Fair Trade Verification vs. Certification.

This post was written by the Fair Trade Federation. The original post can be found on their website here.

Level Ground is proud to be a verified member of the Fair Trade Federation community, committed to 360° fair trade. fairtradefederation.org


Fair trade verification and certification are often mistakenly used interchangeably in North America. Although they both use the words “fair trade,” these approaches differ. We hope this information is helpful in understanding the diverse practices in the fair trade movement.

 

Verification

Fair trade verification is an evaluation of a wholesale or retail organization. To become verified and a member of the Fair Trade Federation (FTF), the organization must make a full commitment to our nine fair trade principles for all products and practices. They must uphold what we call 360° fair trade, making sure the well-being of the artisans and farmers is at the heart of every business decision. An important part of this commitment is paying at or above a living wage: a reliable wage to the artisans and farmers which can cover all of their needs, including food, shelter, education, and health care for their families. FTF businesses work with farmer and artisan partners that are typically ignored by conventional corporations and struggle to compete in the global market. The Fair Trade Federation is a proud member of the World Fair Trade Organization, an allied membership organization that works to promote holistic fair trade organizations globally.

Though the approaches differ, verification and certification are not mutually exclusive. A number of U.S. and Canadian businesses are both verified by the Fair Trade Federation and have certified products.

To see a list and/or search for verified fair trade companies, visit the FTF search engine.  To learn more about the verification process, see our post on how FTF verifies its member businesses.

Certification

Fair trade certification is offered by organizations such as Fair for Life, Fairtrade International, and Fair Trade USA. Certifiers perform in-person audits of a producer organization or site of an ingredient, product, or product line according to the fair trade standards set by each organization (see their websites above for further information regarding their standards). Important requirements of certification include paying at or above the designated minimum fair trade price, which acts as a safety net when market prices fall, as well as paying an additional fair trade premium. This premium goes into a communal fund for workers and farmers to use, as they see fit, to improve their social, economic, and environmental conditions.

Fair Trade Verification and Certification

Fruandes Organic Farmers Meeting

Fruandes, our dried fruit and cane sugar partner in Colombia, shared the following with us.


This summer, Fruandes held the sixth organic farmers meeting in Ipiales, Nariño (Colombia). The On this occasion, Fruandes visited and shared some time with each of the members of the Biofruit Napoli association, a group of organic golden berries producers led by Albeiro Chamorro.

The focus of the meeting was 'The Farm as a Set of Good Practices'. Participants exchanged farming practices, in order to co-create and improve processes. 

The agenda had four stages:

1. Good Practices 

The 2-day meeting began with the participation of all association members. Each member shared their best practices and strategies in terms of quality and sourcing.

Together they identified the following good practices:

  1. Loyalty and organizational commitment
  2. Persistence and good project management
  3. Good organizational management
  4. Strategic leadership
  5. Inclusive governance
  6. Good logistics and traceability through effective communications

 

2. The Chagra Route

A Chagra is an Indigenous farming system. It's not only a collective activity wherein farmers and indigenous people produce their own food, but also a learning place where traditional beliefs are connected with organic production and divinity.

We visited the Chagra in the afternoon. The aim of this activity was to observe, and analyze how we can replicate these kinds of farms. Fruandes encourages farmers to grow healthy, nourishing foods for their own households. 

 

3. Visit to the organic golden berry farms

The Fruandes community visited the farms of several Biofruit association members to know more about growing organic golden berries. First, we visited Hernando Chamorro’s farm, where we had a tour of his fields and learned about his composting practices. Next, we went to visit Albeiro Chamorro’s farm, and toured around the farm as he explained the golden berry picking process. Later, we visited Gildardo Rosero´s farm. He is in charge of raising the seedlings of the golden berries for all farmers belonging to the association. Lastly, we visited the farms of Jaime, Enrique and Leonardo López in the José María Hernández village, located in Pupiales. There we learned about other products made from golden berries.

 

4. Gathering and cultural exchanges 

At the community center in the village of José María Hernández, we participated in the last activity of the meeting, much anticipated by participants. We described the organizational structure of Fruandes with two main objectives: 1) To know the roles of each on the Fruandes team; and 2) To replicate this model within each association to improve their organizational structure.

To be faithful and loyal are the keys of success.
— Albeiro Chamorro, Biofruit Napoli Association
Fruandes is a knowledge center!
— Orlando Rodriguez, Banana Farmer
Germán Betancourt, Organic Development Leader (far left) with organic pineapple farmers from the Cauca region.

