The Coopérative de Solidarité du Café Equitable is a solidarity cooperative based in Montreal, Quebec and intricately linked to its sister coop - Cooperative Coffees, Americus, GA. It is a voluntary association offering communication and promotional services associated to fair trade goods, practices and quality related issues. These services are provided to the members of Cooperative Coffees, its Southern producer partners, and its support members.
The coop itself is comprised of individuals, organizations, and businesses with a like-minded objective to deepen Fair Trade and the relationships that it helps sustain.
On the administrative side of things, we are a tri-lingual office and serve as a communications center between Cooperative Coffees and Producer Partners, facilitating the planning and logistics of our coffee contracts, verifying that quality standards are met and offering feedback to producers. We also help circulate producer information to CC roaster members either directly or via our website. Relating these tasks to the current Cooperative Coffees committee structure and organizing logic, the Canadian office will ultimately be responsible for overseeing work plans and activities stemming from the Green Committee, Communications (internal and external), Quality Control, and Special Projects.
CoopSol has a mixed model, meaning that we have
* User members (roasters or producers that are linked to CC)
* Support members (Coop Coffees is a support member)
* Worker members
The co-operative is structured as a solidarity co-operative having the following goals:
- To operate and strengthen a socially responsible business in the field of fair trade goods ;
- To contribute to the economic prosperity of its members ;
- To continually improve the quality of our relationships and of the fair trade products and services we provide ;
- To assure continuity and congruency with our values for social justice throughout our trading links “from the seed to the finished cup”.
- To provide a forum where the producer voice can be included in a formal and intentional way
Coop Sol's mandate is to help Coop Coffees foster strong producer relationships, in order to import Fair Trade and organic coffee in accordance with mission and values.
- To provide excellent communication
- To promote among members and affiliates
- To manage logistics and mechanics of importation process in tandem with Cooperative Coffees.
Cooperative Coffees' staff is shared between our two offices, our main office in Americus, and our Coop Sol office in Montreal. These are the folks that make the day to day operations of this organization possible. Below are the staff for the Montreal office.
Monika Firl, Cooperative Coffee’s producer relations manager,
has worked with a variety of locally based development projects, while living in Central America and Mexico from 1991 to 2000. Her experiences range from founding and directing a center in San Salvador for the exchange of information on alternative technology, to coordinating a regional program within the Campesino a Campesino network for information exchange on production practices for organic coffee and market alternatives with farmers from Chiapas and the rest of Central America, to direct participation in technical training and marketing development with coffee producers’ cooperatives in Chiapas— including Mut Vitz and Maya Vinic from whom Cooperative Coffees maintains a relationship.
Monika remembers fondly the day when Bill Harris walked through the door of a farmer coop in Chiapas - where she worked at the time - and began to "tell the story" of his interest in Fair Trade and the ideas he had for supporting small farmers. That conversation stuck with her (as well as the sincerity and positive vision) and the relationship with a soon to be formed Cooperative Coffees began a few short years later - first coordinating some visits to farmer coops in Chiapas, then with communication support and now as Producer Relations Manager and Director of Cooperative Coffee's "sister coop" - Cooperative de Solidarite du Cafe Equitable, CoopSol.
Florent Gout, Born in Sete (southern France, Florent grew up on the Mediterranean coast. After having achieved his secondary education, he decided to go abroad in order to explore undergraduate studies in international trade. After few months, he met a Professor involved in the development of ethics in trade activities who introduced him to the Fair Trade principles.
Fascinated by this new vision, he investigated further and was quickly convinced by the Fair Trade movement. A final school project led to Vietnam where he spent a month with cashew nut producers. There he got to work closely with producers and concretely understand the benefits that Fair Trade can bring them. After his studies, he had the opportunity to pursue the Fair Trade adventure, he said: “I really had the chance to get an enjoying job immediately after my graduation”. He became responsible of import operations for OXFAM Fair Trade in Montreal. This experience gave him a strong background in the management of import operations, forecasting, and inventory.
A short experience in the conventional food industry was enough to convince him that Fair Trade was his preferred way of business! He did not hesitate to apply when he saw the Job offer posted by Coop Coffees. “The CC structure is a perfect proof that collective unity is stronger than individual actions, and I definitively believe it," Florent says. "I am really glad to enter such a dynamic team!”
Ellen Meredith, An innocent question "Is it possible that coffee would taste like green peas?" sent Ellen down an entirely new career track in the fall of 2010.
Having retired from the advertising world, the stay-at-home mom role, and 15 years as a self-employed caterer, Ellen is now lab the assistant at Coop Coffees Montreal. Sample roasting and cupping since October, she is now armed with an SCAA succesful cupping course, and continues to hone her roasting skills, as well as fine tune her gifted discerning palate.
In between tennis matches and volunteer horseback riding with handicapped children, Ellen will also be planning and assisting with events such as our 'Roaster Workshops'.
Felipe Gurdian Piza, Born and raised in Costa Rica, Felipe developed a taste (and love!) of coffee as a kid and has been a stickler for good coffee since. He came to Montreal originally to get his Bachelors of Arts degree in Economics and History at McGill University. One fateful summer Felipe decided to remain in Montreal (to enjoy the city at its fullest!) and pursue a career in development. Felipe came to CoopSol the summer of 2010, humbly offering translation services as an intern, little did he suspect that we would so quickly grasp upon his myriad of talents and be offering him a part-time, leading to full-time position by the summer of 2011 as a logistics and communications assistant!
Deborah Shea joined Coop Coffees in April 2012. Prior to her immersion in coffee, she worked for more than 20 years in the Canadian book industry. First in retail, then as a partner/owner of Hornblower Books, she was a key player in this national book publishers’ representation group, where she served as CFO. Deborah now serves as the Montreal accountant and office manager, overseeing administration and Coop Coffees communications. Deborah is excited to be a part of the organic fair trade world, and to be drinking great coffee! She enjoys yoga, books and hanging out with her family.
*photos and staff descriptions courtesy of Cooperative Coffees. www.coopcoffees.coop