Holding True

Holding True

Throughout its two decades in business, Community Farm Store has remained steadfast in its loyalty to local consumers.
By Cayla Ramey

The significance of community is often lost in today’s society due to our ability to connect to a vast amount of people. While there are pros and cons of being able to broaden our network, community is still valuable to an individual’s growth. The team behind the Community Farm Store (CFS) in Duncan, B.C. seamlessly creates and executes ideas, each one building on their original mission. Their commitment to a healthy lifestyle is both admirable and inspiring, and instills a sense of comradery amongst the surrounding community.

“What we have available here at our fingertips is unbelievable and I’m so lucky to be a part of it.” – Tami Popp

It takes a village
CFS has always been been rooted in healthy, organic options. In 1993, the store was opened by a couple who owned a biodynamic farm. Because of their goal to share fresh, whole foods with the surrounding community, the store offered a variety of produce, baked goods, and whole-food groceries. Throughout the years, the store has undergone many changes, including changing ownership and relocating. Regardless of its transitions, the CFS has remained a cornerstone in the community.

In 2004, Nicolette Genier, who already managed the store, purchased the shares of one of the co-owners. Just under a decade later, Genier became the sole owner, re-opening a small store in the Duncan Garage and a second, larger store on the highway.
Genier has always been dedicated to creating an environment which encourages others.
“To be in a position to not only inform people but to inspire them is an honor. I am constantly challenged to put my own needs and wants aside so as to better serve the world,” she explains. “There is a commonality amongst the people who choose organic that transcends all differences and embraces all diversity, and our shoppers are those kind of people. What brings us together is making choices that are not only good for our own selves, but also for the planet. We make these choices even when it’s more expensive or difficult to acquire. When we can’t find products that are meeting our high standards, then we do without.”
There is an ongoing consciousness of giving to the community. The store sponsors 39 Days of Summer—where artists play live music for 39 days straight, and their walls are lined with local art.
“We [also] donate organic oats to five schools. At the till, customers have an option to donate to the program. In September, we divide the full donation amount amongst the schools so they can purchase extra things for the breakfast program, such as dried fruit or maple syrup,” shares Tami Popp, general manager of the CFS.
Their most recent venture has been opening up a healing hub called Soul-Centre, which allows entrepreneurs in the community to rent rooms when they cannot commit to a full-time lease. The centre has four treatment rooms as well as a movement space and an art room, which can be used to host yoga, massage therapy, art therapy, and counselling. “There are so many people who are practising different types of healing, but they can only commit to so many days a week,” says Popp. “We took on the commitment of this healing centre where you can rent a room for $20 an hour, $30 for two hours, or four hours for $25.”
Yet, that is only the beginning. The centre has opened up a Waldorf goods store to complement the space, and the store itself is still growing into the new location.

Cup o’ sugar
The foundation of the business is firmly rooted in a mindset of opportunity—the opportunity to grow, to share, and to teach.
“In today’s world, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and to lose hope, so I personally challenge myself every day to transform the adversities into opportunity. When you come to the Farm Store, whether as staff or as a customer, you always leave feeling better than when you got there because of the friendly, genuine engagement that happens as you do your work or your shopping,” relates Genier.
The environment the team has created in the store goes far beyond simply shopping or working.
“Before I even applied to work at the store, I would go to the café on my days off and I would do my shopping there. It was like the heartbeat of the town. I just wanted to be there all the time,” shares Popp.
It’s truly no wonder, and no small feat, that the store has been able to spark change. With over 55 staff members, including herbalists, nutritionists, and a naturopath, they look to maintain a journey of wellness.
While their staff members are very knowledgeable, they also have a variety of health professionals come in every other Thursday to host wellness talks and do mini consultations, which is free for those who want to participate. They pride themselves on “meeting people where they are in their journey,” which allows for a very unique relationship with the members of their community.
Much of the fresh, or frozen fresh, product comes to the store by six degrees of separation. Whether a staff member lives on a farm they end up working with, or through members in the community making items to sell in-store, they give companies a space in which to offer their local options. They also work with Discovery Organics for some imported organic fruits and vegetables, such as bananas and avocados.
Ultimately, the goal is to create a healthy community, which ultimately empowers and benefits everyone involved.

“I love that the store is always pulsing with positive vibes and that we can come to work every day knowing that it’s going to be a fun day. Also, I love our great customers who share stories of their experiences at the old location or the connection they have to the store— it’s the best place I have worked at!” – Mike Bellefleur, receiving team manager.

Be the change
“I am motivated by some unexplainable force that has inspired me all my life to manifest in the world the kind of places where I want to live, shop, and raise my children,” says Genier. “I am motivated by the ongoing opportunity to touch lives, to make a difference, to be the change.”
Whether giving back to the community, or implementing a new idea which benefits those around them, the CFS promotes “ecology before economy, health before wealth, community before corporations, and people before profit.”
This led them to become completely non-GMO in 2012. Each product is thoroughly researched, and the team continues to ensure that each product maintains this guarantee. The dedication is not just to eating organic, but to overall wellness.
“If everyone is eating healthy food and is nourishing and healing themselves and inspiring others, it’s benefiting the entire community. We want to increase the positive energy in our community,” Popp states.
They have also managed to almost completely eliminate plastic from the store. They encourage open co-op with basics such as rice and flour, where people can bring in their own containers. As well, most people walk out with their groceries in a cardboard box or an African basket, which are handmade in Ghana.
Despite all these happenings, the team behind it all knows that there is no end to their potential.
“All [of our] staff are firstly Farm Store shoppers,” says Genier. “It is usually the personal journey to becoming a conscious consumer that leads to the subsequent decision to apply for work at our store. Interestingly enough, it’s usually the people who ‘know’ they need to work at our store that get hired. We like to think of it as karma.”

Through hard work and dedication, the Community Farm Store has built a community united in a common goal—wellness.


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