A Call To Arms (Or Spatulas): Fair Trade Media Cook-Off

On July 14 the town of Media will be having its “Knock Their Block Off” Fair Trade cooking competition, and Penn State Brandywine is pleased to say that it will be participating. Registration opens up on July 7, and runs until July 11. I, Sarah DeMartino, the infamous Fair Trade Vegan-Chai Cupcake Chef and TrailBlazer, will be participating and representing my Penn State Brandywine community!  I am eager to share my recipe and see what other fabulous entries are submitted!

The event is hosted by Ten Thousand Villages in Media, and all entries must be submitted to the store between noon and 2 p.m. Judging will start at 2 p.m. and end at 5 p.m. Winners will be announced the following day, July 15, on Facebook and in the store, so you don’t need to be at the store in order to win.

Each entry must include at least 2 Fair Trade ingredients, recipes must be typed up, and only non-alcoholic drinks can be submitted. All entries must be labeled with your name!

So, I encourage people to take up their cooking utensils and cook for Fair Trade! I look forward to seeing what other people prepare and good luck to everyone!

-Contributed by Sarah DeMartino, First Fair Trade Intern

Our TrailBlazing t-shirt, thanks to Maggie’s Organics

To unify the initial Penn State Brandywine Fair Trade TrailBlazers in their “look” and support of the movement, I purchased t-shirts for each of the students from Maggie’s Functional Organics and had the shirts embroidered by a local shop in Media, Christina’s Embroidery Design.

Maggie’s Organics is known for its sustainable and ethical apparel, where all of their products are made with certified organic cotton or wool.  All of their unisex t-shirts (which we ordered) are Certified Fair Labor and Fair Trade Certified.  We went for the moss-colored shirt, with blue-and-white stitching (after all, we are Penn State).

We have been surprised at how popular these shirts are.  Many people have told us they want one of their own.  Alas, these are one-of-a-kind customized shirts for the one-of-a-kind group of TrailBlazers.  But we certainly take advantage of the opportunity to tell people about Maggie’s Organics and the opportunity to purchase Fair Trade clothing.  We encourage everyone to check out their website for fun and feel-good clothing!
Maggie's Organics and our TrailBlazing t-shirt

Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin

Fair Trade items help Tyler at Twilight

Located across the street from Penn State Brandywine is Tyler Arboretum, a wonderful place to explore a variety of plants, hike trails, and learn some local history.  Each year, the Arboretum hosts Tyler at Twilight, a silent and live auction that raises funds to support Tyler’s mission and 650 acres of the outdoors.  In honor of their recent designation as a Fair Trade University campus, the faculty mentor for the Penn State Brandywine Fair Trade TrailBlazers donated on behalf of the TrailBlazers a basket filled with Fair Trade food and crafts for the silent auction.  Paired with organic fruits and vegetables from Greener Partners’ Hillside Farm Share, these items raised over $300 for Tyler Arboretum!

Silent Auction at 2012 Tyler at Twilight

Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin

June 2012 – Where the TrailBlazers stand with Fair Trade

(Periodically, we will post the reflections of our group, the Fair Trade TrailBlazers at Penn State Brandywine.  We feel it is important for us to examine and report our views and where we fit in with this global movement.  Below is our first reflection, documenting our thoughts as we went through the process of applying for Fair Trade University status.  This statement was drafted by the students in ENVST 400W in Spring 2012 with Dr. Guertin completing the final edits at the end of the semester.)


Our journey to Fair Trade University status has been incredibly rewarding, and at the same time challenging, thoughtful, confusing, and informative.  We (the Fair Trade TrailBlazers enrolled in ENVST 400W) began the Spring 2012 semester with full intentions of applying to become a Fair Trade University.  We learned about Fair Trade – how the movement began, and what it stands for.  But we soon learned about the rift forming within the Fair Trade movement, and we decided to pause and ask ourselves, what does this disagreement mean?  Is Fair Trade something we want to be affiliated with?  Is this what our campus stands for?

First, as university students, we knew we had to do as much research and information gathering about Fair Trade as we could.  We read books and articles.  We spoke with representatives from United Students for Fair Trade, Media’s Fair Trade Town Committee, and Fair Trade Towns USA.  The more we learned about Fair Trade, the more we knew we had to step up and ask questions, and hold people accountable.  We felt and still feel it is it our responsibility to stand our ground for what we feel Fair Trade represents, and that we can represent the small farmers that need a larger voice.

To us, Fair Trade is more than products with a “bucket boy” logo.  And we are disappointed that some audiences are asking groups to choose sides, to not affiliate with certain organizations or to not purchase certain items.  We want to focus on raising awareness, that we as consumers have the power to support the small farmers with conscious decisions about our purchases.  By choosing sides and not purchasing items, we realize that it is the producers, the people we want to help in the end, will only be the ones getting hurt.

We know the Fair Trade movement is young in the United States, and at this point there are more questions than solutions.  But we knew that we did not want to spend the semester getting weighed down under all the details.  After much individual reflection and group discussion, we decided to go forward with applying for Fair Trade University status.  We want others in the local-to-global community to know we are part of this movement, and we feel we will have a stronger voice and more opportunity to participate in these discussions with Fair Trade University status.

And we realize our education about Fair Trade is far from over.  We need to continue to have conversations, to ask our own questions and the questions that are not being asked.  We want to open dialogue with all interested and involved parties.  We want to take further action to promote the movement and improve the lives of the producers.  We are in support of consumer power to combat global poverty.  We are… Penn State Brandywine’s Fair Trade TrailBlazers.


