Management Team
Hugo Ciro
Co-Founder & CEO

As a boy growing up in Colombia, Hugo often visited his grandparents' coffee farm in the mountains of Antioquia, Colombia. With firsthand exposure to quality coffee and the impoverished working conditions of the coffee farmers, Hugo set out to make a difference.

After graduating with a BA degree in Economics and Business from Macalester College in Minnesota, he worked for several finance and high-tech companies. In 1992, Hugo attended Regent College in Vancouver searching for ways to apply his faith to his work. He ventured out in 1997 to establish Level Ground Trading. Level Ground's first product, Café San Miguel from Colombia is a coffee from the same region where he played as a child.

In 2002, Hugo established Fruandes, a fair trade fruit drying company in Colombia. Fruandes provides employment to refugee women and fair trade prices for small-scale fruit growers in Colombia.

Hugo spends his time between his home in Victoria BC and visiting farmers in South America and East Africa. Hugo is married to Tracey and they have a daughter, Chrisaleen, and a son, Samuel.

Laurie Klassen

In 1997 Laurie graduated from University and had her heart set on changing the world through Fair Trade. She connected with Hugo and together with Stacey they established Level Ground Trading.

Laurie has spearheaded Human Resources, certification and standards and now focuses her time on Tea, Marketing, and new product development.

Together with Stacey, Laurie is parent to four kids and plays 'farmer' in Brentwood Bay.

Rick Stark
Sales Manager

Rick joined Level Ground in 2002 bringing 14 years experience in the food industry along with his passion for alleviating poverty. Having graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree he has combined his business and industry knowledge to expand Level Ground’s brand and market share. Rick has led teams and produced sales growth that has resulted in outgrowing two former processing facilities and is working towards outgrowing a third. Building a great sales team has resulted in the ability to reach new and larger markets with the expertise and confidence our customers require. Rick pushes for higher sales volume each year with a passion for putting more Fair Trade premiums into the hands of every farmer we trade with.

On a personal note Rick has been blessed with over 20 years of marriage and three great kids. He and his family are very active in their community volunteering in schools and community outreach programs. Rick is an avid cyclist who trains and races in order to maintain the high energy it takes in leading his family at the same time pushing forward the mission and vision of Level Ground Trading.

Stacey Toews
Co-Founder & Communications Catalyst

Stacey Toews is co-founder of Level Ground Trading and has spent most of his time travelling across North America educating and engaging audiences about Fair Trade, sustainability and ethical consumer choices.

Stacey is a dynamic and inspiring speaker who is passionate about social justice. He has quickly become one of Fair Trade’s leading advocates, encouraging critical and independent thought about our everyday purchases and how they affect others.

He and his wife, Laurie, have been married 23 years and are parents to four kids. He's currently busy building a community of animal friends on his tiny farm in Brentwood Bay.

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Reg Van Lierop
Operations & Facilities
Josh del Sol
Roastmaster & QC Specialist

Josh is Level Ground Trading's Roastmaster, Lead Cupper, and Quality Control Specialist and has been with LGT since 2007. To say that he enjoys coffee is a great understatement. An avid lover of food, he also possesses potentially polarizing opinions on a variety of restaurants, foods, beverages, and flavours in general. He has a special place in his heart for banana cakes made with panela and sour cherry pie.

In previous lives, Josh has worked years in organic produce and collaborated closely with local organic growers. He has swung hammers, shovels, axes, keyboards, mice, and words at various times... all for money and pleasure.

Josh has been a Head Canadian National Barista Judge, coffee educator, and is one of a few Q-Graders in Canada. He is also a father of two tremendously brilliant children and can be found outdoors on rainy days looking for the largest puddles to run through... with or without his kids.

Sales and Marketing
Jenna Mitchell
Food Service
Chantelle Mussell
Brand & Marketing
Robyn Neufeld
Patricia Pearson
Fair Trade Retail, Churches & Fundraising
Carol Schwall
Sales Administrator
Bethany Von Drasek
Sales Administrative Assistant
Paul Whittaker
Paul Bohemier
Matt Holland
IT & Systems Administrator
Yoko Noda
Accounts Payable
Ruth Parrish
Co-Founder & Accounts Receivable
Meghan Seginowich
Accounts Receivable
Mike Andrews
Alain Angers
Torrey Brandolini
Amelia Capell
Andrew Churlish
Kim Cormack
Calen Craig
Alwyn Crocker
Deidre Keith
Chris Rempel
Dave Stewart
Special Guests
Peter Tiessen
Recipe Contributor

My first job was at a Red Lobster where I prepared Cheddar Bay Biscuits, baked potatoes & pan-fried a few fish. I was hooked from that moment on.

Inspired, I enrolled in a Professional Cooking program in Saskatoon and went on from there to Vancouver's Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. I learned the fine art of classical French cuisine and graduated with Honours. After acquiring my Red Seal designation as ‘Cook’ I lived and cooked in Lake Louise and Calgary before finally settling down in Winnipeg.

he greatest experience I had was at River Café in Calgary where I was exposed to a kitchen that valued sustainable agriculture and promoted environmental stewardship through their menu and business practices. Although I was there a short period of time, I worked with some amazing people, and I strive to adapt their practices to my everyday choices. In Winnipeg, I would have my last culinary hurrah. Again, I worked in several local kitchens and was able to express my culinary expertise, continue to develop my culinary philosophy and encourage active involvement with farmers in sharing their bounty.

I have since hung up my apron and now work as a Certified Athletic Therapist and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. My experiences in my culinary career have had a profound influence on how I view and value our food system. Cooking is a lifelong skill that I am excited to share with everyone who has the desire to learn and willingness to explore. My heart will always be lost in my love for food and sharing its versatility and flavours.

My culinary career:
  • The Lobby, Winnipeg, MB
  • Tavern in the Park, Winnipeg, MB
  • Pineridge Hollow, Winnipeg, MB
  • Sydney’s at the Forks, Winnipeg, MB
  • River Café, Calgary, AB
  • Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise, Lake Louise, AB
  • Saskatoon Club, Saskatoon, SK
  • Rembrandts, Saskatoon, SK