The owners of East Franklin Street’s Caffe Driade know where their coffee comes from.
The business is one of 11 in Chapel Hill that participate in fair trade — a social movement that helps producers in developing countries secure fair prices for their products.
“We believe in having relationships with everyone involved in the coffee process, from the grower to the roaster to the customer,” said barista Skylar Gudasz.
These 11 businesses recently helped Chapel Hill gain national recognition as a Fair Trade Town, the 30th in the United States and the first in North Carolina. Carrboro is also in the process of becoming a Fair Trade Town.
The campaign to earn Chapel Hill this distinction began in UNC sociology professor Judith Blau’s classroom in 2010.
“I’m opposed to the exploitation of labor,” Blau said. “I had my sociology of human rights class really sow the seeds by petitioning the town to support the fair trade movement.”
The Chapel Hill Town Council passed that resolution in 2010.
Keilayn Skutvik, store manager of Chapel Hill’s Ten Thousand Villages, took over the campaign to gain recognition by the national organization Fair Trade Towns USA.
Ten Thousand Villages, a national chain, was one of the first fair trade retail stores to establish a market in the United States.
“I wanted to get involved in Chapel Hill’s campaign because corporate is interested in being a part of the Fair Trade Towns movement,” Skutvik said.
To be recognized as a Fair Trade Town, a town has to have a local fair trade team, a number of retail locations that sell at least two fair trade items, community organizations that use fair trade products, media coverage and a local government resolution.
Billy Linstead Goldsmith, national coordinator of Fair Trade Towns USA, said he is not surprised that Chapel Hill managed to fulfill all of the requirements.
“For the community, it’s just one more place they can hang their hat,” Linstead Goldsmith said. “There’s a huge push around sustainability and social entrepreneurship in Chapel Hill, and that’s what fair trade is about.”
David Suchoff, a barista at Caffe Driade, said the owners of the shop also own Carrboro Coffee Roasters, a company focused on building direct relationships with coffee farmers.
“When coffee is fair trade, the farmer has more stake in it to make it the best product,” Suchoff said.
This commitment to fair trade can be seen in other neighborhood businesses including Ben & Jerry’s, Trader Joe’s and Weaver Street Market, Blau said.
“Chapel Hill is a great example of how the University community and the larger community can work together to make a difference,” Linstead Goldsmith said. “We’re thrilled that they were able to bridge that gap.”
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