Germán Betancourt, Organic Development Leader (far left) with organic pineapple farmers from the Cauca region.

Fabio Baron, Fruandes Logistics and Service Leader (left), on the farm of Hernan Chamorro, the pioneer of the organic golden berry production in Nariño. 

Fabio Baron, Fruandes Logistics and Service Leader (left), on the farm of Hernan Chamorro, the pioneer of the organic golden berry production in Nariño. 

A traditional dance from Nariño on the last day of the meeting.

A traditional dance from Nariño on the last day of the meeting.

Hugo in Tanzania: An Update from Tracey Ciro

A farmer update by Tracey Ciro (Co-founder).


Good morning, Level Ground!

Hugo left Victoria on Tuesday.  At some point early Sunday morning, while we were all still sleeping, he finally made it to the coffee growing region of Tanzania.  Long trip!  

I believe, this photo was taken at the Mlolow Coffee Processing Plant in Mbeya, Tanzania.  These are the women who sort our Tanzanian coffee bean by bean by hand.  (Please know, when I visited this plant, I asked about the women working on the floor.  I was shown sorting tables and comfortable-looking (to my eyes) chairs.  All unused.  The women, it was explained to me, prefer to work on the floor! )

There must be some story to the shirt Hugo is wearing.  I do not recognize it.

Hugo is off to visit farmers in Ileje today.  It will be a bumpy 4-wheel drive that is hours long… (and way longer than the driver tells you it will be!).  The road is red clay, if it has been dry, red mud if it has been raining.  There is lush green vegetation on either side of the road, and steep cliffs on, at least, one side of the road.  It is the kind of road you tell your mother about once you are safely back in Canada! ;)

Wishing you all a great day!

Tracey

Hugo in Tanzania

Four Easy Fair Trade Gift Ideas

By purchasing Fair Trade gifts for your family, friends (or even yourself!) this Christmas season, you allow farmers in developing countries to receive fair wages for their work. And you get amazing gifts. Talk about win-win!

To make it easy, we made three gift bundles (and a gift card!), ready to be added to your cart and gifted. (Sorry American friends, our retail website is for Canadian shipping only!).

Coffee Gift Bundle!
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1. Coffee gift bundle

Perfect for the coffee lover or student in your life. Four of our favourite 1lb coffees grouped together for a delicious caffeine journey! 

Colombia Dark - Our best seller and very first coffee. 

Winter Blend - Medium-dark roast seasonal coffee. A craft blend of our organic African coffees. 

Bolivia Medium - Our most chocolate-like coffee. Smooth, rich, and creamy.

French Very Dark - For the bold, these are our famous Colombia beans, roasted as dark as we dare go. 

 
Baking Gift Bundle!
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2. Baking gift bundle

Looking for a hostess gift? Or a last minute gift for a work Christmas exchange? Don't worry, we've got your back.

Vanilla Beans - 5 grade "A" vanilla beans from Uganda. Wildly delicious and fragrant.

Ceylon Cinnamon - The true cinnamon. The flavour is like nothing you've ever tasted before.

Cacao Nibs - Roasted, organic cacao nibs. Perfect for baking in place of chocolate chips. 

Cane Sugar - Organic, unrefined sugar from Colombia. 

 

3. Foodie gift bundle

Foodie Gift Bundle!
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For the food lover in your circle. A curated selection of our products designed to enhance your kitchen offerings.

Winter Blend - Medium-dark roast seasonal coffee. A craft blend of our organic African coffees.  

Violet Rice - Heirloom rice from the Philippines. Grown on a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Amazing for sticky rice dishes.

Earl Grey Tea - Organically grown tea from Assam, India. 20 tea pyramids. 

Mango - Organic dried mango. No added sugar or preservatives. 5 whole mangoes in every package!

Vanilla Beans - 5 grade "A" vanilla beans from Uganda. Wildly delicious and fragrant.

Cacao Nibs - Roasted, organic cacao nibs. Perfect for baking in place of chocolate chips. 

Turmeric - Fresh spice from Sri Lanka. Amazing for cooking and adding bright colours to your dish. 

 
Digital Gift Card
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4. Digital gift card

Overwhelmed by choice? Send the gift of flexibility! We offer gift cards for our online store. Your family and friends can choose their favourite Fair Trade products and have them shipped directly to their door step. Easy! 

