Campaign Spotlight: La Mesa, California

Courtney Lang June 5, 2012

Article by Anne Pacheco and Nancy Ryan, Co-Chairs

La Mesa Steering Committee Members, Midge Hyde (left) and Nancy Ryan (right), tabling at Foothills United Methodist Church.

The Fair Trade movement is gaining momentum in La Mesa and throughout San Diego County, thanks to the La Mesa Fair Trade Town steering committee. The word is spreading that, simply by our consumer choices, we can make a difference for the environment, the marginalized and local businesses.

A Fair Trade Town Steering Committee was formed in January 2010 after several of its members were involved in the San Diego Fair Trade meetings and activities.

La Mesa is a suburb of San Diego, a city in its own right with a population of 60,000, so it seemed like a a good place to begin a Fair Trade Town Campaign. All 12 members of the Steering Committee set to work, spreading the word about Fair Trade, to churches and non-profit organizations, merchants, the Mayor and City Council members, and service clubs.

Keeping the Momentum through Education & Outreach:

Fair Trade La Mesa Tabling outside of Sprouts, a lo cal grocer, spreading fair trade awareness to consumers.

Strategy meetings are held monthly.  In addition, presentations have been made to La Mesa Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary, Democratic Club, Soroptimists.

The La Mesa Interfaith Council of Churches have been given all of the information regarding Fair Trade and have been encouraged to educate those in their respective congregations.

La Mesa is well on its way to becoming a FT Town with all but one of the requirements met and exceeded.  Based on the population, a minimum of 12 merchants should carry at least two Fair Trade products.  To date, we have 28, including some cafes, which serve Fair Trade beverages.  They have all been given window clings which state “We are proud supporters of Fair Trade Town La Mesa.”

At least 12 non-profit groups / organizations are committed to serve Fair Trade beverages at their events. The number continues to grow as the information about Fair Trade spreads.

San Diego Fair Trade is working in conjunction with our campaign.  The president, Dawn Starry Sweeney is on the La Mesa Steering Committee.

There have been media events as well as presence at Earth Faires, Farmers Market, grand opening of a Sprouts store, Environmental Sustainable Commission.  Also we were interviewed at the City Council Meeting and were published in the local newspapers.

Once a month we send an article about Fair Trade and our campaign to the La Mesa newspaper.

Our publicity also includes a comprehensive brochure, a blog, and facebook page.  We also hosted a La Mesa Fair Trade Gift Faire with many FT merchants, including Ben and Jerry’s.  Ben &Jerry’s gave out free samples of their Fair Trade ice cream. One of the tables was for information about Fair Trade and the campaign in La Mesa.

Steering Committee at the Kiwanis Club after a presentation

Resolution Challenges:

The single requirement, not yet met, is the passing of a Fair Trade Town Resolution by  City Council. They are reluctant to put their official stamp on a resolution.  Three of the five members believe that  “government” should not be involved.  The La Mesa Fair Trade Town Steering Committee has provided additional information and rationale to each of the city council members since the resolution was defeated when voted on in October 2011. Certainly, having the resolution passed is our biggest challenge.

Fair Trade presentations and events are ongoing in La Mesa with the goal of getting the word out that every purchase matters.   Our goal is to have La Mesa declared a Fair Trade Town in 2012, the year of the city’s centennial.  We’ve come a long way but the challenge of a City Council Resolution remains.

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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.