Arthur & Henry                                                         Organic Cotton. Fair Trade Cotton. Ethical. Beautiful.

Where are our Fairtrade cotton farmers?

Odisha India.  Here it is:

Here's what the internet ("Orissa Tourism")  tells us about Odisha (formerly known as Orissa - we're not sure the Orissa Tourism people got the memo about the name change):
  • Geographical area: 155,707 sq. km
  • Total forest area: 58136 sq. km
  • Coastline: 480km
  • Capital: Bhubaneshwar
  • Time: GMT + 5.30 hrs
  • Climate: Typically tropical with three major seasons, Summer (March-June), Rainy (July -September), Winter (October-
  • February).
  • Avg. rainfall: 150cm (London is less than 60cm in case you were curious)
  • Population: 37m (That's about the size of Argentina, or Spain.  Not that much smaller than England (53m))

What the good people of Orissa Tourism don't mention, is that the GDP is approx £35bn, that's roughly £1000 per person.  (In the UK it's about £24000, and for India as a whole it's about £3000.)

So, it's quite big and not very rich.  By most people's definition poor in fact.

It also happens to be stunningly beautiful and well worth a visit should the opportunity present itself.  This is however besides the point for today.  It is where some of the cotton for our shirts is grown.

Arthur & Henry co-founder Ranga lives with his family in Bangalore and when not masterminding shirt production he spends his time travelling and visiting the people that grow and mill the cotton that ends up in our shirts.  This is something he has done long before Arthur & Henry. He tells us that when the farming community that previously worked on what is now a nature reserve were re-housed on poor quality land outside the new "national park" they were struggling.  With no irrigation to help farm their traditional crops, and with no farming culture of fertilisers and pesticides, organic cotton was a natural fit.

The farmers have really engaged with Fairtrade.  It has brought a sense of solidarity to the village, and it works with them to get things beyond of agricultural assistance such as roads, drinking water and education.

Ranga has been visiting and working with several villages.  Let's look at Karisalvanchi.  This is a small village; the nearest healthcare is 18km away.  The school a simple 10' x 10' room, 35 pupils and one teacher.  Few facilities and no computer.  Ranga said he would provide a computer, and such is the hunger for education that on the day of its arrival there was a queue around the building.  This was no photo opportunity, but a genuine sign of the engagement with the wider Fairtrade mission.  The Fairtrade premium in this village and many others is focused on general education and improved farming (via the technical input that comes with Fairtrade).

The point. The wider scope of Fairtrade (beyond decent and stable commodity pricing), is not some bureaucratic SOP to some "leftie" ivory tower thinking back in Whitehall, but there to feed the appetite of what these communities are really wanting.  Education and Infrastructure, the vital oil to the machinery of growth.

Fairtrade, trade, cricket & croquet

Fairtrade.  Fairplay old chap.  

Cricket.  The slap of leather on willow, pints of ale, cucumber sandwiches at tea, gentlemanly competition and above all a sense of fair play.  Except there is not.  Not really.  It’s ruthless, it’s competitive, and rife with such keen desperation to win that in order to retain a degree of civility it has enough rules to make a small book.  I think the only sport that is more ruthless is croquet.

Trade.  Well, there’s a distinct lack of leather on willow, but pretty much everything else is there right down to the cucumber sandwiches.  Sure, there are some rules, but they don’t appear to be making life better for our Indian cotton farmers. Nobody’s there keeping a paternalistic eye out, making sure everybody’s being treated decently.  Nobody except you that is - the consumer.

Ruthless competition is at the heart of the free market.  It’s the driving force behind Adam Smith’s famous “invisible hand”.  It is the driving force behind the efficient allocation of resources.  An efficient allocation that encourages and rewards the sort of human endeavour that has meant not only globally rising living standards, but globally rising living standards in at a time where the planet’s population has mushroomed from 1 billion to 7 billion in just 200 years.  Wow.

Fairtrade certification is there to allow the consumer to temper this ruthlessness while still encouraging the sort of behaviour (trade, innovation, increasing productivity) that has delivered so much.

Tempering ruthlessness is important when it exceeds one’s own sense of decency.  I want my coffee, all other things being equal, to be as cheap as possible but I also don’t want my coffee to cause the suffering of others.  Ditto for the cocoa in my chocolate, the fruit in my juice and yes, the cotton in my shirts.  Fairtrade certification allows me as a consumer to spend a little bit more to give the the farmer a better life.

So, Fairtrade, making global commodity trade less like croquet.

Fairtrade Cotton Men's Shirts

Drum roll please, for today, on the second day of Fairtrade Fortnight, Arthur & Henry are proud to announce the launch of our Fairtrade cotton shirts.  (Fairtrade and organic cotton to be precise.)   

    

Here at Arthur & Henry towers we are normally a modest bunch, taking a quiet inner pride in our daily achievements.  But we're rather pleased about this.

For starters, the shirts are really rather splendid.  (Our photographers liked them so much that they want to buy some. And they see a lot of clothes.)  Made from a not too heavy, not too light, garment dyed Oxford weave, they will age beautifully.  (Just don't wash the navy one with your whites.)  

And then there are the cotton farmers.  They are from Balangir, in rural Odisha (the Indian state formerly known as Orissa).

Some of the Pratima Farmers group receiving training

 

We'll be writing more about the farmers, and indeed more about Fairtrade, during the rest of Fairtrade Fortnight.  Their lives are hard.  But Fairtrade is giving them hope, along with a fair price for the cotton.

It's been quite a journey for all us of us to get to being able to share these fine shirts with you.  Time for a nice cup of Fairtrade tea we think.

 

 

Christmas Feasting

Earlier this month Mark meditated on food and drink in Advent.  Here, we get to Christmas week....

Now we’re in the thick of it, and if fortune is smiling then the weather is starting to get frosty.  So much the better for those thick glutinous slowly cooked dishes.  Time to attack that section of your cellar dedicated to the Rhone.  A rolled rib of beef cooked in beer, served with baked potatoes, savoy cabbage and the rich uplifting embrace of mature Syrah.  A slow cooked.  A heart stopping belly of organic pork, mash, broccoli, carrots and a fresh young fruity Gigondas.

Suddenly, before you know it, He’s here.  If you’ve been good.  

Then stockings dispatched you’re eating ham and drinking Champagne.  The kitchen is a gentle buzz of energy.  Somebody suggests a gin and tonic to keep spirits high.  The clink of the ice almost as refreshing as the bite of the tonic is sharpening.  Chin Chin.  Guests arrive, a cocktail?  Perhaps two.  

Christmas lunch.  A turkey: literally (and in many cases figuratively too).  I half heartedly have some claret open but it’s fighting against the tide.  The meal needs Burgundy and it’s new world allies, but even then it’s a losing battle on the wine front.  There’s simply too much food.  Too much distraction.  Too much fun.  Better to wait, to bide time.

Later, escaping from the heat of the fire and 007, a crisp lager recharges and uplifts.  If one is good then two will be better.  If two is better then three…

Boxing day.  Now we’re talking.  I carried out an informal survey once and from a gastronomy perspective Boxing Day beats Christmas day hands down.  It’s more relaxed, there’s less effort.  There’s usually a walk involved which has the dual benefits of stimulating the appetite and a visit to a pub.  

Then there is one of the best food wine combinations I know of.  Namely, cold cuts of meat with leftovers eaten with the help of bottles and bottles of Beaujolais.  Heaven.  Good enough to allow you to cope with the inevitable parlour games.

Merry Christmas everyone.  

A Meditation on Food & Drink Before Christmas

So its that time of year again where we are allowed to dream.  Allowed to believe in made up friends.  Allowed to create magical memories for our young children.  Allowed slacken off a bit at work (we’ll we’re not, but you are).  Allowed to be festive.

Crucially though for some of us it is that time of year where you are allowed to eat, and more importantly, allowed to drink whatever you want.  You can take your Wrath, your Envy and perhaps a couple of the others.  For me, and I suspect a good many others, Gluttony if not quite winning gold certainly gets a podium place and this is the time of year when that dark sinful id gets allowed out of the basement (where the treadmill is kept) and into the dining room.

It starts gently enough, a cheeky beer (Adnams bitter or those cute little cans of lager) to be enjoyed while the children have their supper.  Then after the little darlings have finally gone to bed perhaps something to bring on the festive spirit.  Nothing too serious, a glass of Picapoul and a crisp or two, or if it’s later in the week a crisp dry sherry from one of those little half bottles and a handful of salted almonds.  Something to stimulate the mind and the appetite as supper is prepared.  

