We’re also one of Canada’s most successful worker-owned businesses based on a firm belief in “people and the planet before profits”.
Our Story – Getting Started
The story of how Just Us! got started is rather wild and wonderful. Unable to get any information on Fair Trade in Canada, Jeff jumped on a plane to Mexico in December, 1995. He ended up in Chiapas which was in the middle of a civil war which was being fought over who should profit from coffee production.
Traditionally, indigenous communities in Latin America were given the “worst” lands, high in the mountains. As fate would have it, these ended up being the best places to grow good organic coffee. They had begun in the 1970’s to form cooperatives with the help of church development workers and were increasingly able to process and export their own coffee without depending on the agents for the big coffee companies (called “coyotes”)who for generations had taken advantage of them. Now they were fighting it out. The government and the U.S. sided with the “coyotes” while BIG COFFEE tried to eliminate the small coffee farmers, whom they labelled as ‘rebels’ and even ‘communists’, and who were trying desperately to improve their lives.
Jeff managed to get through the military road blocks and past all the huge trees cut down by the Zapatista rebels to block the movement of the army. He travelled far up into the mountains to the coffee growing areas. There, he was able to see first hand the pride that the coffee farmers took in growing their coffee organically and the empowerment and dignity they derived from being members of a co-op. They said Fair Trade was the first thing that had given them real hope for a better future.
Jeff came home with “good news” and “bad news”. The good news was he had found a great Fair Trade co-op that would be thrilled to sell their coffee to Canada but the “bad news” was that he and Debbie would have to put their house up as security to finance a minimum shipment of 10 tons of coffee without having a single customer.
They didn’treally lose much sleep over the decision. They had such a strong beliefin the combination of high quality coffee and Fair Trade – that they plunged ahead and Just Us! has never looked back.