Our organic chicken can be found in stores big and small. One of those retailers is a unique worker-owner co-operative in Toronto’s east end that’s been around since 1983. The Big Carrot Natural Food Market is Canada’s first certified organic retailer that started off with a produce department, then added on their vegetarian, deli and juice bar.
However, The Big Carrot isn’t just a place to fetch your organic groceries, but a place in the community where services such as cooking classes, free nutritional store tours and free weekly lectures on health and the environment take place.
“Our strength is in our people, our standards and our commitment to good food and good information,” says Sarah Dobec, public relations and Education Outreach Coordinator at The Big Carrot.
In December 2009, the co-op strengthened its commitment to good organic stewardship by certifying their processing and packaging activities to the new Canadian Organic Standard. They believe that organic methods not only provide us with the healthiest and safest food, but they also involve measures to protect and preserve important resources such as our soil, air and water. Not to mention that organic practices take into account the externalized costs of agriculture and food processing.
One reason we love to work with The Big Carrot is because we have the same values. We believe that eating organic should be important to everyone and so do they.
“What we eat is one of the most important choices we make everyday. Our food is our medicine. By choosing organic, consumers are supporting a food system that prohibits the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, GMO inputs and the use of hormones and antibiotics in animal products. This equates to healthier meals and in turn, healthier people,” Dobec explains.
There are plenty of wins in being a co-operative. They work hard at providing accurate, current information about food and their food system, making education of buying organic goods accessible. They also have an opportunity to help grow the industry. Every season they meet new organic producers and can offer more and more choice to their shoppers. As a co-op retailer, they expose consumers to a different, successful business model, which by all means, comes with a few challenges.
“Our biggest challenge would have to be decision-making amongst 70 co-op members in an ever-changing industry and world. However, we do have several committees to disseminate information for the group and help guide policy making and decisions,” says Heather Barclay, Office Manager of The Big Carrot.
The Big Carrot’s new website launches TODAY with exciting news about their new strategic donating plan to help expand the availability of locally produced food called – Nature’s Finest Fund. Another thing we have in common, good food for a good cause! Visit their site here.