I remember the first time I visited a farm – a real working farm. It was on an elementary school field trip, and my young classmates and I couldn’t wait to see the animals and crops up close and personal, live and in living color. The milking cows and goats, the chickens with their strangely colored eggs, the pigs, the rows upon rows of corn, sorghum and tobacco, and the horses. Growing up in the heart of Kentucky’s Bluegrass region, I maintained a special affinity for the noble, statuesque creatures grazing proudly in the fields and farms that are so plentiful in that part of the state. At age eight, I was even a card-carrying member of the American Quarter Horse Association.
We filed off of the big yellow school bus, my classmates and I, and we trampled down a long dirt road that led to “the farm.” Thirty-something second and third graders all chomping at the bit (so to speak) just to check everything out. I even wore special boots for the occasion. There were corn shucking contests, egg races, and cow milking lessons that concluded with tastings of fresh sweet cream butter, passed around a long farmhouse table in small handmade crocks. I was utterly smitten with the whole thing. I have a similar crock in my kitchen now, and I rarely use it without thinking about that time at the farm and the simple but lasting sensory experiences that colored the entire day.
I was captivated by the foods I shared with my friends and teachers; the butter, the cheeses, the fresh deviled eggs and egg salad sandwiches. The fact that I could see exactly where my food was coming from was such a profoundly special and eye-opening experience. But perhaps more poignantly, for me, were the people I saw on the farm that day, the workers whose responsibility it was to keep things running so people like me could eat every single day. It struck me as very important and very cool.
It’s tough to pinpoint the precise moment in youth when your world begins to stretch, to expand past and over and beyond the familiar comforts of home. Or in my case, past the farms that surrounded my Kentucky hometown. At some point though, we begin to realize that there is more to life than what we see and experience on a daily basis … people who live and work beyond our own horizon lines. I think, for me, the inevitable horizon broadening reality of youth was kickstarted that day at the farm. Ohhh … so there are people that raise crops who are actually responsible for my food. Like, before Mom and Dad ever begin to cook it in our kitchen … even before it lands on the shelves at Winn Dixie. No, food is not born in a grocery store and it does not magically appear in our refrigerators and pantries. There are farmers who bring food into existence, working hard day in and day out all over the world to ensure that everyone gets to eat. Remembering that simple but poignant revelation makes this blog post all the more meaningful for me.
I’ve teamed up with Equal Exchange to help shine a light on not only their high quality Fair Trade products, but also their mission to help put the farmer first. The aim of creating and sustaining a better and more just system of trade for farmers across the world is a goal of which I am happy and honored to be a part, even if my role is a very small one.
In North America, the first Fair Trade organizations began by purchasing handcrafted goods from Europeans and Puerto Ricans who were living in poverty after World War II, with the focus later shifting to developing nations. In 1946, Edna Ruth Byler imported needlecrafts from low-income and displaced women in Puerto Rico and Europe, an event that laid the groundwork for North America’s first Fair Trade organization, Ten Thousand Villages. Forty years later, Equal Exchange was established as the first Fair Trade cooperative in North America, importing coffee from Nicaragua in an effort to make a political statement with a high-quality household good (fairtraderesource.org).
“It all started with an idea: what if food could be traded in a way that is honest and fair, a way that empowers both farmers and consumers?” (www.equalexchange.coop)
Today, at 32 years old, I am more aware of the food trade system than I was at age eight, its various parts and players, and I have recently had my eyes and mind opened further as I’ve delved into the history of Fair Trade and specifically, how Equal Exchange is fighting to keep its model from being jeopardized by larger corporations. The situation is tenuous, to be sure, but it isn’t really my story to tell. I urge you to read more about Equal Exchange and its efforts to create trade models in which the farmers truly control their own futures. It is a system in which everyone wins – Economically. Environmentally. Socially. So, take a minute and give their site a look. There are several ways that you and/or your community can help to spread the word about Fair Trade. It is hugely important work that they’re doing and although I’m just a single voice – a small-time blogger – this is a message that I’m happy to shout out at the top of my lungs.
My recipe this week is a favorite, no bones about it. The glaze that is drizzled across the warmly spiced scones is filled with the distinctive taste of Equal Exchange’s Rooibos Chai Tea, whose intoxicating flavors really shine here – they completely steal the show. Their Fair Trade and organic teas come from small farmer partners in India, Sri Lanka and South Africa. Most teas on the shelf – even Fair Trade teas – come from plantations, where tea workers have very little say. By purchasing Equal Exchange teas, you are directly supporting a tea model in which farmers control their futures. Kind of a no brainer, right?
As for the scones, Elle and I each indulged in several … polishing them off before the glaze even had time to set.
Winter Spiced Cream Scones with a Chai Tea Glaze
3 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting your work surface
2/3 cups granulated sugar
5 teaspoons baking powder
2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces/pats
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
4 Equal Exchange Rooibos Chai Tea bags
5 cups confectioner’s sugar
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.
Cut the chilled butter into the flour mixture using a fork or a pastry cutter. Work the mixture until it crumbles and clumps together. Combine the cream, egg and vanilla in a small bowl and then add this mixture to the flour mixture, stirring gently with a fork until it all comes together.
Turn the dough out onto a nicely floured work surface and gently press it together until it forms a round disc, about 1/2″ – 3/4″ thick. Using a rolling pin can help here, if you like, but I typically just shape the disc with my hands until it reaches the thickness that I want.
Using a floured round biscuit cutter, cut the dough into individual scones, re-rolling and re-shaping the dough as needed. (note: I think round scones tend to be less dry, as they don’t have pointy tips that are susceptible to drying, but this recipe works just as well for triangular scones if that’s your preference). This recipe yields about 24 mini scones and 12 regular scones (give or take, depends upon the size of cutter you use). Transfer the scones to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and bake for 12 – 13 minutes (for mini scones) or 17 – 18 minutes for regular biscuit sized scones.
Cool completely before glazing.
for the glaze: Add the milk to a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Place the chai tea bags in the milk and steep for 15 minutes, stirring frequently to help release the flavor. Don’t let the milk get too hot as it will scald.
After about 15 minutes, discard the tea bags. Pour the confectioner’s sugar into a large mixing bowl and add the chai-infused milk. Stir the mixture until a thick, runny glaze forms.