Nov 14, 2016

New Cellulosic Sugar Producers Co-op is open for business

Last week, farmers in and around the Sarnia area visited two field-sites to see first-hand the process of collecting corn stover and wheat straw from their fields to be repurposed into feedstock and other products as part of the introduction and launch of the newly incorporated Cellulosic Sugar Producers Co-operative (CSPC).

It has been four years of research and development in the making with the AGRIS Co-operative board of directors in the forefront of the project from the beginning stages of contemplation, starting in 2012.

“The co-op is ready to sign up members and is looking for 55,000 contracted acres from local farmers," says Jim Campbell CSPC secretary and AGRIS Co-op general manager. 

Plans are underway with Comet Biorefining to build the manufacturing plant in Sarnia in 2018 that will receive the crop residue for processing. Andrew Richard, one of the founders of the London-based company, said Comet is not just wanting to buy stover from the farmer but more importantly sees the relationship as a partnership. “Collecting the stover needs to be done sustainability and economically,” he says. “We leave two thirds of the crop residue on the field for biological processes and ground cover; and we we are using the right equipment to deliver the stover to the bio plant at an efficient industrial level.”

"The new co-op will be 100 per cent farmer-owned and when all said and done, the co-op will invest in the bio refining plant, owning 30 per cent of the facility,” says Campbell. Farmer-owners will receive money for the raw materials they supply and receive a return on investment from the plant.

"All in, this is a 70 million dollar expenditure, of which 11 million dollars will be farmer-invested money," says Campbell. “Farmers should be the ones who are investing, benefiting and sharing in the value chain; and this is just the beginning!”

Dave Park, CSPC president talks about how they are building a market for an
underutilized crop residue. "This is a good way to add value to our corn crop," he says.

Collecting the stover:
A tractor pulls a Hiniker flail chopper making 40-foot windrows. Then a Massey Ferguson 2270 HD baler collects the crop residue and produces three-ft. by four-ft. by eight-ft. bales which each weigh (on average) 1500 lbs. The bales are then collected with a ProAG bale picker and stacker that retreives 12 bales per run and piles them effortlessly and neatly at the end of the field. 


CSPC will be hosting a series of town-hall meetings next month to answer questions from interested farmers.

Oct 13, 2016

Celebrating Co-op Week!

Contributed by: Audrey Aczel, communications and event manager, Ontario Co-operative Association.

Co-op Week in Canada is being celebrated from October 16 to 22 this year - the same week as International Credit Union Day, which is on October 20! It is an opportunity for co-operative and credit union members, staff and enthusiasts provincially, nationally and globally, to celebrate the impact we have as a sector and as a movement. Co-op Week is also recognition of our continuing contributions to sustainable social and economic development both at home and abroad.

Co-operatives are community-focused businesses that balance people, planet and profit. They are formed to seize local opportunities or respond to local challenges.

Here are some quick and easy CO-OP FACTS AND STATS you could share:
  • There are 1,300 co-operatives, credit unions and caisses populaires, located in Ontario.
  • Ontario co-operatives have 49,000 volunteers - 10,000 of which are board members.
  • Co-ops are in every business sector, and offer services from the cradle to the grave, from child care through to funeral co-ops!
  • Co-operatives create $3.3 billion in income for Ontarians.
  • Co-operatives are value-based and member-owned and focused.
  • More than 1 of every 7 people worldwide are a member of a co-op.
  • Co-operatives operate in more than 90 countries and employ over 100 million people around the world.
  • Twice as many co-ops remain in operation after 10 years as other types of business enterprise.
In 1844, the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers in England established the basis for the principles in which co-operatives around the world continue to operate. The seven co-operative principles are still a common platform for all co-ops today. They are:

 Happy Co-op Week!

Sep 23, 2016

FS expands its size and reach at Canada's Outdoor Farm Show!

Even though it has been a full week since the big event, it is definitely not a distant memory. With almost 50 enthusiastic FS crop, energy, grain and finance specialists that came out to greet visitors and three days of spectacular weather, the 2016 farm show was a great success.

Take a look at some of our experiences below!

FS site now double the size!

