Tag Archives: Ohio Fair Trade Expo

Fair Trade Pillar #4: Pay Promptly and Fairly

Most of us can usually come up with a few dollars for lunch or even stepping out. We take it for granted that loose change can always be found. Of course, there are exceptions even in this country. There are way too many people living on the margins in the United States.

In the global south, this is not the exception but quite often the rule. Money is a scarce commodity to be used for essential things like food and shelter. Buying a sandwich for lunch is a luxury. Stepping out is unheard of.

Revy learned very early with our fair trade business the importance of this. We always asked our artisans to keep a sample so that they could make the same product when we re-ordered. Fat chance. The sample was made, and then sold in a local market. We now have to supply photos with our orders and in some instances send a sample from our inventory.

Naturally, if an artisan can’t afford to keep a sample in inventory, they certainly can’t afford to buy raw material for an order. This is one reason that members of the Fair Trade Federation like ourselves send a 50% deposit with each order. It is a great income generator for PNC Bank with these extra wire transfers, but it’s the only way to do business according to the principles to which we subscribe.

In some instances, we supply the raw material ourselves. Earring wires must be stainless steel with an absolute minimum of nickel content and we supply them. In this case, the artisan has zero material costs since the earring itself is usually made from a seed or gourd. Regardless, we still advance 50% to them.

In other instances, the material cost is minimal. Our line of accessories from recycled inner-tubes uses scrap as the main component. Only a small amount is needed for linings, zippers, etc. Again, we advance 50%.

There is an added bonus to this since our payments for most products are mainly compensation for labor.  This has a much greater impact than when the artisan needs to acquire material. The balance is always paid upon shipment.

Compare this with the “free trade” model where the artisan must wait until the product is shipped to get paid. Sometimes, payment can be months or never at all. This is what we mean by “fair.”

Ron and Mary Ober
Revy Fair Trade

The Obers are the founders and owners of Revy Fair Trade, a Cleveland based fair trade wholesale business that imports from fair trade cooperatives in El Salvador. Revy means revitalization. Their emphasis is both on recycling and natural materials. The product line consists of: Jewelry created from clay, bamboo, coconut shells and a variety of seeds.
Handbags dyed with indigo, teak, tree moss and other organic materials.
Recycled materials including plastic bags, glass, used tires and leather scraps.

Check them out at revydirect.com

School Solidarity

These days most teenagers are consumed with grades, social status, the future, and preparing for college. We often don’t find time to stop and reflect – “smell the roses”- along the way. It is an inspiring moment when you can see the spark in your peers’ eyes when they find what they are passionate about. Whether it is a form of art or a social justice matter, once someone finds a calling they often gain a greater sense of self-worth. I have seen that spark ignite in my friends and classmates who have gotten involved with our Fair Trade club. And it’s not just because we sell coffee.

We often hear about “peer pressure” and how it relates to teenagers today. Usually, the term has a negative connotation, but that is not always the case. Once a month at Walsh Jesuit we have fair trade refreshments for sale, to raise awareness about opportunities to make a fair trade choice. In this way we “pressure” our peers to think about where their food and clothing comes from and who makes it.

Too often we see the product instead of what happened for the thing to be in front of us. According to dosomething.org, “In developing countries, an estimated 168 million children ages 5-14 are forced to work.” That is 168 million 1 st -9 th graders working in poor conditions for an unfair wage. We are all human and the color of our skin or where we are from should not determine our paycheck or working conditions. Some believe that buying these products is acceptable, justifying their actions by thinking that they are giving these workers some sort of income. Any time we exploit people’s poverty, we are feeding an unstable system. Fredrick Douglas describes this well when he said “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

Encourage your peers to make conscious decisions and go fair trade! Whether it be with the clothes they wear, the coffee they buy, or the food they purchase, the gratification that is felt knowing they have made a difference no matter how small is addictive.

Chloe Gunther is a student a Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Chloe, thanks for continuing to “peer pressure” folks to spread more love and justice! Meet Walsh Jesuit students at the Ohio Fair Trade Teach-In and EXPO.

Fair Trade Pillar #3: Building Producer Capacity

“Fair Trade is a means to develop producers’ independence. Members maintain long-term relationships based on solidarity, trust, and mutual respect, so that producers can improve their skills and their access to markets. Members help producers to build capacity through proactive communication, financial and technical assistance, market information, and dialogue. They seek to share lessons learned, to spread best practices, and to strengthen the connections between communities, including among producer groups.”
–Fair Trade Federation

It’s a common misconception that fair trade is simply the act of paying a decent price for a product; nothing more than a producer being able to walk away having made $2.20 for a pound of coffee instead of $1.00. This is an incomplete picture, and one that mis-characterizes the true nature of the authentic fair trade movement. A fair price is a significant part of the equation, but it is not everything, and it is not nearly enough. There is much more happening on the ground at the producer level, a key example of which is the building of producer capacity.

Fair trade was developed to give marginalized farmers and artisans market access, and therefore literally put more dollars in their pockets. However, this alternative manner of trade is meant to be mutually beneficial. Consumers pay a higher price; producers provide a quality product. But producers must have the know-how and means to do so. They must have the organizational ability, infrastructure, capital, and training tools necessary to keep building upon and improving their means of production, in order to ensure their long-term viability in the market. This is what we call capacity.