When you buy Fair Trade ...

You support real people in communities worldwide! In Colombia, you fund education for families in coffee farming communities through a program called Famicafé. Read more about Famicafé here.  

Speaking Coffee: Beginner Tips from Robyn

An editorial piece by Robyn Barchen (Marketing).


Picture this:

You're at a fancy brunch with friends: gluten-free mini waffles, locally foraged berries, homemade jams. The whole spread looks like it belongs on Pinterest. And then suddenly, the familiar aroma fills the air: coffee. A taste of home in a cup. 

But this moment quickly turns sour ... there's no cream or sugar in sight! You realize: these are coffee snobs. Words like "natural" or "full-bodied" are being thrown around like food at a middle-school cafeteria. But what do they even mean?

Fear not. I want to equip you. Just like you've learned to use the words "terroir" or "fruit-forward" around wine, this can be your go-to lexicon for coffee.

 
I'm only smiling because I know I have a few coffee words in my back pocket. Ready to be whipped out at a moment's notice.

I'm only smiling because I know I have a few coffee words in my back pocket. Ready to be whipped out at a moment's notice.

 

The Go-To's:

  • Bold: This is the #1 word to throw around for coffee. Like the taste? Say bold. Not your style? Say bold.
  • Full-Bodied: While referring to a coffee that is well rounded, this word can become quite versatile if you say it with confidence. (Only for coffee, of course. I would not suggest calling the host "full-bodied"). 
  • Balanced: As long as it tastes like coffee to you, this is a solid word to throw into the mix.

If it tastes ___, say ____:

  • Burnt, say dark roast.
  • Sour, say citrus.
  • Dirt, say earthy.

For the Brave:

  • Plush: Meaning the body of the coffee, the weight of it on your tongue feels good. You're not likely to get questioned on it, but you might get some strange looks. Stay strong, you've got this. 
  • Spicy: Referring to the taste of spices, not a hot taste. Be careful, you might get asked what spice you're tasting. (When in doubt, go with cloves). 
 
Alternative to fancy coffee words? Find the nearest cat and occupy yourself. Works 60% of the time (signficantly less if there is no cat, or if you have allergies).

Alternative to fancy coffee words? Find the nearest cat and occupy yourself. Works 60% of the time (signficantly less if there is no cat, or if you have allergies).

 

And of course, if you're the one hosting the brunch, pick up a package of our coffee. We put the flavour notes right on the front. Think of it as your cheat sheet for talking coffee! 

 

Ethiopia Medium Coffee
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Espresso Craft Blend
17.00
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Peru Medium Coffee
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We are moving!

November 30th Update: We have found a date! We are planning to move on Friday, December 15th and over that weekend. Hopefully by Monday, December 18th we will be up and running in the new facility. Things might be bumpy around that time, so we ask for a little grace and a lot of patience. We're so excited to show you our new home!


After 20 years of Fair Trade on Keating X Road (in various locations), we are excited to announce we are moving to a brand new facility!

Our roots lay deep on the Saanich Peninsula. We are moving 800 metres up the road to Sean Heights! 

So why the big move? 

  • We're growing! To accommodate our staff and the 45 containers of Fair Trade products we bring in every year
  • Hospitality! We love to host tours. This facility was designed to show you behind the scenes of our operations

Our new address will be:

1757 Sean Heights

Victoria, BC

V8M 1X6

 

You will find us in our new home in December! 

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Our phone number and emails will remain the same. If you want to double check where we're operating, just give us a call! 

STAFF SATURDAY: Meet Jenna

Jenna is a force to be reckoned with. She’s got an unsinkable drive and determination that lies beneath a finger snap and a moonwalk. That might not make much sense, but when you’ve spent time around Jenna - an impromptu dance party isn’t far behind.  She manages our food service and cafe sales. Her ability to connect with people is nothing short of inspiring and her infectious laugh can crack the iciest of moods.  

 

She’s been with Level Ground since 2010 and has held onto our sales team with pitbull intensity. You’ve got to have a resilient spirit and enjoy the chase if you’re in sales and Jenna’s managed to take a wily category and give it kind attention. She’s a great listener, hilarious story teller, and a steadfast champion of the farmers we work with. In 2015 she went to Colombia to visit coffee and fruit farmers and her passion for advocating for Fair Trade has been ignited ever since.

