Red Tomato works mostly with family farmers in the northeast U.S. But many of the challenges facing farms here are shared by farmers all over the world. In 2006, Red Tomato took a new step to link our work with farmers and fresh produce to our roots in the fair trade movement: we helped to launch the first 100% fair trade tropical fruit company in the US – Oke USA.
Oké USA is a fair trade banana company that seeks to make international trade a little bit more “Oké.” The ownership structure – a partnership between the farmer coops, Red Tomato and fair trade company Equal Exchange – is a key part of their commitment to empowerment of communities through fair trade. Oké bananas come directly from farmers who are paid a fair price. That means higher wages, safer working conditions and a cleaner environment for farmers, workers and their families. It is a truly revolutionary business structure in the highly integrated banana industry, where three companies dominate 80% of the market.
In 2009, Oké USA re-branded their fairly traded, organic, small farmer sourced banana under the Equal Exchange label. Now consumers can find a banana that they recognize to represent their social and environmental values in their favorite grocery store. Oké USA has since branched into fair trade avocados and banana puree, and looks forward to adding more tropical fruits to their product mix.