La naissance du premier rôtissoire de café du marché équitable au Canada

C'est en 1995 que Jeff Moore est allé au Mexique pour savoir s'il serait possible de produire du café de meilleure qualité et d'une manière responsable pour la société et l'environnement. À cette époque, une guerre civile faisait rage au sud du Mexique concernant la distribution des profits de la production du café, la principale ressource économique de la région. Jeff pu constater que les collectivités indigènes faisaient pousser le café d'une façon naturelle sur des terres de la forêt tropicale que personne d'autre ne voulait. Et leur café se revendait aux meilleurs prix sur les marchés équitables et organiques d'Europe. Jeff retourna au Canada et avec sa femme mis sur pied l'entreprise " Just Us ", la première rôtisserie équitable au Canada.

Just Us! 
How Canada’s First Fair Trade Coffee Roaster Was Born

Jeff Moore
September 2006

l.gif (280 bytes)hen we started Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-op back in the fall of 1995, we had no idea we would end up where we are today.

Just Us! was Canada's first Fair Trade coffee roaster. It was actually started a few years before Fair Trade was officially launched in Canada.

We had no capital, no business experience, and no customers - just a conviction that there should be a market for higher quality coffee that was produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

After trying, with no luck, to get guidance from various people in government, co-operative organizations, and the coffee industry, I finally decided to go right to Mexico and find out for myself what might be possible. That was December 1995.

I had the name of a Fair Trade coffee co-operative, Union de la Selva (meaning Rainforest) from a recent issue of the New Internationalist magazine.

I ended up in the mountains of Chiapas in the very south of Mexico which was, at the time, in the middle of a civil war. Met by an agronomist, Juan from Union de la Selva, at the bus station in Comitan, we proceeded high into the mountains. We had to pass through military checkpoints and by numerous troop carriers. You could see the remnants of big trees, cut and laid across the mountain roads by the Zapatista guerillas trying to interrupt army movements.

Paths are being developed through the magnificent old growth rainforests.
(Photo: Jeff Moore)

The war was basically being fought over who should profit from coffee production, which was the main economic resource in the area. Traditionally, small-scale indigenous farmers had to depend totally on the big coffee companies to transport, process, and export their coffee. Now, they were organizing into co-operatives and attempting to bypass the big companies and their "coyotes" or coffee buyers who paid the farmers as little as possible.

These indigenous farmers were now willing to risk their lives for a better future for their families and communities.

A capable driver and diplomat, Juan took us above the fray and above the clouds to the idyllic community of San Fernando. There we met Antonio and Sarita and their two children. Antonio showed us his "coffee gardens" growing organically right in the middle of the rainforest with the tropical hardwoods providing the necessary shade for the coffee plants.

It was so ironic that these indigenous communities, given land high in the mountains that nobody else wanted and growing their coffee naturally in the rainforest because they could not afford agro-chemicals was now able to produce superior quality coffee that was selling for top prices in the Fair Trade and organic markets in Europe.

They said that for the first time, Fair Trade had given them real hope for a better future.

I returned to Nova Scotia and shared with my wife Debra the "good news" and the "bad news".

Jeff Moore (third from left) meeting with coffee co-op in Oaxaca, Mexico to discuss Fair Trade tourism project.
(Photo: Jeff Moore)

The good news of course, was that I saw tremendous benefits to producers from the whole Fair Trade idea and that the La Selva co-op had great coffee and was very excited about the prospect of selling to Canada.

The "bad news" was that we would have to put our house up as security to buy a whole container (17 tons) of coffee - again, without a single customer to whom to sell it.

Now, over ten years later, I would not say it has always been easy but we have never had to worry about looking for customers. Most of the time, it has been an effort just trying to hang on for the ride.

We have grown from our first shipment of coffee from Chiapas in the Spring of 1996 to buying coffee from around the world and many other products too - tea, chocolate, and sugar - all 100% Fair Trade and Organic.

It's amazing how little it takes to make a big difference in the lives of Third World producers. Fair Trade really gives these producers a step up so they can provide for themselves, improve their communities (schools, clinics, public transportation etc), and continue to develop other economic enterprises.

The latest interest of Just Us! is in Fair Trade tourism. So many of our Third World partners want to diversify so that they are not dependent just on coffee or sugar or another crop. They have tremendous potential in terms of their natural and cultural beauty - but need support in terms of financing, planning and marketing.

For us, it gives our customers an opportunity to be welcomed by our producing partners and see first-hand the benefits of Fair Trade.

For more information: www.justuscoffee.com  www.transfair.ca