Meeting with the Town of Media and Billy Linstead Goldsmith from Fair Trade Towns

This morning two of us TrailBlazers and Dr. Laura Guertin met with members of the Fair Trade Town Committee of Media, Pennsylvania, for their weekly Fair Trade discussion. For this meeting Billy Linstead Goldsmith, the National Coordinator of Fair Trade Towns, spoke to us about Fair Trade Certification and Fair Trade USA’s “Fair Trade for All” initiatives. The meeting helped those of us with general and specific questions about Fair Trade USA and its upcoming plans, and I think we took a lot away from the meeting. The group asked many probing questions, and I think, especially after the Fair Trade Resource Network webinar I attended earlier in the week (see my blog post), these sorts of talks are just what the movement needs.

Here is what I took away from Billy’s Q&A with Media’s Fair Trade Town Committee…  In a nutshell, “Fair Trade for All” is Fair Trade USA’s pilot program testing if Fair Trade can be applied to larger plantations or estates and to small independent farmers who not part of cooperatives but are still not working under ethical conditions. Fair Trade USA hopes to test the Fair Trade model and see if these people can be reached. “Fair Trade for All” is targeting a maximum of 20 plantations and independent farmers in a 2 year pilot program. This program is only testing coffee farms, and thanks to some specific questions, we learned a bit about how Fair Trade USA is hoping to implement its pilots in the large and small and independent coffee farms.

Some questions arose over the Fair Trade premiums, specifically in regards to the plantations. There is worry that it will be hard to distribute Fair Trade premiums to workers. Fair Trade USA does not plan on giving these premiums to the plantations, but instead to the workers themselves. The idea is for the farmers to democratically elect a body to receive the premiums and to decide how to use the money. The money will be used to improve the workers’ communities (improving water, plumbing, electricity, etc). Through these pilot programs, Fair Trade USA hopes to give “…people the opportunity for empowerment and self-government.”

In regards to the smaller, independent farmers, Fair Trade USA is looking to partner with outside organizations, like Catholic Relief Services, to reach people in need of help. Fair Trade USA’s main concern is making sure that workers are empowered and receiving the resources that they need. Traditional global aid is given to countries, but the money and resources are either lost in corrupt governments or heavily stipulated. Fair Trade USA seeks ways to avoid these problems and effectively reach those who need help.

Double checking and evaluating all of Fair Trade USA’s facts, numbers, and data is a third party group called the Coffee Innovation Council. Fair Trade USA did an open call for nominations, making sure it was formed with those concerned with these pilot programs in mind and people who would be critical.

There are many concerns facing “Fair Trade for All,” one of the most pressing being the question of whether or not Fair Trade is the right model for working with these groups, especially the plantations. Fair Trade USA is optimistic that Fair Trade will be the right model and plans to continue to use FLO’s standards. Their hope is to create a program that is flexible enough to change and adapt to the workers’ needs and problems. However, this is not a long term commitment, and if the pilot does not work, then it will end.

Billy’s final message was to not “…take anything at face value…be critical” and question anything and everything that is going on in the Fair Trade movement, including Fair Trade USA. As consumers and Fair Trade advocates, we need to ask questions, open up dialogs, and hold people accountable.

-Contributed by Sarah DeMartino, Fair Trade Intern

Fair Trade Resource Network’s Webinar 6/12

Yesterday I attended the Fair Trade Resource Network’s (FTRN) Webinar on Fair Trade and what the future may hold for North America’s Fair Trade movement. The webinar was hosted by Jeff Goldman, FTRN’s Executive Director, and Sean McHugh, the Executive Director of the Canadian Fair Trade Resource Network (CFTRN). Together, Jeff and Sean painted a complete scene of what has happened so far with Fair Trade and what needs to happen in order to effectively move forward.

From the webinar, it is apparent that the Fair Trade movement has grown a great deal in recent years in North America. In Canada, there is a significant push on college campuses for more Fair Trade, and more groups seeking to further the movement. In the United States, there is now a growing interest in domestic Fair Trade. Additionally, while Fair Trade has been greatly about working with small farmers, Fair Trade USA wants to expand Fair Trade to larger cooperatives, and this has sparked a lot of controversy. Clearly, North American Fair Trade is on the move, changing rapidly, but the point that both Jeff and Sean stressed was the need for better communication.

According to Sean, Fair Trade in Canada has up until recently been splintered, with different organizations all working to support Fair Trade but never working together. With CFTRN, communications have opened up a little bit. There is still a need to expand the social movement, but Canada is hoping to build relationships between each of the various groups. In the United States, there has been a lot going on with all of its organizations, especially now that Fair Trade USA is hoping to also work with larger cooperatives. But, this is a move that many groups do not agree with. While there have been some talks to work these issues out, not enough communication has been happening and a common ground has yet to be found. Building relationships between organizations is especially important with the growing number of different Fair Trade certifications out there. There is no one body governing Fair Trade certification, and while so many groups work independently, consumer confusion grows.

The main message that I took from this talk is the importance of…talking! and communicating to build and foster relationships. We need those relationships in order to plow forward, and while we may disagree with one another, we must accept our differences and continue to work toward a Fairer world.

Contributed by Sarah DeMartino, Fair Trade Intern