changing our food system
We partner with small-scale farmer organizations to build
a more sustainable and equitable food system.
At Camino, we believe in the power of collaboration and community. Founded in 1999, we’re not just a brand; we’re a cooperative. Our story is one of solidarity, empowerment, and a shared commitment to positive change.
We, the worker-owners of La Siembra Co-operative, are committed to a model of equitable trade rooted in co-operation and the social solidarity economy. We offer consumers high-quality ethical products through partnerships with producer co-operatives that foster sustainable livelihoods and community development. We believe in meaningful, dignified employment and are guided by the co-operative principles, by the fair trade principles, and by a respect for the environment.
Our environmental impact
- Organic Ingredients: We’re serious about sustainability. That’s why all our ingredients are organic. It’s better for the environment, better for the soil, and better for you.
- Reducing our waste: Where possible, we work on finding solutions to reduce the environmental impact of our packaging. Our chocolate bars are a good example. The inside seal is backyard compostable, made from wood pulp. The outer wrapper is recyclable FSC paper printed with vegetable inks. We also partner with local food banks to ensure our delicious products find a good home when unsold.
- Operations and Logistics: Faster is not better. We make conscious choices when it comes to our imports. We use ocean freight over air freight. It’s a more environmentally responsible choice to reduce our carbon footprint.
- Supporting Environmental Causes: We care about the environment in our backyard. Through our sponsorship program, we support Canadian environmental organizations and initiatives that matter to us.
- Carbon Offset Bonds: Climate change is real, and we’re taking action. We have invested in carbon offset bonds that directly fund reforestation projects led by our producer partners in regions where they operate.
- Plant-Based Milk Products: As part of our response to growing environmental concerns among consumers of Camino products, we have introduced new cocoa-based products made with milk substitutes. They’re not just delicious; they have a smaller environmental footprint too.
Our Canadian roots
Sowing the seeds of change since 1999
Two decades ago our Canadian co-op, La Siembra, pioneered Fair Trade in cocoa and sugar. Together, we have helped strengthen the democratic organizations of thousands of small-scale farmers. However, as the popularity of fair trade grows, big corporations are attempting to lower the standards.
To protect the future of small-scale farmers, we need to defend the fundamentals of the fair trade model and continue to advocate for greater economic justice in our food system. With your support and engagement, we can do this!
A small mixing machine, a worthwhile idea and a few believers.
La Siembra was established in 1999 by three young entrepreneurs. Having worked overseas, the founders of La Siembra experienced the exploitative nature of trade on the lives of family farmers. These three friends decided to provide Canadian consumers with an alternative to conventionally traded products in bringing fair trade and organic products to Canada and by organizing as a worker-owned co-operative.
La Siembra is the name of our co-op. It means “sowing” or “planting time” in Spanish, a symbol for the seeds of change we are sowing through our co-operative and fair trade business models.
Camino is our brand of fair trade and organic products. It means “path” in Spanish. The swirl on our Camino logo represents the route and connection between all actors of the supply chain…. It is the symbol of the path that connects us all, from farmers to consumers and consumers to farmers in a social solidarity economy.
Year 1 was spent in the community kitchen of First United Church—a socially progressive church in Ottawa. As there was no fair trade certification system for cocoa-based products at that time, La Siembra’s founders adopted the guidelines of the Fair Trade Foundation. They began sourcing cocoa from a co-operative in Costa Rica and sugar from a mill supporting co-operative farmers in Paraguay. An organic recipe was developed and the founders began to manufacture and distribute a hot chocolate, sugar and cocoa line themselves.
Fair trade pioneers
In 2002, La Siembra worked with Fairtrade Canada (then Transfair Canada) to develop a certification system for cocoa, chocolate and sugar products in Canada and became the first registered importers of Fairtrade certified cocoa and sugar in North America.
Over the years the Camino line has grown to include a full line of various chocolate bars, baking products, and a range of industrial larger format sized premium ingredients.
Most recently, La Siembra created an international alliance of worker-owned co-operatives with Equal Exchange in the US, and opened a 10,000 square foot warehouse in downtown Ottawa.
La Siembra Co-operative works directly with over 25 producer co-ops in 14 countries, contributing to the livelihoods of over 47,500 small scale family farmers.
As we look to the next twenty years, we are proud our ideas about justice for small scale cocoa and sugar farmers is now an idea recognized by most Canadians and followed in many chocolate products at all supermarkets. There is still a lot of work to be done to build justice for farmers in the chocolate industry. As worker-owners of a Canadian co-op, we will continue to push the boundaries to give shoppers a chance to vote with their dollars to support co-operatives and their democratic model, and organic agriculture.
We are grateful for the support of our producer partners, investors, customers, loyal consumers and fellow advocates; as without them it wouldn’t be possible to continue do the great work we do.
Located in Ottawa, we are an employee-owned and democratically-run worker co-operative.
If you have a passion for fair trade and are interested in joining our small team of co-entrepreneurs, we’d love to hear from you!
Have a question about our products? Consult our FAQ page or fill-in our online form.
Are you writing a story on Camino? Don’t hesitate to reach out.
La Siembra’s capital model
Why invest in fair trade? We have several reasons for you.