Organizer Spotlight – Travis Brodbeck
The Fair Trade movement would not be possible if it weren’t for spontaneous motivators like Travis Brodbeck. Travis has officially taken over for Ben Conard as the co-chair of the National Fair Trade Colleges and Universities Steering Committee. While we are so excited for Travis to begin, we must first give a huge thank you to Ben for all of his hard work!
Here are a few words from Ben: “I am so incredibly thankful for the opportunities, resources, and connections Fair Trade Campaigns has provided me with. I learned first-hand how to be a leader, work with stakeholders, and organize a team. Knowing how to build a campaign from the ground up to drive impact has been essential in launching me into my career path. Thank you, Fair Trade Campaigns!”
With some big shoes to fill, I recently had the opportunity to interview Travis and discuss his passions, goals and experiences in the Fair Trade initiative.
You lead two Fair Trade Campaigns, Siena College & Albany, NY, correct? How did you become involved with both?
I knew nothing about Fair Trade before Siena College. The President of Siena Students for Fair Trade recruited me for the club and for the Real Food Challenge and as a first year student, I was so eager to take on each and every opportunity for social justice work. After two years of College and University activism, my best friend and partner in social justice at Siena, Amanda Knipple and I decided to take o
n the challenge of getting a Towns campaign completed. I started Fair Trade Colonie and she started Albany. Since our summer going into our Junior year, we haven’t had the chance to work on the campaigns as we both went abroad in opposite semesters. Though, we are planning to pass our resolution for our Towns campaigns this year upon our graduation.
What kind of opportunities for collaboration do you see between college and town campaigns?
What I see are multiple visions: first, I see, after four years, our social justice warriors going off to college campuses and off to cities and towns. These well educated and passionate activists will either start their own campaign in their community or they inspire others to do the same. As these students slowly dig themselves out of the hole known as college debt, they will become more able to purchase and support Fair Trade successfully in their new careers. I also see the opposite, the community learning from the events and activism of the students. A college or university campaign that catches the local community’s attention is so successful in deepening the impact of Fair Trade. When vendors/suppliers are being encouraged to supply Fair Trade on campus or off, we are inherently impacting availability in the whole region furthering the spread of Fair Trade.
What’s your favorite event you’ve hosted or participated in and why?
My favorite event I hosted was when I used my position as treasurer of the Residential Hall Association to provide Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to 3,000 people on First Year Student Move-in Day. It’s my favorite because everyone’s faces light up for ice cream, especially when it’s sweeter with Fair Trade sugar. Besides the fact I was able to encourage another organization on my campus to support Fair Trade, I was most excited to be the personal marketer for our ice cream stand. “Change the world with ice cream,” “Fight wage slavery with frozen dairy infused with justice,” “Support education around the world with your free scoop of Ben & Jerry’s” and “Worker’s rights for everyone is the real AmeriCone Dream” were common slogans I created and announced.
Why do you value Fair Trade?
I value Fair Trade for the simple reason that everyone deserves a decent life. No one deserves a life of poverty, no worker deserves to be taken advantage of, every child has a right to education, people should have access to health care, etc. My personal charge in life is to help others and using our purchasing power to empower producers around the world is one of the many ways to accomplish this.
What are the main goals for the two campaigns you’re involved in?
Our Campaigns’ goals are to not have all buyers purchase purely Fair Trade, but rather to be conscious of our global supply chain. I want people purchasing USDA Organic, GMO-free, Fair Trade certified, Rainforest Alliance certified, etc. All of our products that we purchase should be sustainable and made under ethical conditions. Our campaigns goals are to encourage consumers to vote with their purchase.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of running a Fair Trade Campaign?
The most rewarding aspect is the warm feeling you get when you notice those who you’ve previously talked to about Fair Trade, later on purchasing Fair Trade products. Whether it is a family member, friend, professor, or community member, seeing the individual choosing Fair Trade on their own is rewarding because you know that the ball will continue to roll and they will share Fair Trade with others as well
What advice do you have for other campaigners?
Take care of yourselves, but always branch out. I experienced the worst burnout during my sophomore year and it was because I didn’t say “no.” Find balance in your lives from class, sleep, fun, and activism.
Hey, I heard there’s a New England Regional Fair Trade Conference coming up in September…are you attending? If so, what are you most excited about?
Of course I am attending! I already bought my ticket with the early discount. I recommend that everyone else attends as well. I am so excited to share ideas, stories, and passion to create a better world. Bring your friends!