Day 2 of the Fair Trade Campaigns Conference, our first full day of Fair Trade connections and conversations! It has been exciting to be in Chicago, the second largest city in the world to be a Fair Trade City.
The morning began with a Panel Discussion: Building Partnerships for a Stronger Movement. The panel consisted of individuals representing Local First Chicago, Pioneer Valley Local First, UC Davis/Sodexo, UC San Diego, Five for Water Foundation, Fair Trade Towns, and myself representing the “town and gown” connection of Media Fair Trade Town and Penn State Brandywine as a Fair Trade University. The questions from the moderators and the audience were very thought-provoking and provided new ideas to think about as well as a refresher of items and programs already in place. Even as a participant, here are some of the takeaways I had from the panel:
- Go back and think about the term “partnerships”… What do partnerships mean to us? How do we define “what is a partnership”?
- Who else can we work with to think outside of the box to make a partnership?
- Partnerships are efficient if you have the same audience
- Have an inclusive message, such as “buy local, buy fair”
- Brush up on “appreciative inquiry”
It was off to Breakout Session 1, where I decided to stop in to hear more about the History & Scope of Fair Trade by Jackie DeCarlo (Catholic Relief Services) and April Linton (Author, Fair Trade from the Ground Up). The presenters started with a reflective question, when did YOU first become involved in Fair Trade?, then moved in to a true/false format of posing questions to the audience to move us through where Fair Trade has been and where it stands now. For example… TRUE OR FALSE…. Fair Trade only encompasses products that bear certifiers’ labels. Jackie encouraged us to check out the CRS Fair Trade website for more information and history of Fair Trade.
For the next breakout session, I headed to Bringing Fair Trade to the Classroom. The session was filled with university students and faculty sharing ideas and strategies for bringing Fair Trade to every discipline and making it either a part of a course or an entire course. The group shared how courses in statistics, economics, geography, agriculture, and even writing could have a Fair Trade component. Suggestions I am going to follow up with included checking out the anti-Fair Trade literature, the scholarly articles listed on the Fair Trade Resource Network website, seeing if our campus common read program can select a Fair Trade book, and looking for K-12 curriculum for outreach purposes on the Global Exchange website.
I then grabbed my box lunch and headed to the networking session by Green Mountain Coffee. It was interesting to hear them talk about their Fair Trade varieties of coffee, but there needs to be more consumer demand for more Fair Trade options to be available, as Green Mountain makes less money off of this line (it costs more, but those costs are not passed along to the consumer). Several people from Fair Trade Universities and Towns also shared how they are struggling to get attendance at showings of films on Fair Trade topics, and everyone in the room suggested strategies that could be pursued (partnering with other groups to increase attendance, perhaps just call it a film festival and not a Fair Trade film festival, etc.). In the end, we got back to a message heard several times previously at the meeting – get the word out to consumers.
The Open Forum on Fair Trade had some interesting and challenging questions, and again, some great statements to think about:
- Fair Trade is dialogue, transparency, and respect
- Do we ask everyone to purchase more Fair Trade, or just have all purchases be Fair Trade, and is there a difference?
- Moving forward, let’s not agonize, let’s organize
- If Fair Trade is all over, the world will be at peace (this statement was made by Hannah Dodoo of Global Mamas)
For the Crafting & Tasting Demonstrations, I decided to attend the jewelry making session led by Minga Fair Trade Imports. We learned about the tagua bead (actually an ivory-like nut harvested from palm trees indigenous to South America) and got to make our own necklaces, bracelets, key chains, and earrings. Personally, I’m not a big jewelry-wearing person, but I love my tagua necklace I made, and each time I wear it I’ll be sure to tell the Fair Trade story behind it.
Next up was Courtney Lang reviewing the Go Bananas for Fair Trade Challenge and announcing the winners. Guess what??? Penn State Brandywine and Fair Trade Boston were declared co-champions! (more to come about this in a future blog post…)
Fair Trade Chicago gave a keynote on their stories and lessons about Fair Trade, sharing interesting activities such as mapping out where Fair Trade items are sold, connecting Fair Trade to job creation, establishing an education program, and bringing Fair Trade fashion shows and soccer balls to young adults and kids. Way to go, Chicago!
The final activity for the night (phew! such a long, information-packed day!) was fascinating. I attended a talk by Felipe Echeverri Zapata and Jorge William Restrepo from Bananeras de Uraba, (English summary), who discussed the benefits of Fair Trade for banana farmers in Columbia. The Zapata family clearly cares deeply about their workers and has done much to help them. Alas, the realities of climate change are impacting the growth of the bananas, preventing them from providing a constant number of bananas for the market. I will certainly be keeping an eye out for their bananas! (they recommended checking out Sam’s Club and Walmart)
Another day filled with great information and connections. Day 3 should be just as exciting – with Hurricane Sandy coming towards the east coast for an added bit of excitement!
Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin