Fair Trade Towns & Universities National Conference Recap

Courtney Lang September 17, 2011

Organizer came from near and far in support of Fair Trade!

The first ever Fair Trade Towns & Universities National Conference brought together 250 Fair Trade enthusiasts from more than 80 campaigns across 26 states, and from countries as far as New Zealand.  The 3-day gathering, at Hub CityView Conference Center in Philadelphia, PA, focused on building cohesion between Town and University campaigns, facilitating peer-to-peer learning, and collectively developing tools for running successful campaigns at all stages.

Moving Toward Sustainability, One Declaration at a Time

Gretchen Specht accepting the Declaration Certificate for Healdsburg, California, the 24th Fair Trade Town in the nation, from Billy Linstead-Golsmith, National Coordinator for Fair Trade Towns USA.

So, what would be the optimal way to open a conference focused on revving the Fair Trade Movement?   Announcing declaration of the 24th Fair Trade Town in the nation, Healdsburg, California, which puts the states of California, New Jersey and Massachusetts in the lead and tied with 4 declared towns each.  This inspiring announcement brought us into the first general session, a “Fair Trade Symposium,” where 10 dynamic speakers shared motivational stories that led us into an incredible weekend of learning and creativity!  Be on the look out for a video from each of the speakers which will be located on the “Resources” page of our web site and the Fair Trade Towns & Fair Trade Universities facebook pages. In the mean time, here’s a sweet clip of Ben Cohen sharing how Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream decided to make the switch to Fair Trade Certified Ingredients in 2010.

Click here to listen to Ben Cohen speaking at the Fair Trade Towns & Universities National Conference!

The rest of the weekend was jammed with breakout sessions that were facilitated mostly by campaign leaders themselves; each with a focus on Promotional Tools, Organizer Tools, Building Your Toolkit or Promotion in Your Community. Attendees participated in open-ended, interactive workshops that concentrated on building a collaborative vision and long-term goals for the future. Some of the most enjoyed session were Strategic Planning, Communications & Marketing: The Art of the Elevator Pitch and Handling the Roadblocks with Decision Makers.  Check out our “Resources” page for session notes, as well (not all sessions are currently available).


Angelino speaking with Fair Trade Town & University organizers.

Stories from the Source

An essential component of the event was providing organizers the opportunity to hear the effects of Fair Trade first-hand, from the producer’s perspective. As Angelino Espinoza Mata, President of Union Regional de Pequenos Productores de Cafe Huatusco of Vericruz, Mexico stated, “Thanks to Fair Trade and companies like Green Mountain Coffee, we’ve been able to carry out campaigns in our community to prevent breast and cervical cancer; 10k women & girls have received treatment. Why is this important? For every women who dies because of cancer there are 3 or more children left without a mother; we see that women are the pillar of the family.”  It’s interactions like this that remind us why we supports the efforts of Fair Trade and inspire us to be more conscious consumers.

We Couldn’t Have Done it without You!

Amanda Lou of American University summed up the event well, quoting that, “the conference has been a great venue to have a form of discussion for Fair Trade and find out ways in which to make Fair Trade and our campaigns better.”  We are so thankful to all the attendees who came out and made this event such a success by offering their ideas and opinions.

We are also grateful to our sponsors who provided funding for the facility and travel stipends for organizers, as well as Fair Trade products for the weekend.  If you didn’t get a chance to check them at the conference, now is a great time to see how Fair Trade aligns with their organizational mission and what products they offer.  The more demand we create for our partners through spreading awareness of Fair Trade the more impact we can provide to the farmers, workers and artisans who are in need!

Conference Sponsor:  Green Mountain Coffee Roasters have been fundamental in all of our initiatives here at Fair Trade Towns & Universities and deserve a huge “Thank You” for providing the funds to make this conference a reality.

Organizer Sponsors:  The generous contributions from the organizations listed below enabled volunteer organizers from towns and campuses across the country to attend the conference by using the sponsorship money to offset travel and accommodation costs.

Product Sponsors:  Donated the yummy and stylish samples that went into our goodie bags!

Thanks again and we hope to see you next year!

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Courtney Lang, National Organizer | Fair Trade Campaigns

Courtney Lang brings over 5 years of community organizing to Fair Trade Towns USA, building both the Local Food and Fair Trade networks in Vermont. As Local Food Coordinator with City Market/Onion River Cooperative, Courtney worked with local producers, institutions and consumers to grow the local food system and organize a strategic model for community engagement through farm tours, workshops, and local food challenges. Like many in the Fair Trade industry, Courtney was inspired to take action in Fair Trade when she witnessed child-labor first hand in Costa Rica. As a founding member of Fair Trade Burlington, she has worked with economic development organizations, businesses, and consumers to build awareness of Fair Trade among Vermonters. She also worked with a Fair Trade USA licensee, Vermont Coffee Company, as Friend Ambassador where she united the story of Fair Trade to every purchase of coffee.