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.