Knowing that the true feasting is still some way off lighter meals are called for during the first half of December.  A coq au vin is pleasingly light on the wallet, and since it's not red meat, well it must be good for you right?  It also helps to use up the opened bottles of wine that are increasingly appearing around the kitchen for some reason.  

Taking things a step further a simple bean stew cooked up with just the merest whiff of bacon acts as a useful foil to those random bottles of Chianti of dubious provenance that you’ve not been quite sure what to do with.  Both the wine and the pulses share the same Tuscan spiritual home and if the wine turns out to be a little more *cough* “robust”, than desired then you can chalk it up to agricultural charm and pretend that you are on holiday.

For the fish lover what safer time than Advent to enjoy mussels at home?  Even better you are spoilt for choice on the drinks front.  Cider, beer, or a crisp white from the Loire all working wonderfully.  The huge, welcoming, bowl of shells simply begging to be enjoyed with a gluttonous passion.  Whatever you are drinking with it, it should be glugged not sipped.  The only downside is that cooking the pile of frites at home is a pain.  Time to engage our old friend Sloth and substitute for a fluffy white stick of French bread.  All the better to soak up the broth with anyway.

As the month starts to pass the tempo can afford to increase.  Until the end of term the family breakfast remains that most presbyterian of dishes, porridge.  The tone in our house has however been offset by the addition of brown sugar, accompanied thanks to Spotify by the Rolling Stone’s “Brown Sugar” and much dancing around the kitchen.  I worry about the lyrics, and the cost of the subsequent therapy sessions when my kids start to listen to them.  

Now we’re in the thick of it, and if fortune is smiling then the weather is starting to get frosty.  So much the better for those thick glutinous slowly cooked dishes.  Time to attack that section of your cellar dedicated to the Rhone.  A rolled rib of beef cooked in beer, served with baked potatoes, savoy cabbage and the rich uplifting embrace of mature Syrah.  A slow cooked.  A heart stopping belly of pork, mash, broccoli, carrots and a fresh young fruity Gigondas.

So that was Advent.  Roll on Christmas.

Ethical Gifts for Children

Whilst we're not members of the 'Christmas is all about the children' brigade (we're rather partial to a mince pie, a ginger wine and a carol or two ourselves) we do appreciate that the childhood magic of Christmas is rather special.  Especially the stocking.  

And the glittering presents under the tree.  (Less so the boring adult conversation at the table and being dragged out for a brisk walk.)

So Arthur and Henry have put their heads together with a few eco, ethical ideas for the little ankle biters/darlings (delete as appropriate). 

Crafts go down well, and Fair and Funky has some good choices

 

 

Paper chain kit £3, Christmas printing blocks £1.50 each

 

Dress the little blighters in Frugi's scrumptious organic cotton clothes 

PJ's£26, Fleece £32

 

This bus, £49, from fair trade specialists Traidcraft would be a perfect present from an indulgent auntie, uncle or grandparent.  (There's also a fire engine and a farmyard.)

 

 

Take them on a journey with a world atlas, £9.99 from Amnesty

 

Give them classic Christmas books, The Dark is Rising & The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.  Order online at The Hive and they'll be delivered to your local bookshop who will also get a percentage of the sale.

  

They may never eat Turkish Delight again though.

It's also worth checking out Jen Gale's delightful blog My Make Do and Mend Year for inspiration and suggestions of things to do, make and give that don't involved buying new things.  

(We're all for Reduce, Reuse, Recyle, though we do think men need a good new shirt every now and then.  One that will last.)

Ethical Gifts for Him

Henry hears that buying presents for men can be tricky but really he doesn't see what the fuss is all about.  All of these would go down very well in his stocking.

A perfect organic cotton shirt...

...in a classic blue, £65

 

 

...with a funky trim, £75

 

...in a dashing dot, £75

Cufflinks set off a shirt with style. 

firehose cufflinks £36, fair trade cricket ball cufflinks £25

 

All those gadgets deserve to be protected...

tablet case £70, laptop case £80, upcycled fire-hose

 

A scarf will keep him toasty and warm...

      

 

handspun, handwoven fair trade 100% lambswools scarves, £40
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