Local choices with a global impact: Ottawa’s La Siembra Co-operative celebrating 20 years of fair trade Camino chocolate bars and cocoa

From three founders in an Ottawa church basement to supporting more than 47,500 family farmers in 14 countries.

Wednesday October 9th, 2019 (Ottawa) — La Siembra Co-operative, producer of popular Camino chocolate bars and cocoa, is celebrating its 20th year. In 1999 three founders bought a small mixing machine and set it up in the basement of a church in Ottawa were they manually canned tins of hot chocolates and cocoa powders with the help of volunteers. 

Long before fair trade and environmental concerns were front-page news, La Siembra became the first registered importer of Fairtrade Certified cocoa and sugar in North America. Fairtrade ensures better prices and labour practices for farmers and workers around the world.

“When we decided to join together as a worker-owned cooperative, our vision was to popularize organic and fairtrade hot chocolate as a vehicle for change in the way consumers engage in the products they love,” said Tia Loftsgard, a founder and now the executive director of the Canada Organic Trade Association. ”We wanted to institutionalize that farmers in the global south earned enough money to stay farming their land, to invest in their communities and to be able to live a life with dignity and opportunity. I am so very proud of everything La Siembra has accomplished in the last twenty years”.

Today the worker-owned co-operative works with 25 producer co-ops, supporting more than 47,500 family farmers in 14 countries. At a time when just 51 per cent of small- and medium-sized businesses survive for five years (Source: Industry Canada), celebrating 20 years is a major accomplishment.  However, growing the business was not smooth sailing. La Siembra has had to overcome many challenging moments. From failed product launches, to exchange rate mitigation, and economic downturns, like many small mission-based enterprises weathering these storms can be difficult.

Furthermore, in a world of growing consolidation and corporate ownership over our food systems and our agricultural value chains, their place as a 100% fair-trader, independent, and democratically run organization is definitely inspirational but getting more and more difficult to defend.

“Every purchase we make here at home has a consequence” says Mélanie Broguet, La Siembra’s product development and marketing manager. “Consumers need to realize that they have the power to change the way companies do business. Each time they buy a product, they support the practices that have been put in place to make that product. Today, more than half of the world’s poorest people (2 billion people) live on small farms in rural areas of developing countries, earning less than two dollars a day. Worldwide, 152 million children are still in child labour. Consumers can change this by voting with their dollars. In choosing fair trade and organic products, they are telling companies they don’t want products that are supporting an economic system that keeps exploiting and impoverishing farmers and their soils, and jeopardizing the future of our planet.”

-This story was orginally published on La Siembra Co-operative's website, camino.ca


About La Siembra Co-operative

La Siembra Co-operative is a fair trade, worker-owned co-operative, which seeks to promote a new model of trading partnerships guided by the principles of fair trade. Incorporated in 1999, La Siembra is one of the first companies to import, manufacture and distribute Fair Trade and organic certified sugar and cocoa products in North America and has since branched out into Fair Trade and organic certified hot chocolate, chocolate bars and baking products.
La Siembra’s Camino® lines of consumer products are sold in over 3,000 retail outlets across Canada.

About Worker Co-operatives in Canada

Worker co-operatives are businesses that are owned and democratically controlled by their members. The main purpose of a worker co-operative is to provide employment for its members through operating an enterprise that follows the Co-operative Principles and Values. When new employees join the business, after a successful probationary period they are encouraged to apply for membership. The worker co-op is, in principle, designed to provide benefits not just to the founding members but also to all future employee/members. For more information, please see this resource from the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation.

Media contact 

Mélanie Broguet, melanie@camino.ca, 613-235-6122;325, 613-850-9082