 

She embodies the West Coast daily: recently graduating from Yoga Teacher Training, adventuring in her Westfalia, surfing on weekends, all while raising two fierce boys. Very few people know how to bliss like Jenna. We’re so fortunate to have her unique spark and enduring loyalty.

Meet Someswar.

Assam, India is an area famous for its malty rich black tea. When we first met tea growers in Assam, we were surprised to hear they were producing green teas ... huh? The pioneers of organic tea quickly saw the need to differentiate their tea from others. It made sense to put together the idea of healthful green tea with organic tea cultivation. Selling green tea within Assam was much easier than competing with long-established black tea brands. 


Meet Someswar. Green tea grower, and organic champion.

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Someswar grows and processes tea for Level Ground's Green Tea.

Remarkably, Someswar has been a Small Tea Grower since 1976. In fact, he was the first small tea grower registered in Assam! A small tea grower is someone who owns and operates a tea garden (like a sole proprietor) - often their garden is in their backyard or close by to their home.  Officially Small Tea Growers may have a garden up to 10 hectares.  The growers of Level Ground’s tea have gardens between 1-10 acres.


Someswar not only has pioneered the idea of  small tea growing in Assam, but he is a champion of organic. He is an officially recognized trainer in organic tea growing and processing and uses his time to share the knowledge he's gained.   Thanks to efforts like Someswar's, there will be more organic tea growers in Assam!

 

Laurie, Level Ground co-owner, and Someswar visit in his Assam tea garden.

Laurie, Level Ground co-owner, and Someswar visit in his Assam tea garden.

Two leaves and a bud are plucked from Someswar's garden. This provides a good mix between quality (the bud) and quantity (the leaves) for tea. 

Two leaves and a bud are plucked from Someswar's garden. This provides a good mix between quality (the bud) and quantity (the leaves) for tea. 

Someswar shows us the list of students who have attended his training seminars over the past year.

Someswar shows us the list of students who have attended his training seminars over the past year.

about 100 students attend Someswar's Training Centre each year.

about 100 students attend Someswar's Training Centre each year.

 

8 Ways to Make Better Coffee Right Now

1. Clean your equipment

Don’t be afraid to really pull apart your machine and give it a deep clean. Whether it is a coffee pot, French press, or any other method, soap and water will do the trick. We recommend cleaning it frequently, as coffee oils can build up on your equipment and will impart unwanted flavours on your cup.

 

2. Buy good beans

You’re going to get out of your cup of coffee what you put into it. Here’s what to look for when buying coffee beans:

  • Arabica beans (watch out for Robusta, those beans are used as a cheap filler).
  • Small-batch roasted – this allows for greater control and roasting perfection.
  • Transparency on origin – you want to know where your favourite beans are coming from. Roasters that identify the origin are not likely to be hiding lower quality beans.

(Buy our great coffee beans here!)

 

3. Make sure it’s fresh

Coffee peaks about 7 – 21 days after roasting. While that isn’t realistic to always find (unless you live beside a roaster), we recommend you look for coffee that was roasted between one and three months ago.

Some methods are more forgiving than others. Espresso requires fresh beans and careful attention, where more forgiving methods, like French Press and drip brewer, can produce a decent cup with more variance in beans.

 

4. Brew it right

Although we all think we’re experts at “eyeballing” it when it comes to scooping coffee, there is nothing like following the golden ratio (1 part coffee to 17.42 parts water). But all you need to remember is the recipe for each type of coffee:

If you like to use a traditional drip brewer, try out this method, which uses 60g of coffee for a 12-cup pot.

French press lovers, we recommend 55g of coffee for a 1L press, but you can see a full recipe here

 

5. Try a new method, like Chemex or Aeropress.

Coffee is all about getting a flavour you like. If the way you’re preparing coffee isn’t doing it for you (or you just want to branch out), why not try some of these methods:

Chemex – This attractive method produces an incredibly clean cup of coffee. It can be a little difficult to master, but with a scale and a bit of practice you’ll be golden. See our full step-by-step method here.

Aeropress – Although it may appear daunting thanks to its modular appearance, the Aeropress is surprisingly easy to use. Plus, it’s super handy to pack for travelling. See our full step-by-step method here. 

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6. Store it in a cool, dark place

Coffee is happiest when it is hidden from light and air. If you don’t like to keep your coffee in the packaging you bought it in, make sure you transfer it to an airtight container that won’t let light in. A tin-tie, zipper, or seal will help keep the air out, and lock the freshness in.

