The following is a guest post by Patricia Pearson of Level Ground Trading, and Board Chair of the Fair Trade Federation. Some of you may remember Level Ground as one of our Welcome and June Box partners (shop those boxes here).
We are thrilled that Patricia has agreed to share part of her story with us here. We wholeheartedly support the work of Level Ground specifically, and fair trade practices in general. Read below to find out more about Patricia's work with Level Ground, and what fair trade means to her.
I often take “work walks” with my colleagues at Level Ground. On a recent walk, Robyn, our Marketing Lead, asked what Level Ground and fair trade meant to me. The one word that came to mind was connection - to our friends and our community, locally and globally.
The concept of fair trade can be complex, but at the heart of it (and the heart of Level Ground), is the connection between a producer and a consumer. Fair trade connects us to the incredible people who grow our food, craft our mugs, and sew our clothes.
And thus our new tagline was born: 'The Coffee that Connects You'.
My connection to Level Ground began in 2011. I was in the middle of completing a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. My classmates and I toured Level Ground as part of a social enterprise club. Stacey Toews, co-founder and co-owner of Level Ground led the tour. His passion and devotion to fair trade were contagious.
I was struck by the impact that such a little bean has on the lives of so many people. I understood the power it had to fuel me through university, but I had no idea how it deeply affected the lives of the 125 million people that depend on it for their livelihood.
A year later I was working with Level Ground and visiting coffee, sugar, and fruit farmers in Colombia. While I had heard many of their stories through others, these face-to-face connections were different.
Two connections stand out for me. The first was to a woman named Esilda. Esilda works for Fruandes, a company started by Level Ground to employ internal refugees in Colombia. Fruandes partners with small-scale fruit farmers and cuts, dries and packages the fruit, which is sold through Level Ground (and in the Good Stuff Box)!
Esilda proudly toured us around her brand new home. It was a very simple cinder block building with a living room, kitchen and two bedrooms. Compared to our drywalled and carpeted homes it felt cold to me, but to Esilda it was a safe and permanent place for her family. As a new mother, I connected with this.
According to Esilda, her home was thanks to God, the government (who provided her with a loan), and Fruandes for consistent and sustainable income to be able to pay the loan. As a single mother who left her home in rural Colombia to find work in Bogotá, Esilda believed her home was nothing short of a miracle.
And then there is William. William was around the same age as I was, maybe younger, and had recently inherited his father’s farm. Like so many of his peers, William had moved to the city to live and work. Following his father’s passing, he moved back to manage the farm - something that would not have been sustainable if Level Ground were only paying the conventional price for his crops.
Having recently lost my own father, I felt William’s deep desire to move home and connect with his father’s land in this way. It was also through William that I really began to understand the impact of a fair price and of connecting with the people who produce the items we purchase.
Back at home I am able to share these connections with our customers (that’s you), my friends, and my community.
The power of coffee to connect is great. The power of fair trade coffee is even greater!