both quality of food and quality of life, they're creating a system that benefits everyone involved. That extends to the flora, fauna and fields as well: they work with their co-op partners to preserve heirloom grains, replenish and reforest the land. And as a GHG Protocol 3 Carbon Zero business, they offset more carbon than they emit.
But the achievement they're most proud of is the family they've created. Together with their farmers, employees, investors and customers, they're taking an adventure through food, and creating a vision of the future that's fair, prosperous, healthy and mouth-watering. Though they can't all break bread at the same table, they like to think that every time they crack open a bag or bar of Alter Eco here in the states, they're sharing a lively meal. With Gustavo in Bolivia, Sompoi in Thailand, Grover in Ecuador - and you.