FS Stewardship Pledge takes centre stage!

Jackie Littlejohn of UPI Energy and key player in this
year's planning committee sets up on beautiful sunny morning.

Bill Brown of GROWMARK pulls together an intriguing
"Did you Know" weed fact exhibit.

Planning team steps up to new heights.
From (L-R) Bill Brown-GROWMARK, Terry Stevenson-AGRIS Co-operative,
Juli Paladino- FS PARTNERS and Justine Lennox-North Wellington Co-op.

Some of the FS System general managers stopped by for a photo opp. Seen here (B-F) Claude Gauthier-GROWMARK, Patrick Therrien -Embrun Co-operative, Al Scott-Lucknow District Co-operative, Peter Kelly-Wanstead Farmers Co-operative, Kelly Boyle-North Wellington Co-operative Services, Jeff Hurst-Huron Bay Co-operative, Tony Silvestro-UPI Energy LP.

FS has the solutions! Farmers learn some weed distinctions and tips.

Visiting the FS tent to get the latest crop assessment results
 and learn more about MiField
™ applied research.

Producers took part in daily sessions on best practices in
spraying techniques with Jason Deveau OMAFRA, sponsored
 by FS and Monsanto

Jackie Littlejohn of UPI Energy and Erin Byram of GROWMARK give high school
students a lesson on tank safety at AgScape/Ag Careers Student Competition event.
Always time to enjoy some 4R bean bag toss!  
(Right place, Right rate, Right time and Right source) 

Hope to see you there next year!!

Sep 7, 2016

Visit FS at Canada's Outdoor Farm Show

Next week is Canada's Outdoor Farm Show in Woodstock. Make sure you come out and say hello. Take in Jason Deveau's session at the Monsanto plot demo site and also come visit us at the FS tent! (fourth lane)

Aug 15, 2016

A trusted program in CYL!

Since its beginnings, 49 years ago, the Co-operative Young Leaders Program (CYL) has been an important part of the Ontario agriculture co-operative sector. It has changed and grown in many ways since agriculture co-operatives launched the program in 1967; but today it is still vital that we continue to sponsor kids to CYL.

Erin Byram
Recently, GROWMARK sponsored a full week of CYL (Senior-A) at Lake St. George Field Centre in Richmond Hill. 

Erin Byram, GROWMARK Ontario Health and Safety specialist and past facilitator for CYL, participated as a panel judge and had the opportunity to listen first-hand to the young presenters give their pitch on an idea for a new co-op business start-up. 

"I recommend this to anyone who wants to get more involved in helping youth better understand agriculture and the value of co-ops in communities, says Erin. It is a very gratifying opportunity."

As founders of the Co-operative Young Leaders Program, the ag co-op sector must keep a strong focus on promoting the program in our rural communities, with our boards of directors and employees. 

Remember to sponsor a young person to CYL!  

CYL Senior A graduates thank GROWMARK and the FS System for their ongoing support and encouragement! 

Jul 7, 2016

2016 4-H Ambassadors tour FS sites in Ontario

The 2016 Ontario 4-H Ambassadors took a day away from their regular routine to learn more about the FS ag co-operative network.

For the past few years, it has become a tradition to take a group photo in front of  a 1942 Ford Stake truck purchased by North Wellington Co-operative as part of its 70th anniversary celebration at the co-opertive's site in Harriston. 

Seen here, from L-R (Back row) 2016 Ontario 4-H Ambassadors: Elaine Jeffs, Sadie-Jane Hickson, Vicki Brisson, Laura DeKlein, Julie French and Logan Emiry. Front row (L-R) Peggy Ryan FS PARTNERS administrative assistant, Matt Stewart 2016 Summer Intern with AGRIS Co-operative, Justine Lennox, marketing and communication assistant with North Wellington Co-op and general manager of North Wellington Co-op, Kelly Boyle.

Another photo opportunity at the UPI Energy bulk fuel plant in Guelph. The group is hosted by UPI Energy's Bob Hodgson, manager operations (L) and Dianne Kennedy, co-ordinator, regulations and compliance (far Right).

4-H Ambassadors take a moment for a selfie with Jackie Littlejohn, UPI Energy's marketing services manager.

