National Delegation to Visit Fair Trade Farms in Dominican Republic

Courtney Lang March 23, 2012

Last year’s delegation of Fair Trade Town organizers at CoopeAgri in Costa Rica!

Fair Trade Towns USA will be sending 12 volunteer organizers on an immersion trip to the Dominican Republic March 28th through April 4th, where they will build the people-to-people ties that make working for Fair Trade so meaningful.  This is the second time that Fair Trade Towns USA has collaborated with Global Exchange, a leading actor in the Fair Trade movement, to offer town organizers the opportunity to learn about the workings and impact of Fair Trade first-hand (check out last year’s trip to Costa Rica here).

Travelers will come from town and city campaigns all over the country to see the effects of their hard work, including Orlando-FL, Overland Park-KS, Ballston Spa-NY, Media-PA, Boston-MA, Mankato-MN, Chicago-IL, Berkeley-CA, and more.

Why the Dominican Republic?

Fair Trade Town organizers work diligently in their communities to raise the awareness and availability of

Maria Isable Balbuena on tour with Fair Trade Towns USA in October 2011

Fair Trade in creative and interactive ways, and at Fair Trade Towns USA we try to provide organizers the opportunity to make their work come full circle.

The Dominican Republic is home to a dear friend of Fair Trade Towns, Maria Isabel Balbuena.  Last October Maria toured with Fair Trade Towns USA staff visiting campaigns in the Northeast to share her passion, courage, and experience with Fair Trade coffee.  Our fortunate ties with Maria spawned the idea of visiting the Dominican Republic when it came time for planning our annual immersion trip, and as it turns out the DR is home to many leaders in the Fair Trade movement, and well developed cooperatives.

What will organizers see?

For the first time we’ll be bringing organizers to observe the cocoa sector. CONACADO, the National Confederation of Dominican Cocoa Producers, is a democratically run cooperative organization, helping small-scale cocoa producers. Founded in 1988, it links 10,001 small scale producers through 8 regional departments – called Blocks or Bloques in spanish – that serve 182 base associations. They are leaders in the production and export of fermented organic cocoa (Hispaniola variety), as raw material for Europe and the USA, and are an exemplary model for Fair Trade’s success in the cocoa industry.

Trip goers will spend a day visiting Alta Gracia, a sweat-free apparel factory that pays their workers a living wage.  Alta Gracia is a brand of t-shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts that are offered at a number of universities and colleges around the country.

FEDECARES is a Fair Trade coffee cooperative that was founded in 1985 after the devastating Cyclone David hit the Dominican Republic.  The cooperative serves 7,600 families in 13 provinces and the main purpose of their organization is to contribute to a better quality of life for its member and their families.  Maria will be taking us on a tour of their offices in Santo Domingo, as well as a visit to one of their farms nearby.

The Dominican Republic is the largest exporter of organic bananas.  During the last portion of the trip we’ll be visiting COOPROBATA, which is a cooperative producing organic and Fair Trade certified bananas from the southern region.  The cooperative was founded in 1997 and has around 200 small-scale farmers who are members of the producer group.

Follow our journey!

Check out the Fair Trade Towns USA blog March 28 – April 4th and follow us on Facebook for a chronicle of our trip.  We’ll be posting recaps each day with photos and stories of the people and places we visit.

Last year’s delegation of Fair Trade Town organizers in Costa Rica!



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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.