Although Melton is a pretty small market town, it does boast its very own Fair Trade store.
The Fairtrading Post is located right in the center of things, adjacent to the market place. It is run on a very different basis to the store we had in Missouri – managed and staffed entirely by volunteers. It seems to be doing well – having just moved to a new premises giving 4 times the floor space.
We haven’t volunteered any time yet, but will do so once things have settled down a little more.
Elsewhere in the town, fair trade products are readily available in the grocery stores – much more so than we were used to in Springfield.
Melton calls itself a fair trade town – more information on that here – but in truth that makes fair trade seem more mainstream here than it actually is. Still – we can hope….
A bit of background: the Fair Trade Foundation is the UK arm of FLO-CERT. Here’s how FLO-CERT describes itself; “FLO-CERT GmbH is an independent International Certification company offering Fairtrade Certification services to clients in more than 70 countries. We assist in the socio-economic Development of producers in the Global South and help to foster long-term relationships and good practice with traders of Certified Fairtrade products. Our Certification provides a guarantee to consumers of Certified Fairtrade products that they are contributing to the Social-Economic Development of people through their purchases.“
What does that all mean? Well essentially, FLO-CERT and its country-based partners like the Fair Trade Foundation in the UK and Fair Trade USA (formerly TransFair USA) are responsible for all the certified fair trade products that we see on the shelves with logos like these….
So typically, when there is a groundswell to certify a new commodity or product, an application for certification will be made to FLO-CERT or one of its partners. They will certify that fair trade standards are being met at the producer group itself and in how the product is brought to market.
The jewellery market (gold and diamonds in particular) have been under the scrutiny of socially responsible organizations and conscious consumers for some time now. Efforts have been made at times to clean up the act of a pretty much unregulated industry; blood-free diamonds is one example. Real progress was made this year when the Fair Trade Foundation and the Alliance for Responsible Mining announced a joint initiative – Fair Trade Fair Mined Gold. Unlike other certifications, FLO-CERT had felt the need to incorporate a partner with industry-specific experience – hence the involvement of ARM.
Here’s a little about ARM: “The Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) is an independent, global-scale, pioneering initiative established in 2004 to enhance equity and wellbeing in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) communities through improved social, environmental and labour practices, good governance and the implementation of ecosystem restoration practices. ARM is committed to social justice and environmental responsibility as the values driving the transformation of ASM.” In practice, ARM works very closely with the mining communities to organize themselves, to improve their working practices and to use their mining revenues to improve their collective well being.
It was great today to hear how these groups have worked together (and continue to do so) to enable artisan mining communities to transform their standard of life. As we have found in other areas of fair trade, the struggle is huge, and the learning curve that these communities go through is enormous. What is so uplifting is how they tackle that challenge, usually beyond expectations.
We learned a lot about capabilities, levels of production, and the different scales of operation in (mainly) Peru and Bolivia. We ended the session having crystallized a number of concrete opportunities for all sides to explore and that real sense of satisfaction and achievement that goes hand-in-hand with involvement in fair trade at any level.
We’ll blog later about the mines and the miners, and about our specific projects.
Had my first visit to Earls Court in years today. What used to be called the Earl’s Court Show is now referred to as International Jewellery London (IJL). It was great to see some Vipa customers, old and new, exhibiting and it was exciting to see so many break out sessions devoted to ethical jewellery in general and fair trade / fair mined in particular. One session that I made it to had a great video about gold mining in Peru from one of the leading advocates of fair trade / fair mined, Stephen Webster.
I came across this image the other day, showing two of Melton’s finest buildings. As it happens, the Anne of Cleves is also one of our favourite pubs…..
Original source for the image can be viewed at http://www.ilkcam.com/Specials/Days%20Out/Melton01/Melton%20Street.html.
After a frenetic week of packing our crate, preparing the contents of our house for auction and then finally packing the rest of our belongings in to suitcases, as we made our way to the airport in Springfield it all seemed just a little surreal.
The journey itself was pretty smooth going; a short layover in Dallas before the 8 hour flight to London Heathrow. The news in the days leading up to our arrival had been all about the riots in London and elsewhere in the UK but we didn’t encounter anything when we first arrived and haven’t directly encountered anything since, although the newspapers and TV featured little else fpr our first week or so here.
So here we are. Our new home is a market town in the middle of the country called Melton Mowbray. Melton Mowbray is known for foxhunting, pork pies and stilton cheese. It also happens to have a market that dates back over 1,000 years. More about all of that later.
Melton itself is pretty small, with around 25,000 people living in the town itself, and 45,000 in the borough (the immediate surrounding area). But – we’re in easy reach of Leicester, Peterborough and Nottingham. London is just 100 miles away.
We wanted to take this opportunity to break away from being car-slaves, and so are intent on using public transport (and our legs of course!). We’ve started being completely car-free – and will see how we fare with that as the winter sets in…..no promises!
The public transport infrastructure here is great. Melton has a railway station and numerous bus routes connecting to it. More blogs about that later, but a good example is the trip to London. It takes a little under 2 hours by train, and costs just £44 ($75) if booked a day in advance.
This weekend marks the end of the girls’ summer. Jilian started school on Thursday, and Marilian starts at her school this Monday. So now it really does feel like we’re here and settled.