Direct Producer Relationships
Coyotes & Co-Ops
Just Us! is committed to working with small-scale organic farmers that are organized into democratic producer co-ops. We have many direct relationships with producer organizations in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa.
Sourcing from producers started when one of our founders, Jeff Moore came across a small advertisement from a coffee co-operative in a New Internationalist magazine and jumped on a plane to Mexico in December, 1995. He haphazardly met a new friend, Jeronimo, in a café and was soon guided into the Chiapas highlands, where a civil war 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. In the 1970’s, with the help of church development workers, the communities began to form cooperatives 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 for their right to organize their own businesses, trying desperately to improve their lives. The government and the U.S. sided with the “coyotes” while BIG COFFEE tried to eliminate the small coffee farmers completely, labeling them 'rebels' and even 'communists'.
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.
Since then, Just Us! members and employees have been travelling to origin countires regularly to meet the incredible people, lands, communities and co-ops that grow and process our products. We have also invited producers to travel to meet with us in Nova Scotia.