Equal Exchange Avocados

The avocado has become one of the best selling fruits throughout the United States. One reason for its popularity is its great health benefits. Avocados are a good source of healthy fats, and they contain a significant amount of potassium (heart health). The fruit can be used to make guacamole or to liven up sandwiches and salads. Equal Exchange, a Fair Trade company, imports organic foods including avocados, bananas, chocolate bars, and coffee to the US.

Michoacán, a region of Mexico, grows organic avocados that Equal Exchange imports to the United States. The temperature in Michoacán is fairly warm throughout the year, with a healthy amount of rain during the summer. The volcanic soil is able to hold the moisture, making constant irrigation unnecessary. Equal Exchange imports organic Hass avocados, a popular variety in the United States. This tasty ovoid fruit with a small pit is green and hard before it ripens. When ready to eat, the avocado becomes soft and turns black. Hass avocados have a nutty flavor and contain more fat than other varieties. Read more: The Terroir of an Avocado Affects the Flavor.

The avocado season begins in early September. Equal Exchange places weekly orders with its co-operatives, groups of small farmers. These farmers coordinate the harvesting of the fruit according to USDA regulations, which include fruit size and the amount of oil it contains. Once the requirements are met, the harvest begins. The green fruits are picked and taken to a packing facility. The avocados are sorted, cleaned, stickered (PLU by size), and put into Equal Exchange boxes which are loaded onto pallets and shipped to a warehouse near the Mexican/US border.

Before being allowed to enter the United States, the fruits are inspected by USDA agents. Once the product has cleared inspection, it is moved across the border to an independent warehouse. The privately-owned distribution companies pick up the organic avocados and take them to their warehouses. The Monadnock Food Co-op’s produce department orders avocados from these distribution companies that bring them to our loading dock in Keene. These Equal Exchange organic avocados have traveled 2,800 miles from Michoacán, Mexico to Keene, NH.

The conventional avocado has a much different and more challenging “route” to the United States. Small Mexican growers face importation obstacles put in place by the USDA. In order to sell their conventional avocados in the US, growers must first be certified by the USDA. Once the avocados are harvested, they are transferred to a consolidator’s packhouse, a warehouse that must also be USDA approved. The consolidator has complete control of pricing. There is a large discrepancy between the field price (paid in pesos to the growers) and export price (paid in dollars to the consolidators). Read more: What’s the Story Behind Mexican Avocados?  

Equal Exchange imports Fair Trade organic avocados, using a business model that helps small farmers get fair compensation for their fruit. Weekly orders and prices are negotiated between the importing company and the grower. They depend not only on the demand for avocados and their previous prices but also on the true cost of getting the fruit to market. Equal Exchange also helps farmers establish and maintain sustainable businesses by showing them the proper way to handle and pack avocados. Equal Exchange is also committed to helping the farmers survive the effects of climate change, something that affects all farmers. Read more: What Does It Take to Start an Avocado Season?

Next time you are shopping in our food co-op, and hesitate to buy an organic avocado because of its price, remember the distance this fruit has traveled to get here and the fair price the farmer was paid for the labor.

Avocado Tips

  • Avocados are delicate fruits; handle them with care.
  • Avocados contain a natural gas called Ethylene that helps the fruit ripen.
  • To ripen avocados, place them with an apple or banana in a brown paper bag.
  • Ripe avocados store for a week when refrigerated.
  • Avoid storing avocados with other fruits.
  • Squeeze lemon or lime juice on a partial avocado to keep its natural color.

Guacamole Recipe

I like to make my guacamole simple.

Here are the ingredients I use to make my guacamole:
Avocados (at least 2 or more), 1 medium onion (Red or white,) 1 lime, 1 jalapeno, fresh cilantro, salt and pepper, optional ingredients: a tomato or a mango (to add a sweet flavor).

Chop the jalapeno and onion into small pieces. If you like spicy guacamole, you can add the jalapeno seeds to the dish. Depending on the amount of avocado you use, you may not need the whole onion. I suggest starting with half and add more if needed.
Pluck the cilantro leaves off the stem and mince the leaves.
Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit Scoop the avocado into a bowl.
Mash the avocado with a fork. I like my guacamole chunky and not “pasty.”
Squeeze on lime juice to keep the avocado fresh.
Add a small amount of the minced ingredients to the avocado.
At this time I taste test my guacamole to make sure I have the right flavor. Once I am satisfied, I grab a handful of chips and enjoy my snack.

Thanks to: Allen Raymond, Margaret Foxweldon, Ashleigh Hutwelker, and Leah Madsen.