“Talk the Walk and Walk the Talk” Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-operative has been supporting the global fair trade movement for almost two decades. The advancement of fair trade has been positive and rapid and has evolved, arguably, away from some of its foundational concepts of land sovereignty, ecological farming, and community development.
In a recent re-visioning of Just Us!, we found in fact we are more than Fair Trade, we are a co- operative that has focused on food and farmers of the global south. Whether it was working with farmers to increase quality of product, or to help with organic certification, or to help form co- operative marketing and promotion of small producer products, Just Us! can best be described as an organization “listening to and working with” farmers.
We recognize that smallholder farms, both globally and locally, hold the most promising solutions to address food sovereignty, food security, land and water usage, and climate change, To this end, for our products that we purchase globally, we have adopted the Small Producer Symbol to support the important work of these producers.
Just Us! over the past 5 years or so has been asked to participate in many agricultural conferences bringing the stories of our producers. We soon began to see there was synergy with the small producers here in Atlantic Canada and the struggles of small producers the world over. We identified a need to bring together small producers to talk about the issues they were facing.
Just Us! purchased 5 acres behind its main building in Grand Pré with the idea that we might want to expand our building. We found out later that it would be very difficult to change this land from agricultural at this time. So ideas began to percolate.
Through our relationship with Dr. Av Singh, Organic Specialist with Perennia we began to share our idea of a Centre for Small Farms and eventually invited him to join us in the role of Producer Relations and to help us found the Centre for Small Farms and start the Just Food! Farm on our property.
Just Us! has told the story of those that are marginalized our history. Here in Grand Pré (A UNESCO World Heritage Site) we use land that was owned by the Mi’kmaq people and their
story has been misrepresented time and time again. There are few places that really tell the truth. We have the opportunity to work with Mi’kmaq elders to highlight the gifts and strengths of the Mi’kmaq people that allowed those that settled here to survive. They were a people of peace, co-operation and community.
“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” — Ancient Indian Proverb
Volume 4 Issue 6
sustainability, rather it hopes to provide the venue for farmers to gather, share, plan, and act. More specifically, the Centre hopes to help create a just food system through these objectives:
To promote small-scale farming techniques
to aspiring, beginning, and experienced farmers through workshops, on-farm demonstrations; and guest speakers. The Just Us! Centre for Small Farms looks forward to building collaborative partnerships in program delivery with groups like Perennia, ACORN (Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network), as well as on-farm mentors and educational organizations like Heliotrust; Pollination Project, and Windhorse Farm.
To connect local farmers with farmers from the Global South and create opportunities to share and exchange wisdom to improve the efficiency and resiliency of small-scale farming. Global South farmers are well experienced with the successes and challenges of a fair trade model, which may also have merit in a Canadian context. The Just Us! Centre for Small Farms will foster relationships with other Fair Trade Organizations (e.g., FUNDEPPO, CLAC, etc.) as well as international food and farming organizations (National Farmers’ Union; Slow Food; Navdanya; Food First:, Rodale Institute; GRAIN; USC, La Via Campesina, etc.) and co-operatives and businesses in support of small-scale farming (e.g., Scotian Gold Coop; Johnny’s Select Seeds; Homestead Organics, etc.).
To celebrate and acknowledge the historical and continued contributions of indigenous and colonial cultures to small scale farming. Integral to creating a just food system is the acknowledgment and respect of traditional and local ways of knowing.
To educate consumers about a just food diet where food security, food sovereignty, health (human, animal, plant, soil, and environment), farm profitability, and rural community viability are all acknowledged — using Schumacheresque phrasing ‘’farming as if everything mattered”.
To grow food for the Just Us! Kitchen to use for the Just Us! Coffeehouses. To grow food to produce value added products that will be sold in the Just Us! Coffeehouses.
The Just Us! Centre for Small Farms believes that a just food system is possible, both at a local and global level, and that a unity and connectedness of small scale farmers, globally, is a prerequisite. The Centre for Small Farms will employ farmers- in-residence to manage a demonstration farm (The Just Food! Farm) to serve as a “meeting place” for farmers.
The farm will highlight farmer-to-farmer innovations and celebrate traditional knowledge systems looking to that wisdom to guide solutions for a resilient agriculture. The Just Food! Farm looks to acknowledge the contributions made by the Mi’kmaq, the Acadians, the Planters, and the United Empire Loyalists, with specific interest in the early relationships between the Indigenous population and the French Colonists.
Using the Spanish proverb, “we make the road by walking” the Just Us! Centre for Small Farms does not want to be prescriptive on what the small-farm community will need to address