With world coffee prices are at a record high, Level Ground's first purchase was a half-container of coffee from COLOMBIA. It launched under the brand of "Café San Miguel".
When the Colombian coffee arrived in Canada, a local roaster provided access to roasting equipment after hours—so we roasted the coffee in very small batches every day from midnight to 5am.
In that first year, six students were provided full scholarships to high school. These original students all completed high school with top marks and attended university and technical colleges on Famicafé scholarships.
Ten Thousand Villages, our first customer, offers our Colombian coffee across all their stores in Canada and many Villages stores in the USA.
Moved from Hugo and Tracey's garage to a small warehouse we purchased on Kirkpatrick Crescent in the Keating Area.
Acquired our first Sivetz fluid bed roaster. It can handle one-quarter of a sack of beans at a time!
Hugo also saw a need and desire to diversify the local economy so that families were not solely dependent on the wildly fluctuating coffee market. One idea was to market the fruit from the trees that shade the coffee on the farms.
Level Ground Trading donated funds to purchase a commercial dehydrator and sponsored Giovanni, a Colombian agronomist, to come to Canada and learn food drying techniques and establish an independent Colombian fruit drying company (Fruandes Ltda.) in Bogotá.
Fruandes is providing economic and social development in two ways: it is creating a new market for fruit and pays a fair price to small scale farmers; it works with a local relief and development agency in order to provide employment for displaced women from the Cazuca township.
In addition, all employees of Fruandes receive fair wages, health benefits, and school tuition for their families.
Hugo visits BOLIVIA to establish a trade relationship
The UNDP (United Nations Development Program) had deployed a team of technical advisors to provide specialized technical assistance to Aymara coffee farmers and to promote international trade for their unique variety of specialty coffee.
Added our second coffee, “Café La Paz” from Bolivia which was our first organic certified coffee.
Dried tropical fruit from Fruandes in Bogota arrived and we worked hard to partner with stores to sell this new product.
Level Ground burst at the seams—some office staff had moved to a Volkswagen van in the parking lot—and therefore we purchased and renovated a larger facility on Bertram Place, also in the Keating area of Central Saanich. This move included the installation of two roasters and provided room for storage of our Colombian coffee, Decaf, Bolivian organic, Panela (cane sugar) and Frutos (dried tropical fruit).
Created a in-house, web-based, real-time "Order Management System" to handle our contacts, invoicing and production tasks.
Our price to farmers for Colombian coffee is 60% above the C market price as coffee prices slump globally.
Level Ground Trading is recognized with an Ethics in Action award for Overall Leadership.
First shipment of cane sugar from Fruandes, Colombia arrived
Added our third coffee origin "Café Pangoa", sourced from CAC Pangoa in PERU, also organic certified.
We helped Fruandes move to a solid business footing in Colombia.
Two important Green Initiatives were launched: EnviroTotes to customers on Vancouver Island and an organic pilot project in Colombia where 25 families worked together with an agronomist to learn about producing certified organic coffee.
Capital Regional District awards Level Ground Trading with the Eco Star award for our waste management initiatives—now nothing goes to Hartland Landfill and staff can access 13 streams of recycling at no cost to them.
Received Vancouver Island Small Business of the Year award.
Added our first African coffee, "Cafe Mbeya" from TANZANIA.
Hugo and Tracey visit coffee farmers in Ileje, near Mbeya, Tanzania.
Added our second African coffee, "Cafe Awasa" from ETHIOPIA.
We were feeling crowded yet again and moved all office staff upstairs to give the production team a little elbow room (there were now 20 people, sacks of coffee, dried fruit, sugar, roasting and packaging equipment all occupying 3000 sq. ft.)
We were pleased to be led through an IFAT External evaluation in May 2006.
This was a year of bureaucracy for Level Ground—with 28 people grew from a collection of individuals to a team following process. This was good for us as an FTO because it means that we are having to wrangle all our common practices and values and get them down on paper in the form of policies for decision making. A benefit of this process was building a structure for providing transparency and accountability.
Awarded Vancouver Island Business of the Year & WorkLife BC's Award of Excellence
Level Ground FINALLY moved to a larger facility at our current location on Keating Cross Road, which was built to suit our needs. With a larger facility and larger contracts we stepped up to write and implement more stringent standards and received organic certification for our roasting and production process.
Hired Subplot Design Studio in Vancouver to lead a complete brand and marketing redesign of our entire company—our logo included.
Launched our Espresso blend which resulted in 90 points given by the Coffee Review—the world's leading coffee buying guide.
Implemented clearly outlined Standard Operating Procedures, hosted on an internal wiki.
Became a HAACP-compliant facility.
Launched our first coffee from the PHILIPPINES by partnering with Coffee for Peace.
Stacey and Laurie take all four of their children to visit the B’laan tribe in the south of the Philippines.
Received our first shipment of coffee from the Democratic Republic of CONGO.
Shipping starts to scan all outbound orders, order accuracy rockets to over 99%.
Became an Organic Certified facility.
Laurie visits tea farmers in Assam, India.
First cocoa shipment arrives from CAC Pangoa.
First spice shipment arrives from Sri Lanka.
Josh becomes presiding head judge at National Barista Championships.
IT and Sales Team implements web ordering for customers.
Implemented use of roasting silos—adding efficiency and reducing heavy lifting for roasting staff.