Throughout 2019, I have had the opportunity to visit many of the incredible businesses that are the economic engine of Saanich North and the Islands. As local business are the engine of the local economy, coffee is the fuel that propels me through most days. I love coffee! So, in my most recent stop in the tour I visited Level Ground Trading.
My tour of local business is inspired by the annual tour of industry hosted by the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. I was on the very first tour when I was a Councillor in Central Saanich several years ago. That was when I first met Stacey Toews, one of Level Ground’s co-founders. Earlier this fall we reconnected at their new purpose-built facility to discuss how far they’ve come and what they do for the local and global community.
In 2018, Level Ground moved into their brand new space above the Butler gravel pit in Keating. Not only do they roast delicious coffee beans on site but they are also open for visitors in their tasting room to try their quality coffee, and learn more about the story of their business success.
In 1997, four families got together with the idea of improving the lives of disadvantaged producers through trade. Inspired by the work of Ten Thousand Villages, they wanted to see the principles of Fair Trade applied to foods we consume every day.
Millions of people enjoy coffee and the industry has a tremendous environmental and social impact far away from where most people drink it. The founding families of Level Ground wanted to try to improve the outcomes as much as possible. That is why they have focused on building personal relationships with the farmers in countries across the globe, and committed to limit the waste produced in their local operations as much as possible.
“Shake the hands that farm the land.”
Level Ground’s first Fair Trade initiative was buying coffee from a cooperative in Colombia. The result of the relationship has been the benefit of educational scholarships for over 200 students annually. Since then, they have built trade relationships with communities of small-scale coffee farmers in Bolivia, Peru, Ethiopia, Tanzania & the D.R. Congo.
In addition to coffee, they have expanded their product lines with a partnership with a Colombian company that was formed to produce dried fruit and cane sugar. They have pushed further, sourcing tea from small-scale growers in India and spices from Sri Lanka.
By committing to fair trade values, each trade relationship is different. They are tailored to the needs of the different farming communities: healthcare benefits, school scholarships, agricultural technical training, and co-op projects. Each relationship is responsive with the ability to evolve and change as the needs and desires require.
Walking the talk
Ensuring environmental sustainability has always been a priority for Level Ground. From the early days until now, they have maintained a ‘zero to landfill’ mandate for their office and roasting facility. They compost over 20,000 pounds of organic matter and reclaim 24,000 empty coffee packages each year. Also they try to minimize the environmental impact of transportation of their staff by paying their employees to bike, carpool or bus to work.
With their biggest initiative yet in their new facility, Level Ground has upped their game in sustainability by recovering the roasting heat and thus reducing their natural gas consumption by 43%.
“The coffee that connects you.”
I have always been impressed by Level Ground because they have demonstrated that business does not have to be solely motivated by profits. Our community has watched Level Ground grow and be successful while balancing important social and environmental values at the centre of their philosophy.
It’s with this recognition in mind that I raise my hands to the families that started Level Ground and the employees that produce a high quality product that is competitive in the marketplace and whose bottom line is about principles, people and planet.
What is fair trade coffee and why is it crucial for the coffee industry? Read more here. I am proud we serve Level Ground coffee in our constituency office! Did you know our boardroom is your boardroom? For bookings please send us an email.