 

7. No, not your freezer

Somehow a rumour got started that the freezer is a good place for your coffee, but don’t fall for it! When beans are taken in and out of a freezer, condensation happens. Moisture and coffee are not friends! Any benefit you might have gained from freezing the beans is quickly nullified.

 

8. Don’t be afraid to drink your coffee the way you like it

The best cup of coffee is the cup that you prefer. While so-called “coffee connoisseurs” will try to convince you it’s a sin to put sugar in your cup, we firmly believe that you should do what you like! If you like a splash of cream, go for it! If you prefer it black, enjoy that. And if you like 2 tablespoons of sugar, we’re certainly not going to fault you for it.

Buy it now

Colombia Dark Coffee
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Meet Bibiana.

When we set up our first trade relationship in 1997, small-scale coffee farmers in Colombia told us that the education of their children was a top priority. In response, Famicafé was founded to fund education for small-scale farmers’ children.

So how does it work? Level Ground Trading pays a Community Premium to Famicafé each time we purchase coffee from Colombia, which funds student scholarships and classroom resources.

 

Meet Bibiana.

We met Bibiana as one of the first group of students Level Ground sponsored in Colombia. Her life was difficult. In 2001, armed men forced Bibiana’s family out of their small home on the tiny sliver of land they owned. With only a few possessions, they took refuge at the Famicafé boarding house until Bibiana’s father was able to find a place for them to settle.

Graduating high school in 2002, Bibiana went on to nursing school after she was unable to get into medical school. She completed nursing school four years later, but her dream to become a medical doctor remained. She continued school in Armenia, Colombia, studying diligently and living with her Famicafé schoolmates.

Bibiana graduated from medical school in 2015. She moved to the big city, Medellin, to work at a walk-in clinic. The 12-hour shifts were draining, and the pay was menial. She was burning out quickly because she didn’t have enough time to care for each patient that waited to see her.

Earlier this year, she managed to find work at a clinic that specializes in hemophilia. She now focuses on diagnosis, treatment and follow-up with hemophiliac patients. She lives in the big city of Medellin, but continues to travel back to San Bartolo to visit her parents. She is able to send money home to help her parents who are day labourers in coffee farms near their small house in the mountains.

Bibiana is a great example of the benefits of investing coffee premiums into the lives and education of young people. Women like Bibiana bring joy to our hearts because in her we see hope for a better rural Colombia.

Bibiana poses with Level Ground staff and Julian, the director of Famicafé.

Bibiana poses with Level Ground staff and Julian, the director of Famicafé.

Famicafé students Sandra and Bibiana in the mountains of Colombia. 

Famicafé students Sandra and Bibiana in the mountains of Colombia. 

Hugo, Level Ground Co-founder, and Bibiana visiting this week!

Hugo, Level Ground Co-founder, and Bibiana visiting this week!

STAFF SATURDAY: Meet Robyn

She’s our marketing go-to and resident cat herder. Her job is to corral the wily ideas in our creative department and turn them into successful (and beautiful!) customer motivators. There are a LOT of great ideas floating around this company (and strong opinions attached to each). She handles every hare-brained idea with ease and grace. She’s even editing her own Staff Saturday write-up (hopefully she leaves in the good parts - don't worry , I did!). She’s a crazy crossfitter and maintains caring relationships with friends and family. She probably wears a little too much plaid and might find Chantelle a little funnier than the rest of us.

 

Robyn has been at Level Ground before - in Accounting to be exact! From combing over label details to planning and coordinating marketing events, her attention to detail and mind for business are very welcome skills in the land of unicorns and sunshiny dreams. It’s a rare gift to find someone who speaks “ooh pretty!” and “ooh pricey!” at the same time.  

 

She’s able to listen to the strangest statement and extract gold. She has a quirky sense of humour, a kind heart, and a quick mind. She’s genuine in her praise and gentle with her feedback. We’re blessed to have her watchful eye carefully curating the stories that we tell and the pictures we share.  

Clifford, the big red truck.

D.R. Congo Farmer Visit

Here's what's happening right now (June 2017): Hugo is in Africa visiting farmers. His latest stop, D.R. Congo with coffee friend Jono from Bean There Coffee.  

DR Congo
The Mutendero washing station in Vissale (near Butembo), D.R. Congo. 

