Vanilla Farmers, Uganda

uganda-vanilla-farmers-violet.thumbuganda-vanilla-farmers.minithumbAlthough Vanilla is a very new product for us, we're starting to hear about the impact of this trade from farmers in Uganda. Here are two stories of how the food we buy can contribute to the well-being of those who grow it. While out buying Vanilla for Level Ground, our friend Tim met with many farmers over the last month. vanilla.thumbOne one day, two farmers shared how the vanilla sales have improved their lives. With the revenues earned from vanilla farming, Purikariko has completed the building of his house and Violet completely paid for her rain water harvesting system. Tim says "it makes the day very sweet to hear them share these stories". Last year 300 farmers sold vanilla beans to Level Ground Trading.

Faces of Fruandes: Banana

fabio_herrera_lugotropicalOur partner, Fruandes, has sent an update on the Banana farmers they work with in Colombia.  Dried Baby Bananas are in our Tropical Dried Fruit.

Meet the banana farmers here!

Fresh Spices from Sri Lanka!

fresh-spices-from-sri-lanka-white-pepperfresh-spices-from-sri-lanka-cin-minithumbfresh-spices-from-sri-lanka-nutmeg-minithumbfresh-spices-from-sri-lanka-peppercorn-minithumbFlying into Colombo, I started to wonder, what does a spice farm look like?
Turns out, these spice farms looking nothing like what you might picture as a garden or a farm... it's more like jungle where the spices hide.
We hiked through these tiny farms and the spices were hard to spot. Moddy of Ethical Inspirations and the Coop Agronomist opened our eyes to the surrounding bounty by urging us to taste leaves and open strange looking seed pods to find the most amazing smells and flavours... like scratch 'n sniff. Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg & pepper...sensory overload!

In the year since that jungle adventure, the coop of spice farmers has worked hard to grow, process and bottle the spices for us. Now they are available to you! Ceylon Cinnamon (the real stuff), Nutmeg, Ginger, Cloves, Tumeric, Cardamon, White & Black Peppercorns. All small-scale grown on biodynamic farms, traded fairly and directly and so fresh it will knock your socks off.

Organic Success Story!

dragonfruit-farmers.thumbexotic-packaging.thumbWe were happy to receive this news from our friends at Fruandes in Colombia. After two years of organic farming, Jorge Alba and Simon Valencia received certification for their Dragon Fruit farm. Organic certification takes tremendous commitment from farmers as it requires careful record keeping, paperwork and financial costs. exoticproduct.thumb

Fruandes is a Fair Trade Organization which works directly with fruit farmers and operates a fruit drying and packaging company. They establish long term relationships with the farmers and help facilitate the organic certification process.

Dragon Fruit is used in our Exotic Mix Dried Fruit (Dragon Fruit, Golden Berry & Coconut). Learn more about our Exotic Mix Dried Fruit or purchase a package from our store.

Fruandes Hosts Organic Farmers

israel_filipeFruandes, our supplier of dried fruit, cane sugar and cacao, invited Colombian fruit growers to their facility for the first Organic Farmers Meeting.

It was cold and rainy in bustling Bogotá when the official faces of the associations of small farmers in the Colombian Andes - and Fruandes' major suppliers - gathered for the first time, to share experiences of land, labor, learning, and to discuss the future of their relationship with Fruandes.

fruandesmeetingIn two short days, we learned a lot about their histories and their passion for their work. No life story took an easy road to get where it is now, and yet each one sees their work as a commitment to the welfare of others: "To desire the welfare of our customers is to look into our own welfare" as it was concluded in one of the sessions.

Despite the setbacks and sometimes long road to pursuing organic cultivation, this is a resilient group, made stronger by sharing their successes, obstacles and learnings.

Read more about the Fruandes Organic Farmers Meeting

Rice from the Philippines

spin.rice.thumbLast week we shipped our first orders of Heirloom Rice to Ten Thousand Villages stores in Canada. We thought we would share with you some of the reasons we've decide to offer this rice.

In June, Stacey traveled to the rice terraces in the Philippines to meet and visit with the rice farmers. What he saw there was astounding. Always known as the Eighth Wonder of the World, these Rice Terraces have now been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.

It's important to know that Rice is a crop that has been greatly affected by the movement toward monoculture and the heavy emphasis on planting hybrid varieties. In the Philippines there still remains an incredible variety of heirloom rice.
Read More »

Spreading Wellness Through Tea

notebook.thumbThe 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 bring 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 than 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).
Read More »

Letter from Philip Schluter

Every so often an article appears in the papers that criticizes the Fair Trade movement. In the wake of one of these discouraging articles, Philip Schluter who ships coffees out of Ethiopia, Tanzania and D.R. Congo for Level Ground offered these words of encouragement to us. We thought we'd share them with you as it explains the heart of our work. (Thanks Phil!)

Dear Hugo,

Recent articles flying around on the rights and wrongs of Fair Trade have had me thinking, and I thought that I would put pen to paper (or at least fingers to keyboard) and write a few words of encouragement to you and the team at Level Ground.

As I have stated several times, I think that Level Ground has the best model for sourcing coffee in a sustainable way that makes an impact that I have seen in the market. We deal with over 70 roaster around the world, and I have been in the business for 20 years now and seen many different buying systems - and I believe that your model is the best. Why?
Read More »

15 Years of Famicafé

bibiana.hugo.thumbEvery year, Level Ground invests a Direct Fair Trade Community Premium when we purchase coffee from Colombia. Since 1998, we have been investing this community premium in Famicafe. Famicafe has granted 1,184 academic scholarships to rural youth in Colombia plus investments in infrastructure development in rural mountain schools.

The 15th Anniversary report is available

Cacao Nibs of Colombia

cacao-facecacaoLevel Ground recently introduced Cacao Nibs to our family of products. Cacao Nibs are produced by Fruandes, a Fair Trade company in Colombia. We were excited to hear from Giovanni of Fruandes who just returned from visiting the Cacao producers in Urabá, Colombia. This group has an inspiring story since they operate in a tough conflict zone and they are managing to live in peace in a middle of the conflict.

Here is a
visual report of their findings.