Kevin Stumpf, FS PARTNERS Ayr branch manager (L) gives the group a tour of the FS PARTNERS and Great Lakes Grain agronomy and grain facility in Ayr.

Sadie-Jane thanks Pat Gallagher, GROWMARK Ontario logistics manager for a tour of the GROWMARK Distribution Centre in Kitchener.

Don McLean, GROWMARK Ontario agronomy business director talks new crop technology at FS PARTNERS demonstration plot in Ayr.

On the way home, a quick stop at the FAST STOP cardlock site in Alma.

Alma 1902 steam engine makes a nice backdrop for end of day photo.

Jul 6, 2016

FS crop specialist Dale Cowan receives international recognition!

Dale Cowan, of AGRIS Co-operative and Wanstead Farmers Co-operative has been named 2016 International Certified Crop Adviser’s (ICCA) Adviser of the Year.
Dale Cowan, ICCA's 2016 Adviser of the Year

This prestigious award recognizes a certified crop advisor who delivers exceptional customer service, is highly innovative, has shown great leadership in their field, and has contributed substantially to the exchange of ideas and the transfer of agronomic knowledge within the agriculture industry.

Cowan has been the senior agronomist and sales manager with AGRIS Co-op and Wanstead Farmers Co-op for the past six years and has established a 25-year business relationship as an agronomic service provider with the Ontario agriculture co-operative network. In addition to advising large growers, Cowan mentors 14 CCAs. Combined, Cowan reviews recommendations across 275,000 acres comprised of over 300 key accounts. Over more than 35 years, he has advised growers on corn, soybeans, and wheat as well as cucumbers, watermelons, and tomatoes.

“This award was unexpected and I feel very honoured to have received it,” said Cowan. “I think it reflects well on the Ontario CCA program and I must acknowledge the group effort because no one builds a career in isolation,” he added. 

"Dale is a great example of the knowledge, experience, innovation, and ethical conduct that the CCA program has come to be recognized for,” said AGRIS general manager Jim Campbell. “Through his professional and volunteer activities, Dale has been instrumental in the development and promotion of sustainable agronomy and precision farming practices throughout Ontario," he added.

Cowan’s involvement includes participation in the Ontario Agri-Business Association (OABA) as representative, board member and president; chair of the Ontario CCA Board; vice chair of Provincial Nutrient Management Advisory Committee; work with Ontario Drinking Water Stewardship Advisory Committee on Funding; and activity on the Crops Input Committee/Agriculture Research and Education Committee. He is also the CCA representative to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs Soil Health Working Group and is a member of the Ontario CCA Exam Committee and a regular contributor to several farm publications.

To learn more about this award, visit:

Jun 29, 2016

July 2 is International Co-op Day!

This Saturday marks the International Day of Co-operatives…and a wonderful opportunity to showcase our amazing sector! The day's theme is ‘Co-operatives: The power to act for a sustainable future’, and it is dedicated to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs.

On July 2, the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) will launch the Co-ops for 2030 website, an online platform for co-operatives to learn about the SDGs, explore how co-operatives can help achieve them and make pledges to contribute to the SDGS. Co-operatives will not need to create new initiatives to participate in Co-ops for 2030 – the important sustainable development work you already do can serve as pledges. By uniting co-operatives under one online platform, we create a global record of how co-operatives build a better world.

Jun 21, 2016

Local Kingston area 4-H youth named 2016 GROWMARK Essay Contest winner

Kieran Shannon, 2016 provincial Essay Contest winner
Congratulations to 16 year old Kieran Shannon of Glenburnie, Ontario who has been named the Ontario provincial winner of the 2016 GROWMARK Essay Contest for 4-H members. The theme of this year’s contest was “What can young people to do ensure the sustainability of agriculture?”

In his contest entry, Kieran said: “People need to realize the facts! I believe that it is our job as today’s farming youth to step up and lead the way by having honest and balanced conversations. We have the ability to change the way our generation views modern farming and we can show people how sustainability in agriculture means protecting the land for future productivity. Benefits of technological advancements on the farm far outweighs the perceived risks. We need to change the way people view agriculture in the 21st century.”

