Fair and Fun, Fair Trade Day 2011

Around town last Saturday, a well-knit community of small proprietors endeavored to share their passion for global economic justice. To commemorate Fair Trade Day, Milwaukee’s shops that uphold fair trade ethics opened their doors to promote awareness of wares and edibles produced around the world. Fair Trade Day celebrates growth of consciousness that as Americans we buy a lot of goods from developing countries at deep discounts, at the expense of workers the with few labor rights, or miss out on goods from producers lacking capital and access to infrastructure to sell them Stateside. In 2007, Milwaukee became the third Fair Trade city in the United States.

Wake Up World
Efforts to break last year’s record of a 65,000 person Fair Trade Coffee Break, put the delectable coffee bean center stage. Although Fair Trade Day heightens awareness of fair trade practices in general, coffee-growing symbolizes the struggle for economic fairness worldwide. Ubiquitous in American culture, coffee drinkers can play a role in ensuring economic justice with little effort and at a marginal expense. In addition to coffee, The Milwaukee Fair Trade Coalition encouraged a variety of options to experience fair trade ranging from jewelry, clothing and artwork to household cleaning products. Outpost Foods supported Fair Trade Day by offering a free prize for making stops at six participating fair trade locations. Here’s where Local Trolley stopped.

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Grace Place Coffee Lounge
250 E. Juneau, Milwaukee
Stop one, Grace Place Coffee Lounge in Juneau Village, may seem unlikely but not so. In a quaint expansion to the main church building of Grace Lutheran Church, Grace Place Coffee serves fair trade coffee in line with the Church’s mission of promoting better livelihoods in less developed countries. Its quiet and modern, a great place to study or work on a project. Grace Place Coffee sits right in the midst of Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) providing a convenient alternative to an otherwise coffee deprived area. During Fair Trade Day, Grace Place Coffee House featured Fair Trade Organic Coffee courtesy of Coffee with a Conscience.

Brewing Grounds for Change
2008 N. Farwell Ave, Milwaukee
Expecting a major fair trade coffee bash at Brewing Grounds for Change? As a focal point of community action and global awareness on the Lower Eastside, at Brewing Grounds for Change Fair Trade Day equates to business as usual. A great place representing a noble cause, Brewing Grounds nestles hidden gems such as alternative news sources from around the country and many announcements of local educational, creative and social causes. As one of the few later evening coffee shops, the opportunity to gather, read and converse carries on past 9pm. The non-profit status of Brewing Grounds allows much more room for social justice and human interest priorities, anchoring the ethics of non-commercialism still at home on the Lower Eastside. The volunteer staff shares their time so that more of the fair trade proceeds make it back to the coffee growers of less developed countries. WUWM 89.7 did a nice piece on Fair Trade Day that featured Brewing Grounds for Change among others. During Fair Trade Day, Brewing Grounds offered a $1 cup of Guatemalan blend coffee.

Third World Handcrafts Shoppe
5229 N. Capitol Drive, Milwaukee
As one of the oldest fair trade vendors in Milwaukee, Capitol Heights’ Third World Handcrafts Shoppe spent the last 22 years offering a quality and unique mix of jewelry, artifacts, religious icons, and clothing from around the world, including the West Bank, Kenya and India. Founders Jerry and Eunice Koepke, inspired by a sister church’s shop in Nebraska, began buying handcrafted items at prices that would support a family for a year, in countries they visited while on Lutheran Missions.

The idea of Missionaries conjures up a spectrum of opinions, however making a concerted effort to contribute to local economies while on “God’s business” deserves commendation. Third World Handcrafts operates as a non-profit ministry of the Capitol Drive Lutheran Church. Located in the heart of the Northside neighborhood Capitol Heights (Capitol Court to most locals), Third World Handcrafts is the unsung founder of the Fair Trade movement in Milwaukee. WJTM4’s Carol Meekins did a story on Third World Handcrafts as a part of her series Positively Milwaukee two years ago this week. The shop’s fair trade item of the day was Mexican silver jewelry.

Fair Trade for All
8730 W. North Avenue, Milwaukee County
Capping what could become Milwaukee’s most prominent street of continuous business activity, North Avenue, the street’s west end houses Fair Trade for All specialty gift shop. Attracting numerous curious shoppers, Fair Trade for All’s assortment of wall ornamentation, sculptures, clothing, bags and other eye and soul soothing consumables fill every display shelf vacancy. Some of FTA’s rare accessories benefit specific causes such as jewelry made from the ivory-alternative Tagua nut, crafted to combat the disgusting practice of poaching elephants. Handbags and computer cases designed from spent Cambodian rice and fish feed bags by Malia help battle the illicit sex trade. Family owned and operated, Fair Trade for All models sustainable and just business practices daily. On Fair Trade Day Fair Trade for All spot-lit Thai jewelry.

Four Corners of the World
5401 W. Vliet St, Milwaukee
On 54th and Vliet, Washington Heights cradles Four Corners of the World a non-profit fair trading post. Four Corners of the World offers many of the essential fair trade products such as accessories, chocolate and coffee. However, a few specific fair trade brands stand out at Four Corners. Available specialties include Malia Designs, Devine Chocolate, and a Four Corners of the World special blend coffee (along with many other blend varieties) by Madison-based coffee co-op Just Coffee. Good Paper, Four Corners’ featured Fair Trade Day product particularly notable for engaging an industry not readily associated with fair trade, assists communities in areas of the world like Rwanda, Manila, Philippines, and the Himalayas that have really struggled during the industrial and post-industrial era. Good Paper’s products offer an array of fine handmade greeting cards, stationary, and journals.

More than just a trading post, Four Corners of the World spawned from the desire of Southeastern Wisconsin Initiative for Fair Trade (SWIFT) to give Milwaukee a hub for environmental sustainability and high-road economic education. Links to film, periodicals and the Speakers’ Bureau (a listing of cost-free speakers that offer specialized knowledge on sustainability and economic justice topics) and many other Fair Trade resources can all be found at Four Corners of the World.

Future Green and Cafe Tarragon
2352 S. Kinnickinnic, Milwaukee
Subdued and tranquil, Future Green has an outdoor feel indoors. It’s simple, a bit rustic and frankly will bring you in touch with your natural side. Sweatshop-free forest trail or urban-adventurer-ready polo shirts and other active-wear hang out waiting to be whisked away. Contemporary and ethic styles of women’s clothing can also be purchased. Novel items like the featured Guatemalan dolls stand by preparing to brighten the recipients’ day. The sustainable products available set Future Green apart from the solely Fair Trade oriented shops. One-stop shopping for sustainable cleaning products, housewares, home flooring and Photovoltaic Cells (Solar panels) is amazingly possible at Future Green. Cafe Tarragon, tucked in the back of the boutique, attracts taste buds that hanker for vegetarian and gluten-free dishes. Cafe Tarragon’s menu offers only vegetarian cuisine, and as an added bonus, a gluten-free bread alternative to the regular baguette. Gluten-free desserts taunt you as you nibble deliciousness, and believe me their entree satisfies cravings.

The Fair Trade Community is thriving in Milwaukee and the beautiful thing about the movement is that it is truly a Citywide effort. A listing of all participating shops in Milwaukee, and surrounding areas, is available on Milwaukee Fair Trade Coalition’s website.

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