Olds seeks to become a Fair Trade Town

Olds is striving to become Alberta’s first Fair Trade Town.

Olds is striving to become Alberta’s first Fair Trade Town.

Fair Trade is an international movement to ensure producers in the often-poor nations producing coffee, tea, sugar and other commodities get a fair price by monitoring and certifying the supply chain.

The fair trade concept was taken a step further in the United Kingdom in 1999 when the first Fair Trade Towns were certified. There are now almost 350 towns certified in the United Kingdom and 500 worldwide in Europe, United States, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand.

In Canada, Wolfville, N.S., became the nation’s first Fair Trade Town in April 2007 and La Peche, Que., followed later that year. Eleven other communities in B.C., Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec are pursuing Fair Trade Town status.

That leaves the field open in Alberta for Olds and Mayor Judy Dahl would love to see her town, which has made creating a sustainable community a priority, lead by example.

“We are just moving forward and we just hope that we can be the No. 1 Fair Trade community in Alberta.”

It also would be a boost for the local citizens and town staff who have worked on the town’s strategic sustainability plan, which was adopted earlier in February and lists developing sustainable food sources as a priority, said Dahl.

Cody Becker, who chairs the Olds Advisory Group for Sustainable Living, said the town is well on its way to meeting the certification criteria laid out by TransFair Canada, a non-profit group promoting Fair Trade Certified to improve the livelihood of developing world farmers and workers.

“It’s almost a fait accompli in Olds,” said Becker, who is enthusiastic at the prospect of Olds taking the lead on fair trade in Alberta. “It’s a great thing.”

Nina Gales, the town’s manager of corporate affairs, said the town is well on its way to making its fair trade mark.

“It’s going really good actually,” she said. “We’re very close to having most of the criteria. It’s just a matter of getting the paperwork.”

To be certified as fair trade, a town the size of Olds needs to have at least one retail outlet per 2,500 population selling fair trade products. Olds has identified nearly a dozen retailers and a local caterer who uses fair trade products, which satisfies another condition.

The town has also introduced fair trade coffee and tea into its lunchroom and is working to promote the campaign.

Being certified requires more than a one-off effort. “We also need to make a commitment to sustain the momentum,” she said.

At the town level, that is Gales’ job and she will be working with the advisory group and local high school students who have also embraced fair trade principles, to get the word out and organize future events.

One of the remaining conditions she is working to meet is enlisting the support of local workplaces, faith groups and schools in spreading the message.

A public meeting on the efforts of 10,000 Villages to help people in poorer nations drew about 45 people, many of them high school students, in Olds on Tuesday as part of a local Food for Life series.

Gales and the town’s other Fair Trade supporters are not planning to stop at Olds. As the regional sustainability co-ordinator for the area, she would like to see the initiative adopted within Mountain View County and its seven communities.

World Fair Trade Day is celebrated on Saturday.