Table after table of murals made from banana leaves, brightly-colored handbags and hand-crafted necklaces created from paper filled the room.
While the goods from across the globe being sold at each table varied, they all had one thing in common: Those who produced them were treated fairly.
Businesses and individuals came together to educate the public and celebrate fair trade practices at the first Midwest Fair Trade Fest Saturday at the Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center.
“(Fair trade) helps promote working conditions and better pay,” said Casey Johanns, a second-year in marketing who attended the festival. “(Workers are) paid better because it’s a higher quality product.”
Johanns said she believes educating the public about the true meaning of fair trade is important.
“There’s this misconception that fair trade is a charity, that we feel bad, so we’ll give them more money,” Johanns said.
Fair trade is also a main focus of a course offered at Ohio State. Introduction to Development Studies gives students a chance to learn about fair trade, as well as business development.
This course is also a pre-departure course for the students who will visit Nicaragua in June to participate in social and community development activities.
“(Fair trade) is not the strongest or a perfect business model, but it’s more ethical,” said Amber Seira, a second-year in public affairs who is a student in the Introduction to Development Studies class.
Along with Global Gallery and Ohio Students for Fair Trade, students in the class helped organize the festival, as well as a raffle to raise money for the trip.
While in Nicaragua, students will visit fair trade cooperatives, a sweatshop and government trade officials.
“I’m excited to learn and understand more about the implications of fair trade and personally experience all sides of it, from the producer to the consumer point of views,” Seira said.
Another organization showcased at the festival was BeadforLife. This group sells necklaces that women in Uganda make out of paper. All of the proceeds benefit community development in those areas.
Carolyn Martin, a volunteer for the group, said fair trade also promotes vocational training for those who produce the beads.
“(BeadforLife) trains women to run their own business through beads,” Martin said. “Some women continue making beads, while others use the money they earned for other things.”
Overall, students in the Introduction to Development Studies class collected $87 for their service projects before and after their visit to Nicaragua, Seira said.
“I (spoke) with students, families, and adults from the Columbus community, so I’d say there were a decent size from every different population we as the class were trying to reach,” Seira said. “I think, overall, the event went well for its first year.”