Gathering Place Trading: sourcing ethical food products from Canada and around the world

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Lovena and Ryan Harvey meet and visit farmers to find quality products for their Island business

A couple from Cortes Island travel the world in search of sustainable, ethical and quality food products to create their own path in the marketplace.

Twist of fate

Upon moving to Cortes Island in 2002, Lovena and Ryan Harvey began organic farming to provide local and wholesome food for their family. The couple are homesteaders on 22 acres of land, which they share with three other families in a small community to grow most of their food. Their property  is named  Gathering Place Farm.

In 2003, Lovena and Ryan travelled to South Africa and toured the country in a Volkswagen camper van. One day on their travels, they became lost and stopped to ask directions at a nearby farm.

“This farm turned out to be a rooibos tea farm. We met the farmers, and they were just incredible people who we instantly loved and connected with. They invited us into their home for a cup of rooibos,” Lovena says.

“We told them that we would be interested in importing rooibos to Canada and they were thrilled with the idea. In the end, we traded our camper van for a tonne of tea.”

Lovena and Ryan then rushed back to Canada to start a company and sell imported teas. They ran the company on Cortes Island until shipping and receiving on their small island became too cumbersome. In 2013 they established their inventory warehouse and office in Campbell River.

 “We chose the name Gathering Place Trading because of our farm name, and we had just traded for our first tonne of tea.”

Developing partnerships

“We are super foodies and always look for ethical and amazing products that we can feed our family. Through that journey of searching for the highest-quality products, we find and import them to sell so that we can share this beautiful sourcing with others,” Lovena says.

The couple and their three children visit the countries they wish to import from and find family or cooperative farms to partner with.

“Then, we contact the farmers and visit their farms. We look at their social integrity, environmental policies and sustainability. We are always looking and analyzing to see if they are the right ethical fit to be partners with us. And the products have to be absolutely exceptional,” Lovena adds.

In addition, Gathering Place Trading gives back 1 per cent of gross sales to grassroots projects in the countries they import from and to local Vancouver and Cortes Island non-profit organizations.

Bringing the world to Campbell River

Gathering Place Trading has 71 retail products imported from five countries, and 16 products that are grown in Canada. All of the blending, processing and packaging is done in Campbell River. Their packaging is produced in BC and labels are printed in Campbell River. “We try to support our local BC and Canadian economy every chance we get,” Lovena says.

“We sell organic rooibos-based teas from South Africa, including rooibos, honeybush, green rooibos and rooibos chai. We also create a blend called Yebo!, which is equal parts yerba mate and rooibos,” Lovena says.

 

“We have a line of amazing sea salts called Antarctic Pure. The water comes from a deep saltwater aquifer and through a natural shell and sand filtration process, any microplastics and contaminants are removed and minerals added, creating the purest sea salt in the world. We also have a whole line of organic spices from Sri Lanka, India and Spain and sell dried pineapple and figs from South Africa. We are soon launching dried mango from Mexico.”

Gathering Place Trading also carries a line of Canadian-grown herbs and mustards from BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

“One of our company pillars is that we do not import anything that is grown in Canada because we don’t want to compete with Canadian farmers,” Lovena says.

“We are proud to support Canadian farmers and our line of Canadian culinary herbs are unparalleled in the market. They are bright green and vibrant, and always the current years’ harvest. You can taste the freshness!”

Lovena and her family are daily users of the spices, herbs, sea salts and teas they source.

“The thing I use the most right now are smoked chili flakes. They are phenomenal. I have them on the table for every meal. They are great on eggs, pasta, wraps, Asian recipes …. On everything,” she says.

“Yebo is the morning tea for the whole family, and a great alternative to coffee. The yerba mate and rooibos blend is incredible, uplifting and easy to drink.”

Small community shows support

On Cortes Island, “our sense of community is incredibly strong. People really support each other when there are births, deaths or illnesses. The entire community comes together to support each other,” Lovena says.

Throughout the pandemic, Gathering Place Trading has felt that support and sense of community in Campbell River, across Vancouver Island and beyond as consumers have been very supportive of BC- and Canadian-owned businesses.

“By supporting local, those dollars ripple out into our community and get reinvested into our local communities. It’s incredible to feel that support, especially during COVID-19. Our business grew by 45 per cent because people have a greater awareness of local, BC and Canadian businesses,” Lovena says.

“I think supporting local is the way for us to ensure economic sustainability of Vancouver Island into the future.”

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