“Face-to-face, transparent relationships with producers is the only context in which Fair Trade can flourish.”
-Stacey Toews, co-founder, Level Ground Trading.
We think our coffee tastes amazing. Whether it’s Tanzanian, Colombian or Ethiopian, we know that a cup of coffee made with beans bought at Ten Thousand Villages is going to be outstanding. And we know this from experience. If you’ve bought coffee from us in Canada anytime in the last 20 years, you’ll have bought some of the best beans in the business.
In 1997, Level Ground Trading was started by four families who wanted to come together to improve the lives of disadvantaged producers through trade. They wanted to make a difference. And they looked to Ten Thousand Villages for inspiration.
Hugo Ciro, co-founder and co-owner of Level Ground, was introduced to the difference that fair trade can make while volunteering for Ten Thousand Villages, then called Self Help Crafts. In the warehouse in Abbotsford, Hugo saw that when people came together to do good, they could make a real impact. It’s an experience that moved Hugo, so when his family came together with three others, he knew how they should proceed.
By 1998, Level Ground had secured a partnership with farmers in Colombia, and had bought, shipped, roasted, and packaged their first run of coffee. As soon as they were ready, Ten Thousand Villages came knocking. In fact, Ten Thousand Villages was Level Ground’s very first customer!
Level Ground has maintained their connection to Colombia, but have grown considerably since then. They now import coffee from Bolivia, Peru, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and the D.R. Congo, and have expanded into tea from India, rice and coconut oil from the Philippines, spices from Sri Lanka, vanilla from Uganda, dried fruit, and sugar.
Each relationship that Level Ground has is built with the intention to last. They believe, as we do, that long term fair trading relationships are the best way to make real change. It’s also the best way to ensure top quality products.
Transparency and accountability also set Level Ground apart. They publish the financial details of every bulk purchase they make from producers, detailing the ‘conventional’ price at the time of purchase, the fair trade price paid, the fair trade premium paid, and more.
Level Ground also invests in social programs in farmers’ communities through Fair Trade Premiums. The recipient communities use these premiums to invest in educational scholarships, health care and economic development.
Level Ground takes the fair trade relationship even further than most other fair trade coffee companies. Each business relationship that Level Ground maintains is also a personal one. A farm co-operative working with Level Ground doesn’t deal with a faceless offshore corporation. On the contrary, Level Ground’s owners make a point of visiting with producers to understand their unique situations and opportunities. As they’re fond of saying, “We shake the hands that farm the land.”
“But wait,” you’re thinking, “I thought we were talking about Ten Thousand Villages’ coffee.”
The truth is, we are. For many years, every bag of coffee in Canada with the Ten Thousand Villages logo on it has also carried the Level Ground Trading logo. We trust this organization that’s founded on the same principles as we are to maintain positive relationships with farmers, trade fairly, ethically, and environmentally, and roast the very best beans they can find.
For pushing the boundaries of environmental stewardship, transparency, accountability and flavour, we tip our hats to Level Ground Trading, and look forward to the next 20 years of partnership.