Capacity-building comes in many forms: pre-harvest finance, technical assistance, market research, loans for purchasing new equipment, and quality control training, to name a few. Each manner of capacity-building is made possible through long-term committed partnerships across national borders, and is meant to increase producer autonomy at the grassroots level – at the very beginning of the supply chain. We see examples of this with producer groups world-wide, such as this one from Equal Exchange cacao partner, Oro Verde Cooperative, of Peru:

“Oro Verde is currently working hard to identify high quality, productive and disease-resistant cacao trees to build up an elite tree program allowing them to provide their farmers with improved varieties for the future. This includes a reforestation project that involves planting two million trees to help the co-op achieve a carbon footprint of zero.”
— EqualExchange.coop

Helping build capacity is not charity, but rather a way to foster independence and increase producer control over the very supply chains on which they rely for survival. It’s the sharing of tools and knowledge that will bring more economic activity to those who have been marginalized by conventional trade. It is insurance against future challenges, and is what enables producers to hold their own in a system rigged against them. Capacity-building is a fundamental pillar of the fair trade model, without which you don’t have genuine fair trade.

Peace,
Rachel

Rachel Dana,  is a worker-owner at Equal Exchange. After graduating from Earlham College in Indiana, Rachel spent some time in Mexico. She is now based in Cleveland, Ohio with another worker-owner and several part time staffers who run the Northeast Ohio DSD program. Cleveland is also home to one of the exclusive Equal Exchange Espresso Bars, a 100% fair trade coffee cafe, dedicated to the principles of fair trade.

check out EqualExchange.coop 

Fair Trade Federation Annual Meeting – Why should you go?

Let’s face it – the fair trade movement in the United States is small. The good news is that it is growing – really growing. And, it’s powerful! How powerful? Come to the annual Fair Trade Federation (FTF) Conference to find out.

This annual gathering of retailers and wholesalers from across the United States and Canada is an opportunity to network and learn about the movement. This year, it will be in Burlington, Vermont from April 26th to the 28th.

Revy Fair Trade has been a member of the FTF for the past five years, and we’ve never missed a Conference. Besides the traditional greeting of old friends with “hellos and hugs,” the various seminars and workshops are awesome.

I remember many keynotes from individuals such as John Rosenthal, co-founder of Equal Exchange to Stacey Toews of Level Ground Trading. Although the majority of attendees sell crafts, these individuals represent the growing number of farm and food suppliers joining FTF.

If you live in Northeast Ohio, you are extremely fortunate to have the Ohio Fair Trade Network to meet other like-minded individuals. Other parts of the country from Los Angeles to Miami also have regional fair trade associations. Of course, none of them sponsor the best regional show in the country with the Ohio Fair Trade Teach-In & Expo.

It’s true that the Teach-In & Expo provides networking and education, but nothing can beat the lunches, dinners and bar talk at the Conference. If you want to truly feel a part of the national movement, plan to attend. You will come away better equipped to help the cause with both knowledge and motivation.

To learn more about the conference, go to http://www.fairtradefederation.org/ftfconference/ or contact the writer at ronober@revydirect.com. We’ll be glad to answer questions and fill you in on the details.

Peace,
Ron Ober

Ron Ober is the founder and owner of Revy Fair Trade, a Cleveland based fair trade wholesale business that imports from fair trade cooperatives in El Salvador. Revy means revitalization. Their emphasis is both on recycling and natural materials. The product line consists of: Jewelry created from clay, bamboo, coconut shells and a variety of seeds.
Handbags dyed with indigo, teak, tree moss and other organic materials.
Recycled materials including plastic bags, glass, used tires and leather scraps.

Check them out at revydirect.com

Tis the Season to Bake Cookies

Happy holidays! For a solid month we celebrate a succession of holidays, including Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Day. Holidays remind us of our ideals, values, and identity. They offer us an opportunity to re-assess the direction of our lives, they invite us to pay attention to the things that really matter, and they remind us that life is a precious reality to be celebrated and appreciated.

Naturally, the holiday season has also become deeply connected to one of our society’s most sacred acts – consumption. In fact, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are home-grown holy days built around this act. The sacred quality of consumption has turned it into an unquestionable reality, however, it is not a given that our approach to consuming is consistent with our values and ideals.

Perhaps this holiday season could serve as an opportunity to cultivate a more mindful attitude toward consumption. Commerce is fundamentally about relationships. It involves a relationship with the workers in stores and those who run the companies. It also involves relationships that are less visible. It is especially easy to overlook the impact of our purchases on the poor and on the environment. Unknowingly, we can support systems that exploit and objectify the most vulnerable members of our world community. Unintentionally, we can endorse a system that funds and even promotes devastating violence in the poorest parts of our world. Accidentally, we can invest in realities that pollute and degrade the environment, threatening the capacity of current and future generations to benefit, as we have, from the earth.

Buying fair trade products, when possible, is a way to vote for a more just world with our wallets. A fair trade gift sends a message that you didn’t just think about your loved one, but also your brothers and sisters around the world. Baking cookies with fair trade sugar and chocolate chips and serving them with fair trade coffee or tea is a way of celebrating a special time of the year with those we love and a way of celebrating the values that we treasure – dignity, human rights, opportunity, respect for the environment, peace on earth, and good will toward humanity.

Peace,
Dave LaGuardia

David is a theology teacher at Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. He is also a member of the Ohio Fair Trade Network, advises the Fair Trade Committee of the Walsh Jesuit High School Justice League  and coaches soccer at “the WJ”. Walsh is in the process of becoming a “fair trade high school” through fairtradecampaigns.org, a US program designed to promote fair trade. WJ students want to dig deeper with their fair trade campaign and address systemic oppression at the institutional level. Go Walsh!

Uganda Artisans Make Ohio Fair Trade Expo Special

Attendees at the Ohio Fair Trade Expo this year are going to be in for a treat.  The first 150 registrants at the Expo and each of the Girl Scouts participating in the Fair Trade Education program will receive a handmade bag produced by One Mango Tree artisans in Uganda.

To register for the Ohio Fair Trade Expo click here!

To learn more and register for the Girl Scout fair trade education program click here!

To learn more about One Mango Tree visit: http://www.onemangotree.com/