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Planning for Domestic Fair Trade - An Outline

Cooper Institute and National Farmers Union develop an outline for a plan to implement domestic fair trade

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

After spending several months in consultations with a key group of farmers and food activists, Cooper Institute and the National Farmers Union have come up with an outline of a plan for domestic fair trade.

In 2009, Cooper Insitute and the National Farmers Union undertook a project to create a plan for putting into place a system for marketing farm products that relies on the principles of domestic fair trade and results in improved income for farmers. The result is Planning for Domestic Fair Trade - An Outline.

The project was designed to build on the experience and knowledge of a key group of individuals representing a variety of interests in the food system. Those nineteen individuals participated in six sessions, each of which was focussed on a specific aspect of a fair trade system. The sessions were facilitated by Cooper Institute and relied on materials from organizations and individuals actively involved in domestic fair trade, and documents that had been developed in a previous (2008-09) National Farmers Union project that had been funded by the PEI ADAPT Council.

The project is significant for two reasons: in the first place, it addresses the income crisis experienced by the farming community in the Atlantic region, by creating a plan for a marketing system that is premised on farmers receiving at minimum the cost of production for the food they grow. Secondly, it addresses the interest of consumers and consumer organizations in food that is produced in ways that protect soil, water and air, and plants and animals. It broadens the current public discourse about buying locally-produced food by introducing the concepts of livable income for farmers and farm workers, environmental sustainability, and humane treatment of livestock.

The lessons that we hoped to learn by undertaking this project were:

  • If provided a proper forum, would people with various interests in the food system – farmers, marketers, processors, food activists – hear each other, find common ground and use their combined knowledge to develop an alternative system?
  • Could we move beyond identifying the problems to creating new strategies to deal with them?
  • What could we learn about domestic fair trade from other groups that had looked at alternative marketing systems?

In addition, we hoped to broaden our collective understanding of domestic fair trade and learn how its principles could be used to create a new marketing system that would improve farmers’ income and also meet consumers’ demands.

The project benefitted tremendously from the enthusiasm and wisdom of the people who were involved in the consultations, and the ease with which they worked together. From the first session there was 100% participation and commitment to the project. As facilitators it was a privilege to work with such knowledgeable, enthusiastic and hopeful individuals. Among the participants were numerous organic and conventional farmers, a chef, food security activists, representatives of Co-op Atlantic and of the PEI Cattle Producers Association, and a farm market organizer.

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