As members and shoppers of the Olympia Food Co-op, many of you are probably already aware that this grocery store is not just any ordinary supermarket.
Sure, Olympia Food Co-op is a cooperative, which already sets it apart from the large multinational chains that have crept into pretty much every city, town, and county across the United States, but what further distinguishes the Olympia Food Co-op is its staunch commitment to social justice. Not only does the Olympia Food Co-op support agricultural cooperatives in developing countries and show solidarity with the Fight for $15 movement, but the Co-op has also been able to connect their local work with national movements by being a strong supporter and member of the Domestic Fair Trade Association since 2007.
The Domestic Fair Trade Association is a national membership-based organization in the United States and Canada representing five sectors of the agricultural supply chain—farmers, farmworkers, retailers, intermediaries (processors, manufacturers, and distributors), and other NGOs.
Fair Trade, a term you might often see on coffee packages and chocolate bars at the Olympia Food Co-op, was a concept created to empower and build capacity for small-scale farmers, artisans, and agricultural workers in the Global South. If fair trade businesses can provide equitable trading relationships and access to social justice minded consumers in the Global North, then these communities in the Global South can thrive on their own terms.
About 11 years ago, the founding members of the Domestic Fair Trade Association began to take the idea of fair trade one step further. They began to realize that small-scale farmers and farmworkers in the United States and Canada also face many of the same hardships as their counterparts in the Global South. Our members imagined a future where consumers would be willing to pay just a little bit more to support a living wage, a fair price for farmers, and basic labor rights for the farmers and workers who produce the food we all eat. It was with this realization and hope that the concept of Domestic Fair Trade was born.
Our stakeholder members collectively decided on a definition of Domestic Fair Trade that included sixteen core principles:
- Family-Scale Farming
- Sustainable Agriculture
- Rights of Labor
- Direct Trade
- Equality and Opportunity
- Animal Welfare
- Transparency and Accountability
- Advocacy and Education
- Indigenous Peoples Rights
- Capacity Building for Producers and Workers
- Democratic and Participatory Ownership and Control
- Long Term Trade Relationships
- Fair and Stable Pricing
- Affordable Credit and Shared Risk
- Responsible Certification and Marketing
- Appropriate Technology
Since the inception of the Domestic Fair Trade Association, we have used these principles to guide our work of improving the food and agriculture system so that it is more environmentally sustainable and fairer for workers and small/mid-size producers.
HOW WE’RE BUILDING THE MOVEMENT
In addition to our principles, the Domestic Fair Trade Association members unwaveringly believe that we are all stronger when we are united together. The Domestic Fair Trade Association is unique in that it is one of the only organizations that meaningfully includes all sectors of the agricultural supply chain. Whether it’s farmers against farmworkers or retailers against farmers, different sectors of the food system are often pitted against each other. The Domestic Fair Trade Association is a safe space where all of the sectors can have discussions about how to elevate the social justice bar in society and hold certification labels accountable. The Domestic Fair Trade Association’s model demonstrates that sector isolation does not have to be the norm and that there is considerable value in working together toward the goal of improved agricultural production.
The Domestic Fair Trade Association is currently involved in three specific initiatives that aim to build the movement for a better food and agricultural system.
- We are working with the HEAL Food Alliance, which consists of organizations focused on Health, Environment, Agriculture, and Labor as it relates to food. This alliance unites these groups under one voice in order to create the political power we need to change national food policy. The Domestic Fair Trade Association has been working alongside organizations from all across the country to craft a platform for this alliance that expresses the comprehensive reform efforts we envision for our food and agricultural system.
- Our members help to shape and influence the standards of fair trade and social justice certification labels in order to ensure that they meet domestic fair trade principles. We have completed comprehensive evaluations of many of these labels and are continuing to provide comments and feedback to these certifications as they revise their standards.
- We are currently planning the first-ever national conference on domestic fair trade. In an effort to connect stakeholders throughout the agricultural supply chain, the Domestic Fair Trade Association has had an annual meeting every year since the birth of the organization. This year on December 9 – 11, we are taking our annual meeting to the next level and planning a full conference in Portland, Oregon, filled with local tours, keynote speakers, panels, workshops, and even the presentation of a domestic fair trade award.
This upcoming conference (open to all) and our other initiatives help our members and all other advocates and activists to find and share concrete solutions to fixing our agricultural production system. The Domestic Fair Trade Association creates the opportunity for our members to link their vital work on the ground to the larger goal of a world with more fair trade. All of these initiatives are made possible by the committed support of our long-term members like the Olympia Food Co-op. We must continue to work together to achieve the goal of a more just and sustainable food and agriculture system.
Written by Erika A. Inwald
Domestic Fair Trade Association