The Mutendero washing station in Vissale (near Butembo), D.R. Congo. 

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Hugo and the "Mamas" - women who sort the green coffee beans. 

Hugo and the "Mamas" - women who sort the green coffee beans. 

Selfie at the coffee milling plant with the Mamas. 

Selfie at the coffee milling plant with the Mamas. 

10 Benefits of Loving Mother Nature

This post comes to us courtesy of the Compost Council of Canada. We're fortunate to partner with them as we navigate our way with a Compostable Coffee Package! To read more about the Composting Council of Canada, check out their website here

 
 

Recycling your organics is really like batting a home run for Mother Nature. There are so many benefits that can be realized with this simple, thoughtful action including:

Sending less to landfill. Organics represent over one-third of the materials being sent to landfills. Whether through backyard or large-scale composting or anaerobic digestion, those banana peels, apple cores and other organic materials can be recycled.

Reducing greenhouse gases. According to Environment Canada, landfill sites account for about 20 per cent of Canada's total methane emissions, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of its global warming potential. It's the organics that are buried in the landfill that are a key contributor to this production of greenhouse gases.

Recovering valuable materials. Composting produces compost, the single most important ingredient for healthy and productive soil.

Decreasing soil erosion. Soil erosion can remove nutrients from the soil, reducing its productivity, as well as reducing runoff that can carry sediment, nutrients and chemicals into waterways thereby creating new sources of pollution. Compost helps enhance soil structure and binds soil particles together.

Revitalizing soil. Compost helps provide sustenance for the very necessary biological diversity in the soil. Plants depend on this to convert materials into plant available nutrients and to keep the soil well-aerated.

Reducing the need to water. By improving the soil structure through the addition of compost, water is retained and available for plants.

Reducing the need for pesticides. Compost can help suppress plant diseases.

Saving money. Through backyard composting, you can turn your leftover organics into a valuable soil amendment without spending a dime.

Making your garden grow. Compost provides essential organic matter for the soil, which is of fundamental importance to its' health, vitality and fertility.

Making a positive environmental difference. With compost, you can take resources otherwise regarded as waste - organic residuals - and turn them into something of value while at the same time realizing landfill and greenhouse gas reductions, improved soil productivity and water quality.

Lemongrass Harvest is Underway

It's harvest time in Sri Lanka! RJ is a small-scale spice grower in Sri Lanka. His lemongrass is carefully harvested, and then blended with spices to become our Lemongrass Tea. 

Usually there is a lemongrass harvest in January. Due to poor irrigation and a drought in Sri Lanka, there was no lemongrass to be harvested. Finally, by the end of February the rains started again! After eight weeks of growing, it is finally harvest time. 

We are excited to receive the lemongrass, and other teas, midway through this summer. Supporting small-scale often means patience as we wait for rain, harvest, and product to arrive. Patience allows for fair payment to small-scale farmers. Thank you! 

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STAFF SATURDAY: Meet Chris

Chris works on our Operations team as the Lead for Warehouse and Shipping. He’s been with LGT for a long time - 14 years to be exact.  In that time he has done literally just about every job… and in the early days, several of them at the same time. It takes a special type of person to work through all of the changes in a small company over so many years. Where does this resolve come from? Chris fishes. Chris loves to fish. Chris dreams of fishing. If Chris could fish for a living, he would. He plays late night hockey, he’s got an entrepreneurial streak, and he loves fishing.  

 

Leveraging his fisherman’s tenacity and straight talk, he’s our resident spatial-organizer, keep-it-stocked, and get-it-there guy. He balances the demands of our internal needs with our customers' timelines. If you want something sent across country in a hurry, he’s the one you talk to. He also has the illustrious distinction of being our forklift instructor - which says a great deal about his patience.  He’s thorough in his work, enjoys getting it right the first time,  is detail-oriented and still quick with a joke. We’re lucky to have Chris on our team.

Chris visiting Jaime, the face of our Colombia coffee package.

Chris visiting Jaime, the face of our Colombia coffee package.

Why isn't our Colombia Coffee organic?

In 1997, our first trade relationship was with a co-operative of coffee farmers in Colombia. That relationship, which is close to our hearts, remains today. These coffee beans, which you may know as our Colombia, Decaf, and French Roast, are not organic; we wanted to take the time to explain why.

Our Colombian coffee is not organic certified. We buy from small-scale farmers who grow coffee and other crops without pesticides, but they do use fertilizer to maximize plant health and yield. 

