A focus on crisis provides a methodological window to understand how agrarian change shapes producer engagement in fair trade. This orientation challenges a separation between the market and development, situating fair trade within global processes that incorporate agrarian histories of social change and conflict. Reframing crisis as a condition of agrarian life, rather than emphasizing its cyclical manifestation within the global economy, reveals how market-driven development encompasses the material conditions of peoples' existence in ambiguous and contradictory ways. Drawing on the case of coffee production in Nicaragua, experiences of crisis demonstrate that greater attention needs to be paid to the socioeconomic and political dimensions of development within regional commodity assemblages to address entrenched power relations and unequal access to land and resources. This questions moral certainties when examining the paradox of working in and against the market, and suggests that a better understanding of specific trajectories of development could improve fair trade's objective of enhancing producer livelihoods.