• By: Emma Dykstra

Ottawa company La Siembra celebrates 20 years of fair trade chocolate

In 1999, three people bought a small mixing machine and set it up in the basement of an Ottawa church where they manually canned tins of hot chocolate and cocoa powders with the help of various volunteers. 

Today, they are known as La Siembra Co-operative, a worker-owned co-operative, and as the creators of the fair trade and organic Camino brand. La Siembra works with 25 producer co-ops, supporting more than 47,500 family farmers in 14 countries. 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.

“When we decided to join together as a worker-owned cooperative, our vision was to popularize organic and fair trade 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.”.

This year, La-Siembra will be celebrating 20 years of their fair trade Camino chocolate bars and cocoa. With this celebration comes a message for consumers. “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.”

Visit their website to find a store near you that sells Camino products as a way to celebrate their twenty years of success alongside of them.