 

What is the difference between Pesticides and Fertilizers?

Pesticides are used to eliminate and prevent pests and insects from farms. Pesticides include: insecticides, weed control and rodent poisons. Fertilizers, on the other hand, are organic or inorganic compounds that feed plants with required nutrients. The basic mentality difference between the two is that pesticides aim to kill, while fertilizers aim to grow. 

When a farmer uses either pesticides or fertilizers, their crop cannot be certified organic.  

 

Why don't the farmers switch their practice to organic? 

Farmers choose fertilizer to maximize plant health and yield. In Colombia, coffee is a cash crop that many families rely on for income. Organic isn't about higher income for farming families. Often, organic is about sacrificing yield, which means lower income for families.

The journey towards organic is costly for farmers: third party inspectors need to visit, collect data and samples, and write a report card. Farmers have to follow standardized protocols and keep logs of everything they do. This is more than just a financial barrier for illiterate farmers. 

 

The process of Fair Trade is never easy. In an effort to maintain relationships and support Colombian farming families, we're committed to continuing to purchase this coffee that we have been buying for 20 years! 

Stacey (Co-founder) & the face of our French Roast coffee, Luis. 

Stacey (Co-founder) & the face of our French Roast coffee, Luis. 

Farm Visit & Composting Lessons

Today we visited the 10 Acres Farm in North Saanich (just North of our HQ) with our Fruandes trading partner, Javier Vasquez from Colombia. He's the one in orange!

Fruandes ends up with about 40,000 tonnes of compost per month through processing and drying our delicious dried fruits. 10 Acres has an impressive system for composting their restaurant and farm wastes so we were keen to see where Fruandes could potentially gain insight into composting large quantities of organic waste.

The farm contains several greenhouses full of herbs and starters as well as crops of rhubarb, kale and asparagus (to name a few), lemon, lime and apricot trees, grapes, pigs, goats and ducks!

It was inspiring and heartwarming to connect with another local company focused on farming and agricultural diversity. Farmers doing what they love and people enjoying the delicious fruits of their labour ... literally!

Chantelle, Javier, Stacey, Hugo & Hannah on the farm.

Chantelle, Javier, Stacey, Hugo & Hannah on the farm.

Goats galore! These are for kids to play with and learn about farm life. 

Goats galore! These are for kids to play with and learn about farm life. 

Meet Catalina

Meet Catalina, the face of Aromatic Rice.

She is one of very few farmers that have an Education Degree. She wasn't able to teach, but instead used her education to work overseas to help out her family, supporting her siblings through school. When her parents fell ill, she returned home to the Philippines to care for them. After her parents passed away, she took over tilling the rice terraces along with her siblings.

Catalina is the secretary of the local women's group, farmer's group, and a community leader. She also manages to find time to work on the farm and grow Unoy (Aromatic) rice.

What an amazing woman!

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STAFF SATURDAY: Meet Kelsey

Kelsey is one of the newest additions to our team. She’s working in accounting to cover the inimitable Yoko. When she’s not using her sweet voice to contact customers in Accounts Receivable, she’s using it to sing opera. Actual opera. Kelsey is a classically trained singer! Her melodic attention to detail, diligence, and friendliness make her ability to obtain payment while simultaneously keeping everyone happy in the process is unparalleled.

 

Aside from her (entirely forgivable) caffeine intolerance, we count her as one of those fortunate enough to be naturally caffeinated. Kelsey is openly caring, kind, and thoughtful. At Level Ground, she brings a genuine and unsinkable joie de vivre. Her positive presence keeps her office mates smiling and the lunch room conversations effervescent. We’re fortunate to have the opportunity to work with her!

STAFF SATURDAY: Meet Andrew

Meet Andrew.

There are few at LGT, save the intrepid Reg, who have “what it takes” to roll up their sleeves and go up to the elbows into a machine. On the Operations team, the roles sound modest, but the scope of what’s required is large. A hands-on polymath, Andrew is one of the many able to roast, package, pick, and drive - but he can repair machines. He works along side Reg, patiently, creatively, and patiently.

Did we mention patience? He’s got a depth of knowledge in many areas and is quick to share a joke. He leads with his brain as well as his heart - which makes him a perfect fit for our motley crew. Andrew helps keep the fires stoked and the packages sealed 'n’ tucked.  We’re grateful to have him!