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Ohio Fair Trade Expo & Teach-In

Saturday, October 23, 2021
John Carroll University, Dolan Science Center (atrium and auditorium), 1 John Carroll Blvd, University Heights OH 44118

This annual in-person event at John Carroll University (with COVID safety protocols) is expected to bring together hundreds of fair trade supporters, advocates, retailers, and vendors from across the state.  The Expo will be an opportunity to continue building energy around the already vibrant Ohio fair trade movement and previous Expos.  In addition to the Global Marketplace of fair trade vendors, we’ll host educational panels in a hybrid format (in-person/online).

Note: If this event becomes 100% virtual, we will let everyone know as soon as possible. 


  • Present high quality educational forums to increase attendees’ understanding of  fair trade
  • Provide resources and active campaigns for fair trade supporters to join
  • Create a larger network of socially conscious consumers committed to Fair Trade
  • Offer opportunities for networking amongst vendors, advocates, and supporters from across Ohio

 Please see these links for:




Educational Panels

1- Fair World Project

2- Equal Exchange

3- Ignatian SOlidarity/The Collection/EthixMerch Alliance

Descriptions of educational panels

1- Fair Trade : Foundations, Current Realities, Future Challenges 

Fair Trade was started as a solidarity and empowerment movement for small-scale producers in marginalized communities in the global south.  It was started in order to resist the negative impacts of globalization where trade agreements were written for rich countries and multi-national corporations.  These trade deals and structural adjustments programs have created a race to the bottom increasing global poverty while creating even deeper inequalities.  As the Fair Trade movement gained recognition globally and was successful in many ways, it also came up against the competing agenda of corporate interest that writes the rules of trade. Discussed will be how fair trade began, the role of global north traders, activists,  producer organizations and consumers.   We will look at how Fair Trade certification began, what it looks like today and where it is going in the future.  We will answer questions about the role of Multi-national corporations in the movement and if certification scheme’s have weakened their standards for them to participate.  And we will learn how producer networks and solidarity traders are creating transformative change on the ground.  This discussion is intended to inform people on how to understand the Fair Trade movement in its entirety beyond a market based initiative, and will provide tools to combat fair-washing so that we as consumers can help to create more just supply chains. (Presenter: Dana Geffner, executive director of Fair World Project ) 

2- Fair Trade Alliances

COLLECTION is a North Carolina brand disrupting the fashion industry. In addition to a living wage, yearly profit dividends, and optional ownership opportunities, workers are invited into the dignity of the often dehumanizing textile craft. After NAFTA was signed, the once-vibrant garment industry had virtually abandoned the area. But now, textile factory cooperatives that create the COLLECTION brand, are revitalizing the local economy as well as taking innovative approaches to the problem of waste in the fashion industry, including the generation of circular economies. Join Julie Myers, the Ethical Purchasing Coordinator at the Ignatian Solidarity Network - ISN is a longtime supporter of the movement for fair fashion - to learn more about the incredible work of these North Carolina mills. 

3- (title and description to be announced)

ABOUT IRTF, Fair Trade, and the Ohio Fair Trade Network

The Fair Trade movement in northeast Ohio has been grounded in the hard work of non-profit organizations and Fair Trade-only retailers for many years.  In more recent times it has been advanced by local and national retailers offering Fair Trade certified products and initiatives of local high schools and colleges promoting growth of the Fair Trade market through education and advocacy.  Some have sought (and received) Fair Trade School designation from the national Fair Trade Campaigns organization.


The InterReligious Task Force on Central America (IRTF), one of the long-standing Latin America solidarity organizations, is based in Cleveland. Initially founded to organize against the armed conflicts in Central America of the 1980s, IRTF became engaged in the Fair Trade movement in the mid-1990s. Partnering with Equal Exchange, the first Fair Trade coffee company in the US, IRTF helped to make NE Ohio one of the largest markets this worker-owned cooperative. Dozens of faith congregations began using Equal Exchange coffee and tea. In 1996, Heinen’s Fine Foods became the first grocery store chain in the US to offer Equal Exchange products in all of their stores.  Equal Exchange even developed a coffee blend (North Coast Roast) to celebrate IRTF’s leadership in the Fair Trade movement and northeast Ohio’s commitment to Fair Trade.


IRTF continues to be a leader today in the local Fair Trade movement, having co-organized two Northeast Ohio Fair Trade Summits (2006, 2008), the annual Ohio Fair Trade Expo (since 2009),  high school Fair Trade Fashion Shows, teaching Fair Trade lessons in classrooms, facilitating discussions with congregations about adopting Fair Trade products, mobilizing consumers to talk to store and restaurant managers to adopt Fair Trade coffee, and other economic justice initiatives.  Schools, congregations, and civic groups look to IRTF when organizing their own Fair Trade bazaars.


Northeast Ohio also has a number of public and private universities with student leaders and campus offices engaged in the work of promoting Fair Trade through consumer education and providing access to Fair Trade products on campus. Some have been desi  At Hiram College, located about 30 miles from Cleveland, students and their chaplain’s office developed an on-campus Fair Trade. Since 2007, John Carroll University, nine miles east of downtown Cleveland, has supported Fair Trade interns with support from the Catholic Relief Services Fair Trade Fund.  The year-long internships empower students to educate their peers about Fair Trade and advocate for increased Fair Trade offerings on campus.  The work of the interns mobilized a cross-campus movement that succeeded in getting food service providers to serve 100% Fair Trade certified coffee in the campus dining hall, catered events, and two of the three coffee shops.  The interns continue their work to make Fair Trade clothing available in the campus bookstore.


Fair Trade organizations such as IRTF and INTO held Fair Trade Summits in 2006 and 2008 that brought together a few dozen people—students, faith based advocates, and others—to network and learn together. In September 2009, these groups—with the additions of Revive (fair trade retailer) and John Carroll University—organized the first annual Ohio Fair Trade Expo.  This day-long event consisted of educational workshops and a Fair Trade vendors’ fair, bringing together 200+ participants from universities, high schools, faith communities, and advocacy organizations from across the state, but especially from northeast Ohio.  The event received sponsorship from Catholic Relief Services Fair Trade, TransFair USA, the Fair Trade Federation, Equal Exchange, a number of regional and national Fair Trade retailers, and the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland.  This first annual Ohio Fair Trade Expo laid the foundation for developing the Ohio Fair Trade Network .  

Sponsors Include: 

Fair Trade Federation 

Church of Gesu