Fiona Duguid – Interview with La Siembra Co-operative on March 10, 2017

How did you become involved in La Siembra?

I was doing my PhD at University of Toronto in community development and in the curriculum there was a component on fair trade. I have since made my career in researching co-ops, but back then what La Siembra was doing was new to me. I was a student and didn’t have a lot of money but I made my first investment in La Siembra because I wanted to make an investment with my values and to take advantage of the opportunity to learn more by being an investor in this type of co-op. 

 

What are some of the pros and cons of investing in La Siembra?

I think of it as an investment that, while it hasn’t been super lucrative, supports many things I care about and still holds its value. I don’t wear the title of investor often, but it is important to be involved in co-operatives that do things beyond what the market does. As businesses go through their ups and downs, an investment in La Siembra stays steady and sticks with its original goals.

In a bigger way, there is a real challenge for people who want to get their money into good places. Your investment advisor won’t hear of these social change investments like La Siembra, so my investing makes this kind of investment more visible. It’s only word-of-mouth education for now, but having the courage to invest with values, to invest in good communities, is important to counterbalance the advice that’s out there to invest in things like bombs or big tobacco. 

And the cons?

So those are two of the pros of my investment in La Siembra – staying true and investing in something positive.  Of the cons, there haven’t been negatives. There has not been much in the way of dividends, but the shares have not lost value.  And it has the benefit of being a value-based investment and a way to educate the investment community. 

Where does your investment in La Siembra fit into your overall approach to saving and investing?

I can imagine that there are more than enough people who would want to have five percent or some part of their investments in businesses like La Siembra. For instance, look at all those one-time investment platforms – Kickstarter, gofundme, there are lots of those. People will send money in to those to invest in new (or even weird) projects and get no say in how the project is governed or what happens next on the project. La Siembra gives investors a chance to invest and to be involved. I’m not a worker-owner, so I don’t get a vote, but La Siembra helps investors feel part of the organization, to get involved, and to help move the business forward. There is a lot more opportunity for me to participate in La Siembra than in some kind of Kickstarter campaign. There is a place for co-ops to do more in the investment world, and as we think of new and hybrid ways to participate financially in things, then co-ops could create a new platform. In this way, we investors in La Siembra have been ahead of the curve.

What is your favorite Camino product?

[Laughs] Oh, at our house, it is the Milk chocolate and sea salt bar that we eat all the time. Maybe the chocolate connoisseurs out there might choose a different one, but what can I say, it’s delicious. Also, as an investor we got the Maple hot chocolate before anyone else, and that has been a hot item in our house. 

Is there anything else you would like to share?

From an organizational standpoint, I serve on the boards of several co-ops and La Siembra has always been supportive of the wider co-op world. La Siembra embraces its co-op values – that principle of co-ops helping co-ops – and that is important. When it comes to fair trade, to co-ops, to organic farming, La Siembra walks the talk and that’s the kind of organization I want to be part of.