Campaign Spotlight: Dayton, Ohio

Courtney Lang January 30, 2014
Read about the journey of the Dayton, Ohio, Fair Trade Towns campaign. Our guest bloggers are Lisa Von De Linde and Leslie Blaha.

Steering committee meeting at Ben & Jerry's in Dayton

Steering committee meeting at Ben & Jerry’s in Dayton

Breaking the Ice

Peace on Fifth, a local Dayton slave-free and Fair Trade store, wanted to change the conversation about Fair Trade in Dayton, Ohio. Although many people could easily connect Fair Trade with buying coffee or chocolate, a broader understanding of the deeper relationships between Fair Trade, economic development, and human trafficking was not found easily. There was a clear need to increase social awareness about the economic issues, to expand the conversation about Fair Trade to include the environmental, educational, and human trafficking impacts as well.

At its heart, Peace on Fifth believes that Fair Trade is about acting locally and thinking globally. With that in mind, the Dayton Fair Trade project was launched May 11, 2013. So how did we get started? Peace on Fifth founder, London Coe, started talking about creating a team to work toward Fair Trade Towns USA certification. Social media was a useful launch pad—both Facebook and Twitter helped to recruit interested people and announce the first meeting. The steering committee started as a program of Peace on Fifth’s community and has branched out to become its own group operating independently.

The steering committee was formed with Fair Trade shoppers, local citizens and grassroots civic activists who are in love with their city. Conversation starters include London Coe (Peace on Fifth owner, Fair Trade shopper and local abolitionist), Lisa Von De Linde (graphic designer, Dayton Fair Trade advocate, brand manager) and Leslie Blaha (research psychologist, Fair Trade shopper and neighborhood outreach). Multiple Peace on Fifth shoppers, including a youth pastor, a local business owner, an artist, an office manager, community organizers, and students from Wright State University and Chaminade Julienne High School volunteer on the steering committee. Our members connect the Dayton Fair Trade Project to other local organizations like the United Methodist Church, Fairly Simple, the Compassionary, and numerous Dayton area neighborhood associations. For Fair Trade, they work on religious outreach, community activism, social justice and integrity management.

The Path to Public Declaration

Fair Trade resolution being passed at the city meeting

Fair Trade resolution being passed at the city meeting

The city of Dayton was declared a Fair Trade City by Fair Trade Towns USA on August 9, 2013. The steering committee continues to meet and is taking on other Fair Trade certification projects.

One of the critical strengths of the team is that the Dayton Fair Trade Project works as a true team. The steering committee, starting as a diverse group of passionate volunteers, has really come together as a team, with each person taking on aspects of the project that are well suited for their individual talents and passions. This has made it possible to divide the work and accomplish goals in small steps. In this way, the project could move forward in multiple directions simultaneously.

For example, we used Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to collect photos and posts about local businesses and organizations with Fair Trade products, like coffee served at Chaminade Julienne High School or honey sold at Trader Joe’s. Every person contributing locations helped us quickly identify the required numbers of businesses to achieve the “reach out to retailers” and “engage your town” badges for Fair Trade Towns USA status.

Dayton Fair Trade team members with Mayor Leitzell and the signed resolution

Dayton Fair Trade team members with Mayor Leitzell and the signed resolution

Our major success to date was engaging with the City of Dayton leadership, who immediately jumped on board with the spirit of Fair Trade. The City Commissioners went above and beyond to declare the City of Dayton a Fair Trade City with a Fair Trade resolution and the Mayor declared May “Fair Trade Awareness Month”.

Additionally, the Dayton Fair Trade Project has effectively started to create centralized resources for Fair Trade education for our city, Ohio and beyond. This has helped to engage more citizens in our growing conversation around town, as well as to recruit new individuals to the team, enabling us to expand into local universities and high schools.

Challenges along the way

Although the City of Dayton was enthusiastic about the Fair Trade Towns effort, the citizenry were harder to engage with the project. Thus, one of our biggest challenges has been finding committed people willing to get and stay involved, and finding local organizations outside the city government to show support for the project. Some local businesses were not even aware they carried Fair Trade products! Likewise, media attention was scarce at first, compounding the challenge of raising wider awareness. However, following the official Fair Trade Towns USA certification, and with our passionate core volunteers, the media attention is starting to grow (see here or here).

One successful tactic has been to engage with area high schools and universities, bringing students into the steering committee and into the conversation. Their enthusiasm to get involved in social activism brings a lot of energy to the team. This has resulted in the launch of both the Wright State University Fair Trade Student Association (twitter: @FairTrade_WSU) and the Chaminade Julienne High School campaign on September 23, 2013.

Upcoming Snippets

Special edition t-shirt for steering committee

Special edition t-shirt for steering committee

  • Dayton will host a Fair Trade Expo, with speakers, sponsors, market, etc., in May 2014 celebrating local Fair Trade month
  • Expanding awareness through partnering with other Ohio cities, including social justice and regional concerns
  • Printing Fair Trade T-shirts with our custom logo – building brand identity and encouraging local pride
  • Developing our “Hit the Road Jack” resource packs for local businesses to explore Fair Trade options and products

Join Our Conversation!

Follow our Facebook page (@DaytonFairTradeTown) and Twitter profile (@DaytonFairTrade and #DaytonFairTrade) to keep up with the Fair Trade happenings in the Greater Dayton Area. If you would like more information, want to get involved, or have questions for our team, reach out.


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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.