Wakefield celebrates 25 years of Bean Fair Coffee and decade of fair trade
Twenty-three years ago, Anne Winship drank the best cup of coffee she ever had in her life — a coffee that would change her life forever. It was a steaming, hot cup of Bean Fair Coffee — one of the first 10 certified fair trade businesses in Canada, and she loved it so much that she wanted to sell it.
“I thought it was something that I believed in and that I could do as an at-home business,” said Bean Fair Coffee owner Winship.
The Wakefield mom had just given birth to her son Angus and was looking for something to pay the bills but not exhaust her. She took over Bean Fair from a crew of Ottawa Coffee gals and started selling it locally, part-time. It wasn’t long before Wakefield woke up and smelled the coffee.
“It was challenging back then because I knew what fair trade was, but hardly anyone did back then,” added Winship. “I was in Wakefield, so that was a good start. People here are aware of the bigger picture in the world, so that helped. Wakefield has been my biggest sales point, consistently.”
Bean Fair turns a whopping 25 this year — 23 of those years under Winship’s steady command. The business may not be on top of TSE, but that was never the idea. Winship’s vision for Bean Fair coffee was “small is beautiful.” Although she may never reach millions in sales every year, she said she is aware of the difference her business has made in other parts of the world.
Winship purchases her certified organic beans from countries plagued with socio-economic issues – Peru, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Bolivia – places with “no social safety nets.” Winship visited one of the cooperatives she supports in Bolivia almost a decade ago and saw first-hand the difference Hills coffee aficionados are making.
“[Fair trade coffee producers] get a stable price per pound for coffee and they also get a social payment too, so they can hire teachers, get new trucks, improve their infrastructure,” explained Winship.
“That’s the main point — that you are helping people by what you are buying. It’s not charity. You get an excellent product and the producers get a stable living.”
Almost a decade into her Bean Fair business, Winship decided to extend her vision and helped La Pêche become the first certified Fair Trade Town in Quebec. It was another way for Winship and committee members Dougal Rattray, Alise Marlane and Chantal Plamondon to move the fair trade ball forward — and the support kept coming. She had representation from the former St. Andrew’s Church minister Gisele Gilfillan, support from Wakefield Commerce members Roberta Bouchard and Plamondon, as well as political support from then Wakefield councillor Lynne Berthiaume. Everyone believed in the idea and it began to flower.
Since that Fair Trade Town sign went up on at the Wakefield Spring along Valley Drive 15 years ago, Wakefield has fully embraced its status. There is fair-trade chocolate, soccer balls, bananas, sugar, molasses, rice and more. Several Wakefield restos also jumped on board, with the Wakefield Mill, Nikosi, and Pipolinka Bakery all using fair trade products in their dishes.
“They are all products that have sketchy backgrounds with labour. With chocolate, there is child slavery; bananas traditionally come with terrible working conditions with pesticides,” explained Winship. “All the fair trade products and coffee too, they are grown in an environmental way. My coffee is also certified organic, but all the fair trade products have an environmental component too.”
Winship is throwing a 15th-anniversary bash at the Wakefield Market’s opening weekend, May 14, and will also be celebrating 25 years of Bean Fair coffee the same day. She’s inviting locals to come down and celebrate the difference they’ve all made together over the last two-and-a-half decades.
The party gets underway at 9 a.m.