Kieran Shannon is a student at La Salle Secondary School in Kingston and a member of the Frontenac 4-H Association.

As the contest winner, Shannon receives a $500 award from GROWMARK and the Frontenac  4-H Association  also receives a $300 award in honour of his accomplishment to help future students.

Two provincial runners-up each receive a $125 award. The runners-up are: Sarah Campbell, Chatham-Kent 4-H Association, student at Blenheim District High School and Mikayla Ringelberg, Hamilton Wentworth 4-H Association, student at Hamilton District Christian High School.

This is the fifth year for the Essay Program in Ontario in partnership with 4-HOntario, but the 23th year for the program in the United States. The contest was designed to help young people develop their writing skills, learn about current issues in agriculture, and understand the unique role of co-operatives.

Jun 3, 2016

GROWMARK recognizes an AGRIS Co-operative crop specialist as one of five top crop specialists for advocating sustainable best management farming practices

Chris Snip of AGRIS Co-operative Ltd. in Cottam, Ontario is one of five crop specialists who have excelled in engaging farmers in sustainable best management practices, and a recipient of the GROWMARK Endure 4R Advocate Award. The crop specialists are recognized for their work with farmers in using the 4R (right source, right rate, right time, right place) approach to nutrient stewardship, assisting growers with fertilizer management, implementing a nitrogen monitoring program like N-WATCH, and more.

Chris Snip is a Certified Crop Advisor and has worked at AGRIS, based in south western Ontario, for 16 years. He is also an active member of Delta Waterfowl, The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and a board member of the local Soils and Crop Association.

“I started really showing appreciation for the 4R approach after I witnessed a large algae bloom in the western basin of Lake Erie in the fall of 2011,” said Snip. “I live on a tributary of Lake Erie. Across the road from the lake, my family and I spend a lot of time in and on the water and consuming fish from the lake. I hated to see the lake that way. I felt I could play an important role in reducing nutrient loss from agricultural lands in my trade area. I work with growers individually to help them come up with ways that can reduce nutrient losses on their farm operation that work with their cropping practices and equipment capabilities while maximizing nutrient utilization and profitability,” he added.

Four other FS crop specialists achieving the Endure 4R Advocate Award are: Logan Haake (Legacy Farmers Cooperative, Ohio), Rick Klevze (GROWMARK FS, New Jersey) Malcolm Stambaugh (Ag View FS, Illinois) and Jason Wesslund (Heritage FS, Illinois).

The five crop specialists were nominated by their member companies. A selection committee comprised of individuals from the agriculture industry outside of the GROWMARK System served as judges. Winners will receive recognition for their achievement and an all-expense-paid trip with their spouse to attend the 2016 GROWMARK Annual Meeting and Agribusiness Symposium. This is the first year for the Endure 4R Advocate award and is part of the GROWMARK System sustainability initiative Endure.

Jun 1, 2016

Sometimes just a simple invite can go a long way!

When Peter Kelly, Wanstead Farmers Co-operative general manager reached out to his local MP as a way to get acquainted with his new surroundings, he didn’t realize how this small friendly gesture would generate some unexpected added publicity for his co-op.

Not only did Sarnia-Lambton MP Marilyn Gladu pay Wanstead Farmers Co-operative a visit to learn more about the long-standing business, meet the staff and get a tour of the new facility in Wyoming, but she also posted the group photo on the front cover of her federal riding’s newsletter.

“We were flattered to see our picture on the Federal Express,” says Kelly. “Getting this extra publicity was a nice surprise and greatly appreciated.”


Mar 30, 2016

Great Lakes Grain announces Don Kabbes as its new general manager

Don Kabbes
Great Lakes Grain is pleased to announce that Don Kabbes has accepted the position of general manager, effective April 4, 2016.

Kabbes has demonstrated exceptional leadership ability during his more than 32 years working in the Ontario Co-operative System, holding increasingly progressive positions and most recently as the market development manager for Great Lakes Grain since 2010.

