Going to the little community of Peebles to shop these days can be like a trip around the world. At least that’s the case when you step inside Just Fare Market. The store, located in Old Mill Plaza “mall” in tiny Peebles, is a world bazaar full of unique, high-quality handmade items. Those who create the various products are socially and economically challenged artisans and farmers from developing countries around the world. Gifts from 50 countries are available throughout Just Fare Market.
Shoppers are sure to find something unusual for the person who has everything. In addition to home décor, toys, and women’s accessories such as scarves, purses and jewelry – food items like imported coffee, chocolate bars, heirloom rice, and gourmet soup mixes line the shelves.
Some things are created from recycled or natural materials such as the hand bags made from soda can tabs, colorful necklaces made from Kenyan savannah grass or the journals made from elephant dung paper. String doll key rings from Thailand offer inspirational messages and are appropriate for all ages. Wooden puzzle boxes, pocket discs, finger puppets and “trash art” (treasures made from actual trash) are just some of the gifts for kids. Hand-carved soap stone sculptures make a great gift for any occasion and are made in Kenya by hardworking people who don’t have much to live on. Fare Trade gives them a chance to make a fair price on their wares.
Each item has a tag that names the country of origin, the producer organization and, often, the name of the person who created the product. While browsing, you are treated to delicious samples of “fairly-traded” chocolate bars as store workers share stories about the products you are seeing and the people who create them.
All of the world-wide products at Fare Trade Market are “fairly-traded” but just what does that mean? Fair trade is an approach to business and development based on dialogue, transparency, and respect, according to the group’s website: www.justfare.org. It’s a concept that supports struggling farmers and craftspeople in developing countries – one that seeks to create a greater equity in the international trading system.
“The producers lack economic opportunity and often face steep hurdles in finding markets and customers for their goods,” said Carol Smith, a Fond du Lac woman who was one of the founding members of Fond du Lac’s Fare Trade Market – an idea that had its beginnings in her church.
Fair trade is much more than just trade. At the core of the fair trade model is a direct, cooperative, and in-depth relationship between buyers and sellers that keeps all of the principles of fair trade at the forefront.
The shop is overseen by a Board of Directors which includes Smith, two co-managers who were recently hired (Kelly Braun and Laurie Woltman) and about 30 volunteers. Together, the group is creating the best place in the area to find quality gifts from around the world.
The idea for the shop was first launched by Smith and a taskforce she formed within her church – Fond du Lac’s First Presbyterian – around 10 years ago. In the beginning, the committed group of church members sold Fair Trade coffee and a few craft items after services. “It wasn’t long and we were allowed to move into an entire room at the church,” Smith said, noting that other churches in the area, including Holy Family Catholic Parish, joined forces to help promote the fair trade mission and products.
Although Smith initiated the idea by forming the Peace and Social Justice Task Force, she says many others were instrumental in helping to launch the shop and achieve a successful outcome. “There were people who came on board to do seasonal sales, give legal advice, bookkeeping and tax preparation. Others helped us understand computer programs, display and marketing concepts and so much more that we needed to know. I’m so proud of what we, as a group, have accomplished.”
By 2011, the shop outgrew the room in the church and moved to its larger current retail location. The store’s large front windows allow for natural lighting, and accents the attractive display area filled with specialty gift items.
The basket selection alone might lure shoppers to want to fill them with Just Fare items like coffee beans, soup mixes, chocolate bars, greeting cards, jewelry, scarves and more. The basket itself would become part of that special gift – whether it’s a laundry basket or one for serving dinner rolls.
Feedback from shoppers is nothing but positive. “I love that shop,” said longtime resident Tammy Boudry who just opened her dental practice in downtown Fond du Lac and who does mission work offering free dental care to people in need. “It feels like I am in an art museum when I enter Just Fare Market. I enjoy being able to buy unique gifts, knowing they properly support someone’s livelihood. There are so many fabulous items to choose from. I even use some of the fair trade chocolate at my refreshment bar in my office. My patients love them.”
With a myriad of unusual gift choices, it’s a safe bet to say you can find something for everyone on your Christmas list at Just Fare Market. At the same time, you are supporting a worthy cause.
“Buying their products helps assure that these artisans and farmers are getting a fair price for their products,” said Kathy Stetter, a Rosendale area resident who serves on the Just Fare Board of Directors. “Just Fare Market connects us with the world. When I shop there I feel that I have made a small difference in the life of someone on this planet, someone thousands of miles away, someone whose name and face I may never know, but someone who is just a little better off because of the shopping decision I made.”
For more information on Just Fare Market and the concept of fair trade, go to www.justfare.org. For store information call (920) 322-3334. Just Fare Market is located at N7645 N. Peebles Lane, Suite 2, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Hours are: 9:30a.m to 4p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. On Thursdays the store remains open until 7:30p.m. It is closed on Sunday.