Covilli Family Farms Sets a Trend for Growers Throughout Mexico

This blog post comes from Celina Lima, a Fair Trade Campaigns fellow studying International Development and Social Enterprise at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Over the last year, Celina has traveled around the Southwestern United States to study the impacts of Fair Trade businesses on their suppliers’ livelihoods.

This is the second in a series of posts following Celina along her journeys. Catch up on her journey to a coffee co-op in Guatemala and follow along with Fair Trade news so you don't miss a beat.

About Covilli Organic Farms

The products we buy and sell are connected to the livelihoods of others, and Fair Trade is a way to make a conscious choice for a better world. The effectiveness of the Fair Trade model is seen clearly through the successes of Covilli Brand Organics and the hundreds of stories of empowered farmers who are given the opportunity for a better quality of life for themselves and future generations.

Located in Sonora, Mexico, the mountainous region extending from northern Mexico to southern Arizona, Covilli Brand Organics was formed in 1965 as part of L. Terry Poiriez’s pursuit to combine ethical labor practices with his deep respect for the land. His son, Alex Madrigal, and Alex’s wife, Iris, have continued that legacy by becoming one of the first farms to be both 100 percent organic and Fair Trade Certified™ in early January 2016.

“Every single purchase we make as consumers is linked to the livelihood of others,” Alex said of his commitment to Fair Trade. “Our everyday choices affect people in other countries and small villages who want the same things that we want—things like education for their kids, health, and opportunities for themselves and future generations. We’re intertwined whether we know it or not, so making conscious purchases is crucial.”

“We’re intertwined whether we know it or not, so making conscious purchases is crucial.”

Alex views Fair Trade as a way of empowering Covili’s employees, most of whom are indigenous migrant workers who have been marginalized for generations. Every year, Covilli welcomes over 700 indigenous workers, plus their families, from Guerrero and Chiapas, Mexico. Covili’s Fair Trade certification has given these men and women a voice in the workplace as well as the larger community. One way is through the Fair Trade Community Development Fund.


The Fair Trade Difference

It’s simple:  For every pound of produce sold, farm workers earn an additional amount of money earmarked for critical community projects like education and healthcare. To date, they have earned more than $500,000 in this additional income. 

To use the Community Development Fund, workers form a Fair Trade Committee, a group of democratically-elected leaders to identify community needs and spearhead projects. The workers at Covilli chose to call their Committee Nuchi Sansekan, meaning all together in Náhuatl, the language spoken by many of the indigenous workers. This name signifies that only by working together can a community attain its goals and true purpose. Below are some of the ways the workers have chosen to use their Community Development Funds:


Transportation for medical visits

Covilli’s farm is in a rural area in the Empalme Valley in Sonora, Mexico. The closest hospital is an hour away, and most of the migrant farm workers don’t own a vehicle, so even routine doctor visits are a big transportation expense. A 15-passenger van purchased with Fair Trade Funds is outfitted with basic instruments and equipment to stabilize a person during medical emergencies and operates 24/7 for emergency transfers.


A community health care center

Nuchi Sansekan has purchased land half a mile away from the farm where they plan to build a new healthcare services facility. Once it’s built, primary and specialized care will be provided to all farmworkers, their families, and the local community, and a medical doctor and nurse practitioner will be available 24/7.


A new dining facility complete with a nutritionist

Due to limited access to grocery stores,  balanced nutrition is a struggle for farmworkers and their families. The workers voted to build a new dining room where workers and their families can receive two balanced, low-cost meals on site each day.


When you purchase Fair Trade Certified goods, you are supporting responsible companies, fair working conditions, and sustainable agriculture. In other words, it’s a revolutionary way of doing business, and in which every consumer can participate.