Kabbes has had a passion for agriculture his entire life. He received his diploma in agricultural business management from Centralia College of Agricultural Technology. He has served on numerous agricultural and community boards and committees, such as the Grain Farmers of Ontario and the Petrolia Minor Hockey Association. He also operates a small cash crop farm in west Lambton County.

Kabbes succeeds Alex Elliott who has announced his plans for retirement with Great Lakes Grain in December this year. Elliott has served the agricultural co-operative system for more than ten years and has been instrumental in providing great leadership towards the advancement of Great Lakes Grain during his tenure.

Please join us in congratulating Don on his new position.


Mar 24, 2016

FS Bringing You What's Next at GFO March Classic for the third time!

I could say that “the third time’s a charm” for the FS System exhibit at GrainFarmers of Ontario March Classic Trade Show and Conference, but once again, this event proved to be as positive and fulfilling an experience as years one and two!

In keeping with the “FS Bringing You What’s Next” theme, new FS Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) and the latest FS customized agronomic analysis program called MiField were introduced to booth visitors.

Guests also took the opportunity to investigate current grain markets by viewing the on-line feed provided by Great Lakes Grain. 

Much appreciation and thanks goes out to the many enthusiastic volunteers who came out yesterday to share their agronomy, energy and grain marketing expertise.

The GFO Conference in London seems to grow each year with more than 65 exhibitors and over 700 guests walking through the London Convention Centre to meet up with fellow producers and industry folks.
Congratulations to the Ontario FS Companies. You were proudly represented! 
FS booth set up bright and early Tuesday morning--ready for visitors!  Seen here (L-R)  Justine Lennox-North Wellington  Co-operative Services, Juli Paladino-FS PARTNERS, Michelle Peters-UPI Energy LP,  Janice Johnson-GROWMARK, Inc., Terry Stevenson-AGRIS Co-operative Wanstead Farmers Co-operative 
and  Mike Dotterman,-AGRIS Co-operative.

Jim Irvine of Great Lakes Grain is ready to talk grain markets!

Nicole Weber of FS PARTNERS and Bill Brown, GROWMARK 
discuss new FS MiField  and precision ag programs.

Kent Wolfe, AGRIS Co-operative and Petra Hathaway, 
Great Lakes Grain check out GLG mobile site.

A great day by all! Hope to see everyone out again next year!

Mar 2, 2016

Launching a second decade of the Ontario 4-H Ambassador Program

Big milestones are in play for 4-H Ontario. Last year marked 100 years for 4-H provincially and ten years for the 4-H Ambassador program of which GROWMARK and UPI Energy have jointly sponsored since its inception.

From a sponsor's perspective, it is wonderful to see the record-breaking number of applicants we received this year. In 11 years, the program has seen good growth and launched more than 50 young people into strong leadership roles within their local communities and province wide.

We are proud to introduce our new 2016 Ontario 4-H Ambassadors. Seen below from (L-R) Vicki Brisson of Prescott and Russell County; Sadie-Jane Hickson, Kawartha-Lakes Haliburton region; Laura DeKlein, Middlesex County; Julie French, Peel region; Elaine Jeffs, Northumberland County; Logan Emiry, Sudbury District (Logan is our first Ambassador to come out of Region One).

Photo taken at Ontario 4-H Ambassador orientation and banquet evening Sat. Feb. 27, Arboretum, University of Guelph.

To read more about the Ambassador program, visit:

Feb 12, 2016

Calling all 4-H Ontario high-school students!

The 2016 GROWMARK Essay contest is now launched! 

The theme for this year’s 4-H Essay Contest is: “What can young people do to ensure the sustainability of agriculture?” The contest is open to all Ontario high school students who are members of 4-H.

One hears the word “sustainability” a lot these days, but what does it really mean in agriculture? And, how can today’s young people be involved in efforts to ensure our industry remains strong well into the future.

You can get started by visiting the GROWMARK or 4-H Ontario website to learn the full details on the program. Fill out the requested title page, write an impressive essay and mail your package to GROWMARK Ontario region office for a chance to become the Ontario provincial winner for 2016.

First place will receive $500 and the winner’s 4-H Association will also receive $300. Two runners-up each win $125.

