Meet Orlando.

Meet Orlando, Leader of the Banana farmers association, and king of organic. 

Even without a word of English, Orlando is one of the most hilarious people you will ever meet. His smile and laugh announce his presence everywhere he goes. Quick to make jokes, Orlando draws people near: family, friends, and visitors. But don't let that fool you - Orlando is dead serious about one thing: organic farming.

Orlando creates organic mixtures to solve any problem on his farm. If a plant needs more nitrogen, he's got a blue bin for that. More calcium? There's a bin for that! He shares the mixtures with members of the association, ensuring they all have a healthy harvest.

So how does he make all of these mixtures? It's a science. He takes organic materials from his farm, and neighbouring farms, and combines with precision. One key is using run-off from his neighbour's pigs. They take the organic material that pigs expel, allow it to ferment, and use the nutrient rich material. (Side note: the gas resulting from that process is used to power their homes!) 

Orlando's success has allowed him to spread the impact throughout his family. His brothers, who were stuck working in coca production, called Orlando to ask for help. His response: to take them in without hesitation. Now, all the brothers live together, producing healthy plants that give life. 

Each blue bin contains a different organic mixture, designed to combat pests and disease.

Each blue bin contains a different organic mixture, designed to combat pests and disease.

Dave (Level Ground), Orlando, Robyn (Level Ground) and Pacho (Orlando's brother). 

Dave (Level Ground), Orlando, Robyn (Level Ground) and Pacho (Orlando's brother). 

Orlando and his famous soil!

Orlando and his famous soil!

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.

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.



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.


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.

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.

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. 

The story of our compostable packaging

In 2004, we went landfill free. 

Then, we introduced a reclamation and upcycling program for our coffee packages.

Now, we've taken another step in reducing our carbon footprint by launching a compostable coffee package. (The main ingredient? Made in Canada FSC certified wood pulp!)


FSC certified paper, NatureFlex film, adhesive and bioplastic.


1. Compost it in your backyard

2. Bring it to one of our Reclamation Stations (available at many grocery stores) and we will compost it


Most composting facilities only accept food scraps. Level Ground is trying to work with commercial composters, who are prepared to manage the longer composting time required for packaging. The reality is that our technology is ahead of where the waste management industry is currently. You are always welcome to send packaging back to us, and we will compost it.


You can! Especially if you live in a mild climate and have composting skills. Cutting the package open and laying it flat will help speed things up. Remember to mix in lots of organic material like food scraps.


Yes! This packaging material is a high oxygen barrier film and will keep your coffee fresh. Coffee is happiest when it is hidden from light and air; this package does both wonderfully!

The far-reaching benefits of organic & tea

The words 'wellness' and 'tea' are often used in the same sentence and usually are followed by terms like antioxidants and flavanoids etc. As a tea-drinker, the feelings of well-being that tea brings me are immediately obvious but another understanding of wellness is surfacing in my awareness. This awareness is the wider effect of trading in tea ... the promotion of wellness in the tea-producing community. 

I've had the privilege of meeting a number of tea growers in Assam who have chosen a different path in growing tea. They have rejected the chemical fertilizers and schedules of pesticide spraying most commonly followed on major tea estates. In many cases, their story stems from a shocking realization that the chemicals that are killing the pests are then spilling into their waterway and ultimately harming far more beings that they originally thought. The choice to go organic is an obvious step towards wellness for all who live, work and play near the gardens (never mind those of us who drink the tea leaves later on). 

Then there is yet another layer to the story of wellness and this involves the labourers who work in the tea gardens plucking leaves and rolling leaves to make tea. Organic and Fair Trade makes a significant difference in the lives of labourers; no chemicals means a healthier work environment and attention to Fair Trade has created dialogue about the well-being of workers. 

Sharing some laughs with the women who pluck tea at Pranjit's tea garden in Assam

Sharing some laughs with the women who pluck tea at Pranjit's tea garden in Assam