Photo by Nick Paris


In the original version of this story, UCSC student and attendee of the Fair Trade Marketplace Elizabeth Scudero’s quote referred to fair trade, not free trade, as was printed.
This post was updated on May 26 to reflect this change.

Story updated 7/3/2011 at 3:30pm

Friends of the Community Agroecology Network (FoCAN) invited 10 high visitors from rural communities in Mexico and Nicaragua to UC Santa Cruz to participate in the group’s Fair Trade Marketplace. The guests are “active leaders in their communities working on food sovereignty issues,” said Food Systems Week coordinator Rachel Ross in a letter to the editors of City on a Hill Press.

The 10 men and women attended a 10-day intensive agroecology training course organized by CAN at UCSC’s Sustainable Living Center (SLC).

“One of the course’s goals was to network with youth movements here and to learn about our food systems,” Ross said.

FoCAN is a student organization at UCSC created to support the Community Agroecology Network (CAN), and is devoted to CAN’s mission of spreading awareness of rural communities. FoCAN presented the kickoff to their first annual Food Systems Week on May 16 with the Fair Trade Marketplace, a conglomerate of local vendors that support sustainability. Food Systems week also included a FoCAN meeting.

“The goal [of the Fair Trade Marketplace is to] celebrate our campus food movement, and exchange perspectives about local and global food systems with peers from rural communities in Mexico and Nicaragua,” said Ross.

Stephanee Souza, Fair Trade Marketplace organizer for FoCAN, said Food Systems Week will help make Santa Cruz’s local vendors a more integral part of the community.
“The hope of this event is for UCSC students to get a feel for the work these [local fair trade] organizations are doing for sustainability,” Souza said, “and what they can do in our community and internationally to support sustainability and fair trade.”

The Sustainability Council, a funding organization that provides funds for sustainability organizations at UCSC, contributed $3,000 to this event. Souza planned the Fair Trade Marketplace to not just inform the UCSC community about sustainability, but also fair trade.

“Fair trade cuts down the traditional trade markets that are set up by taking out the middle man so that the people on the bottom can receive more money for their work,” said Elizabeth Scudero, a UCSC student and attendee of the Fair Trade Marketplace.
Om Gallery, a local store that provides handmade Asian Fusion lamps and Chinese silk and bamboo lanterns, participates in fair trade with its manufacturers by working and negotiating directly with them, said Phillip Manzanares, part owner of the gallery and participant in the Fair Trade Marketplace.

The six leaders of FoCAN and several volunteers meet weekly on campus and plan events to help further CAN’s mission.

CAN is part of a partnership with the AgroEco Partner Coffee Cooperative, a group of local coffee farmers located in Central America. With this partnership, coffee is provided to the Santa Cruz coffee roasters through only one importing middle man. CAN also provides internship and field study opportunities for people who are interested in sustaining rural lifestyles, by participating in community projects and the global trade systems.
“CAN provides social justice based on building a sense of community in these communities so that they can maintain a sustainable livelihood,” said Lizeth Gomez, outreach coordinator for FoCAN and CAN intern.

Heather Putnam, associate director of CAN, described Food Systems Week as an event that will hopefully bring awareness and action toward sustainability and fair trade by providing the Santa Cruz community with different outlets and teaching them how to get involved.

In a project with a similar goal, over the past spring break Gomez helped CAN build a community garden at a local high school so the school would be able to grown its own vegetables.

Putnam said the lack of awareness of farms, farmers and local vegetables sometimes leaves Latin Americans ashamed of their rural backgrounds.

“Youth here and in Latin America are inundated with social media that tell them about processed food-making. [The youth] forget about local food,” Putnam said. “Having the 10 Latin students conversing with the Santa Cruz community can lead to healthy food sovereignty and food leadership within their own rural communities.”