Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/12/2013 (1015 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Back in the day, when supermarkets were a new concept, the Safeways and Loblaws of the world had to compete against the personal service and convenience old-style grocers offered.
Shoppers used to pick up the phone and call the local butcher and green grocer and orders were delivered to your door.
Part of the fun each week in the era of Leave It to Beaver was planning the family menu.
Maybe you wanted sirloin roast for Sunday dinner or a chicken in the pot. You'd discuss which greens were fresh, which fruits were in season and decide what fit your budget. The butcher and grocer filled the order and delivered a filled cardboard box to your door.
These days, most of us go to the supermarket, where everything is in season all the time. Our menus are processed and our meals are fast.
But for a few, the old days are coming back, with social media picking up the nostalgic thread and sending it spinning out on the Internet instead of the land-line.
Getting your food close at hand and straight from the land has its appeal. And All Natural Meats in Carman acts as a linchpin for the organic grocery industry.
The abattoir in this town, nestled in the heart of Manitoba's southern breadbasket, is 60 years old. Roger and Rachel Philippe transformed it into All Natural Meats five years ago, when they took their family farm one step further and transformed the former Carman abattoir into an outlet for organic meat. The farmed bison, elk, beef, pork, lamb and goat is steroid-, hormone- and antibiotic-free.
"Local is a big thing, and we know every single farm we deal with and, except for the elk which we source from Stonewall, all the farms are within 30 minutes of Carman," said All Natural Meats manager Jackie Cannizzaro.
Business revenues approach $1 million a year through sales to retailers, households for orders over $150 and restaurants, like Prairie 360, Winnipeg's revolving restaurant and Stella's on Sherbrook.
The amazing thing is the company hasn't spent a penny on marketing. "We haven't done any advertising. We've relied heavily on word of mouth and our name is getting out there," Cannizzaro said.
One of the Carman meat producer's regular retailers is Local Meats and Frozen Treats at 1604 St. Mary's Rd., owned by Ken and Wendy Loney. They deal with more than 40 local suppliers and the Local Meats Facebook page reads sweetly, with the innocence of the clean chatter on an old party line.
One recent day, Lynda wanted to know if Notre Dame des Lourde's cows were grass-fed. (The creamery purchases cream from milk plants so they don't know what the cows are fed). Teagan wanted to order a chicken -- they range from 2.2 kilograms to 4.5 kg and they're delivered fresh every Wednesday from Blumenort.
Beyond the FB page's folksy tone, there's a big picture behind this storefront in the St. Vital strip mall.
Canada is home to a growing niche market for locally produced food products.
"Canada's organic market grew to $3.5 billion in 2012, with national sales of certified organic food and non-alcoholic beverages reaching $3 billion. The value of the Canadian organic food market has tripled since 2006, far outpacing the growth rate of other agri-food sectors," reads the website for the Canada Organic Trade Association.
Market research now indicates half of all Canadians and two-thirds of British Columbians buy organic products every week.
Ottawa set regulations for the organic food industry in 2009, when it estimated the value of the industry was about $2 billion a year.
In this province, the Manitoba Food Processors Association works with 260 member companies, including Manitoba growers, processors, marketing boards, government agencies and industry suppliers of goods and services. Together they form a one-stop network of what's available in this province.
The market focus at the store is on farm food, a lot of it organic and all of it locally raised and processed, growth hormone- and antibiotic-free.
"It's been seven years since I switched to food," said Ken Loney. It's a second career for the shop owner who once ran a TV repair shop from the same location. Every year, the food store sees a sales boost of 30 per cent.
"It's a niche market. There is not enough of the kind of products we're selling to do mass retail sales. Not yet. But there is a big movement toward it," he said.
At the same time, mass marketing isn't what Loney and his wife want. They love the chit chat with customers and suppliers. New customers who step in the door are greeted like old friends.
Most of Local Meats' suppliers are sourced through family farms or processed by local farmers.
"I see it going back to the small family farm and I'm sure the need is there," Loney said about the focus of the industry in southern Manitoba.