Coffee lovers – pay attention!
Stacey Toews and his team at Level Ground Trading are bringing something incredible to the global economy that is lacking in most transactions – something so powerful it changes the way we think about the products we purchase and our consumer impact.
They are bringing the human narrative into the story.
“There is so much of the global economy that has been militantly oppositional to connecting the dots,” explains Toews, “because so much of the drive for profitability has been on keeping things and places and sources anonymous. Whether it’s a person in a field, a farmer or a factory, if you knew their name and you knew their face and you knew their lifestyle, and how your purchase of a product supported their lifestyle…in that potential connection, the economy becomes humanized.”
And that is the basis of the Level Ground Trading brand – personalizing products that come from typically anonymous places, being that ‘humanizing bridge between consumer community and producer community’ by consistently buying products from farmers at a fair price in advance.
So, how does this all happen?
“We look to partner with farmers who have the means to produce product, who don’t have any or adequate customers for their production capacity, and then through visits and personal dialogue with that community of producers we want to chart a path together that looks at how change is brought about in that community, economically speaking, through that trade relationship being developed, without using charity or donations.”
Currently, Level Ground Trading has trading relationships in ten different countries. They started out with coffee and have now expanded to tea, spices, dried fruit, cacao nibs, cane sugar, heirloom rice, coconut oil and vanilla.
Like, real vanilla. Not the GMO ethanol based, vanilla-flavoured extract that many of us use in our everyday baking. Level Ground Trading wants us to consider that vanilla actually grows as a bean as part of the orchid family, and you can purchase the whole bean, split it open and use the actual seeds in the food you will consume. And there is no need for trafficking heavy liquids or GMO products. “And in our case,” Toews goes on to say, “this model allows us to put the bulk of your purchase into the hands of the farmer in Uganda for having grown the vanilla bean.”
How’s that for some extra flavour in your cake?
Their model also gives the farmer the bonus of predictability. By creating and maintaining long-term relationships within the same farms and communities, the producers know what they will be paid a year from now, two years from now. That creates a lot of stability within their own homes and lives.
But this isn’t just about ‘helping’ the farmer – this is a two way street. A level ground trade, as their name implies. Their company has employed 3 dozen full-time Canadians and is growing. Around the time of this publication, the company is getting ready to relocate to a larger facility after 20 years in the same space. This new facility, just 800 m up the road from their current one in Victoria, B.C., is also designed to facilitate tours where you can learn the behind-the-scenes operation of the company.
In fact, transparency is a huge part of how things work for them. Do you want to see the numbers? Here they are. Right down to how much the farmers were paid.
So, how do you get your hands on some of their coffee and other products? You can shop their online store from the comfort of your own home – perhaps knock off a few Christmas gifts for some foodies on your list. Or you can visit one of the 1700 grocery or health food stores they supply each month. For example, you’ll find their products in Ten Thousand Villages, Costco, Choices or IGA. Or use their store locator to find a place close to you.
Follow Level Ground Trading on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Reach out with any questions or comments through their social channels. If you’re not sure where to start, ask them about their zero-waste policy that they have implemented for the last 13 years. Stacey will blow your mind with his team’s commitment to the planet and the humans who call it home!