Essays should be approximately 500 words, typed and double-spaced. The postmarked entry deadline for Ontario 4-H members is May 15. 

The essay contest has been in place for many years, sponsored by the GROWMARK System and FS member co-operatives, in conjunction with US state FFA leaders and 4-H Ontario, to help young people develop their writing skills, learn about current issues affecting agriculture, and understand the unique role of co-operatives. 

Jan 18, 2016

Dale Cowan named 2015 CCA Award of Excellence winner!

Dale Cowan, 2015 CCA
Award of Excellence winner
The Ontario Certified Crop Advisor Association congratulates Dale Cowan on being honoured by his peers with the CCA Award of Excellence at the annual CCA Conference and Annual Meeting in London, Ontario last week.
Dale has been involved in agriculture for over 35 years and is currently employed by AGRIS Co-operative and Wanstead Farmers Co-operative as a senior agronomist and sales manager. Previously, he was the owner/president of Agri-Food Laboratories for 18 years and continued with the company for an additional two years as the manager of the transition team
The CCA Award of Excellence recognizes a certified crop advisor (CCA) who delivers exceptional customer service, is highly innovative, has shown strong leadership and has contributed substantially to the exchange of ideas and the transfer of agronomic knowledge within the agriculture industry.
In his current role, Dale works directly with growers as well as collaborating with 14 other CCAs in his sales team. Combined, Dale reviews recommendations across thousands of acres. The growers contacted as references for this award valued Dale’s strong technological knowledge and his ability to communicate. They noted his innovative spirit and enthusiasm for new technology is what sets him apart.

Dale has been very involved with the CCA program. He was a board director from 2002 to 2010 which included serving as board chair in 2005 and 2006. Dale received his CCA designation in 1997, among the first group in Ontario to be certified.

Congratulations Dale!

Information for this post originated from the CCA (Jan. 15) news release. To read full news release click here.

Jan 11, 2016

Ontario’s Aspiring Leaders graduate with great aspirations!

Most times when a new program is introduced that involves substantial commitment from a large group of people, it takes time, maybe even years to gain momentum. Not true for GROWMARK’s Aspiring Leaders Program that was just recently introduced in 2015. In its first year, GROWMARK put almost 100 FS System employees from Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Ontario through the multi-faceted three-month leadership program that involved several training sessions on GROWMARK, leadership styles, accounting and finance, communications and government relations. 

Participants received daily readings and exercises to stimulate their knowledge base and help them look inward and develop strengths and weaknesses, and were also asked to keep a daily personal journal.

The best way to understand the value of a program is to listen to what participants are saying. These are some of the comments we heard from Ontario FS System employees about their experiences:

 “I felt both needed and wanted by mentor.”

 “I never worked with this group before, and now we are friends!”

“Brand yourself; join groups that matter to you, define what success is for you!”

 “Journaling was something very new to me, but my mentor held me accountable!” 

Last Friday, Ontario GROWMARK System employees that took part in the Aspiring Leaders program came together to present their final group presentations to other aspiring leaders, their mentors and managers from various member companies and GROWMARK Ontario region staff.

Teams of three and four were responsible for picking their topics and preparing for this day. Group topics covered a number of team building and leadership concepts as well as insight into consumer misunderstandings about agriculture and food production. 

Congratulations to the following Ontario Aspiring Leaders graduates!

From (L-R), back row: Carrie Kuhns of GROWMARK and program facilitator, Ontario graduates: Paul May (UPI Energy LP), Chris Albrecht (FS PARTNERS), Robyn Pool (AGRIS Co-operative), Luke Siertsema (Huron Bay Co-operative), Matt Minshall (AGRIS Co-operative), Jackie Rodgers (UPI Energy LP), Cindy Charlebois, (GROWMARK Ontario region), Jeff Wilson (County Farm Centre), Lucas Meyer (FS PARTNERS). Front row: Nicole Weber (FS PARTNERS), Larry Croft (FS PARTNERS), Holly Becker (Huron Bay Co-operative), Claire Mumford (UPI Energy LP), Kyle Beatty (County Farm Centre), Sharon Fleming (FS PARTNERS), Brady Debruyn (AGRIS Co-operative) and Jason Murray (FS PARTNERS).

