Keynote speaker Chris Treter, kicked off the 2014 Ohio Fair Trade Expo at John Carroll University on Saturday, Oct. 25 with a call to action for the community.
“For me, the future of fair trade is finding ways that we can all work harder,” said Treter, co-founder and director of Higher Grounds Trading Co. “There’s things you can do other than saying, ‘just buy fair trade coffee.’ It’s about creating lasting relationships and create mutual benefit for all parties involved—bridging that gap between us here locally and us in the rest of world.”
The Expo has been hosted at John Carroll every year since its inception in 2009. Fair trade vendors from across the state came together along with workshops and speakers to inform the public on fair trade issues.
Ron Ober, coordinator of the vendors at the expo, works to make sure all vendors are screened to achieve economic justice within the global cell.
“The Ohio fair trade network in Northeast Ohio is much stronger than a lot of other cities,” Ober said. “Again, I go back to the InterReligious Task Force on Central America (IRTF) that really spearheaded this thing. But, you’ve got an awful lot of fair trade retailers such as Ten Thousand villages in Cleveland Heights–I can go through a whole list. The constant awareness of it in Northeast Ohio is stronger than in other parts of the country.”
All trade items featured at the expo were from Africa, Latin America and Asia. Ditti Wolin, expo’s planning committee coordinator, expressed her excitement for the featured fair trade weaver and carver from Mexico who came to the expo to show off their artisanship.
“For me, this is the extra special thing this year….A lot of our vendors work directly with the artisans that they get their goods from,” said Wolin.
A Girl Scout program was also incorporated into the Expo. The Girl Scouts learned about fair trade through a scavenger hunt involving various vendors. At the end, the girls received a patch that was generated by one of the Expo vendors from South America by fair trade workers.
“We really complete the cycle with all of that…that’s how we change things. We have to teach the kids,” said Wolin.
Junior Allison Graham talked about volunteering with other members of the Kappa Delta Sorority to guide the Girl Scouts in the event.
“Working with the Girl Scouts is always a great experience, but having the opportunity to educate them about fair trade is always extra special,” she said. “Kappa Delta works hard to spread the importance of being fair trade and being able to share the message with a group of young girls who might not know about the mission fair trade allows us to continue the work of fair trade advocates.”
Senior Courtney Radtkin, who was browsing the various vendors, expressed her thoughts.
“I think the Ohio Fair Trade Expo attracts from the outside community to John Carroll and it shows some of the things John Carroll does here—one of those being the avocation for fair trade and trying to become a fair trade university,” she said.
Wolin said that overall, the Ohio Fair Trade Expo seeks to properly inform people about the practice of fair trade.
“I think there are a lot of people who still don’t have a clue, because the opposite of fair trade is free trade, and people get confused with the names. Free trade is this great idea about being able to pass goods around the world and have these free trade agreements, but these free trade agreements really harm our economy by sending the manufacturing overseas to cheap labor,” said Wolin.