Dec 17, 2015

CDF makes a difference - A first-hand account from Peru

After hearing many passionate speakers over the years who have traveled abroad to witness for themselves, how the Co-operative Development Foundation (CDF) and the Canadian Co-operative Association have impacted so many lives, I always hoped that some day I could be part of that experience.  

Well, I can now say, I have seen first-hand, the value these organizations bring to so many communities worldwide. The first week of November this year, I was invited by CDF to travel to Peru with a team of seven co-operators from various co-ops and credit unions across Canada as part of a study tour focused on its Peruvian ag co-op partner - Cooperativa Agraria Norandino LTDA.

Norandino Co-operative is located in the city of Piura, and is supported by over 90 farmer associations comprised of more than 7,000 coffee, sugar cane, cocoa and fruit producers who reside in very poor regions in northern Peru.

CDF launched the Sustainable Produce Diversification Project with Norandino in 2010 to help farmers gain access to local and international markets to provide sustainable income for their families and communities.

One of many sugarcane crushing and drying sites in region of
 Montera, Peru - located on the slopes of the Andes Mountains.
In a short time, through the many efforts of CDF volunteers, funding and hands-on expertise, Norandino has achieved good success in meeting its main objective of improving the quality of life for small farmers in the area. Farmers are now able to receive a decent income for their crops through increased production capacity and operational efficiencies such as the addition of several village-level sugarcane crushing and drying stations throughout the region, investments in new large-capacity automated production plants in Piura, and a greater demand for their products through international Fair Trade markets.

During our visit, we engaged with the managers and directors of Norandino Co-operative to share ideas and learn more about our different worlds, but the highlight for me was visiting the rural farmers up high in the hills. After a long and bumpy road trip,
Cocoa seed-nusery managed  and operated by 
women and youth from the local community.
our study group stopped at one of the co-operative’s farmer-owned member-associations. Not only did this group of local cocoa farmers show up to greet us, but their wives and children gathered all around with welcoming faces. We were most impressed with their strong member-engagement practices. Everything we talk about how best to engage our members, this group seems to have mastered. In this 94 farmer-member association, not only do the men have strong roles, but 40 women and 25 youth are equally engaged in the production process gathering, fermenting, drying, splitting, fertilizer production and the cultivation and nurturing of their own seedling nursery.

It is the whole community that comes together for one common goal and everyone’s role is equally important. The pride and self-satisfaction one feels just witnessing and listening to them tell their story is not only inspiring but as we drove away and headed down the rugged mountain terrain, many of us felt humbled and privileged to have had the opportunity to meet the wonderful and hard-working people that provide us with the luxury and decadence of their award-winning cocoa.

As Norandino management will tell you: “We are not selling cocoa beans, we are selling the origin.”

Sabino Guerrero, project co-ordinator with Norandino
Co-operative demonstrates harvesting sugarcane
and gives us a sweet sample to try.
Whether it is coffee, cocoa or panela (which is brown sugar produced from sugarcane), the finished product from Norandino Co-operative is superb. To fully appreciate the Norandino brand that is regarded as a premium product all over the world, you just need to sample it! The Norandino brand is known as an elite product and is exported to end-users in Germany, France, and Canada through Fair Trade agreements. La Siembra Co-operative, located in Ottawa, is Norandino’s largest importer of panela in Canada.

Going forward, as always there is still work to be done and CDF is moving into the next phase of the project, but for now, it is clear that CDF has been instrumental in providing the momentum Norandino Co-op needed. They now have a select group of preferred clients, investors and supporters that want to see Norandino succeed and expand further. Now that I have met the people behind the operation, there is no doubt in my mind they will thrive.
Coffee-bean farmer and member-owner of Norandino Co-op
talks about how his yields are far superior to his neighbours
because of the services he receives from his co-operative.

As an employee of GROWMARK,Inc. (also a farmer-owned co-operative) that is a long-time supporter of the Co-operative Development Foundation, I can now better understand how our corporate and employee donations truly improve the livelihood for these farmers, their families and communities. The Norandino project in Peru is just one shining example of so many success stories worldwide.