Happy Holidays from the Long Table Team! 🎄✨Looking back over the past year, I find it hard to believe how much has changed here at Long Table. We have moved locations and done a major renovation, grown from just a few part time staff to a team of 10 and with the help of our amazing customers substantially supported over 40 local farms and food makers in our area! We have offered nearly 50 food and DIY workshops, hosted a Farm-to-Market Mixer introducing farmers to chefs, supported 5+ local charities through our food donation programs, hosted the 2nd Annual Long Table Holiday dinner, added a commercial kitchen, food processing and a cafe menu to our offerings, packed and delivered over 4000 Harvest Boxes as well as added weekly Salad Box deliveries and catering into the mix! Phew... it's been quite the year, full of all the highs and lows that new businesses are generally full of in the early years and although it has at times been incredibly difficult and we have definitely made lots of mistakes, we have not been alone in this endeavour. None of this would be possible without the customers who continue to invest in a better food system by shopping with us, without my dream team of folks who work at Long Table (past and present), without our hard-working farmers, ranchers and food producers, without our workshop instructors, without our pick-up locations hosts Bouchie Lake Country Store and QBREW, without my sister Jenny who co-created this whole thing with me in the beginning, and of course without my husband Will (a refrigeration mechanic is a very handy person to be married to when you are in the vegetable business). You all are a part of making change happen and I am ever so grateful for you all! We still have a long way to go towards establishing a truly sustainable, fair and just food system but every little bit matters and you matter so much to us! It really means the world to us as a small business to have customers and friends like you. ❤️ Wishing you and your families a holiday season full of long tables of love, connection, laughter and of course good food! XO, Amy
I (Amy) have always been fascinated by history and stories from the past and lately have been looking a bit more into our own family history of entrepreneurship. The scale in this photo is from our great-grandmother Anne Stella's grocery store in Chicago which she owned with her father Frank Stella (an Italian immigrant who also owned a milk delivery business) in 1907 when she was just 17. She managed it until the late 20's until, as the family legend goes, she refused to pay protection to the Mob after her father died, eventually standing up to Al Capone himself in her shop with my grandfather watching from the back of the shop. She moved to California on her own with two small children, leaving everything behind, and opened a deli in Oakland (running it successfully through the Depression without going bankrupt), which happened to be next door to our other great-grandmother's bakery leading to the meeting of our paternal grandparents! One set of great-grandparents went on to buy a ranch and develop one of the commercial trout farms in California and our maternal great-grandfather also owned a famous butcher shop called Butcher Boy in Laguna Beach for many many years. Another set of great-great grandparents apparently owned a ship and sailed around the world collecting items for their second-hand and antique shop in New York. One of our great-grandmothers paid her way through school by baking cupcakes and bread and taking them to a neighbouring campground to sell during the summers.
I find this history full of inspiring examples of grit, ingenuity, creativity and commitment that entrepreneurship requires. Though the times were different, the belief is the same - that building a business can be a path forward to prosperity for our families and for our communities, and that it is the right thing to do to use our gifts and talents to contribute what we can to our local economies.
It is this same belief that inspires the farmers we purchase from, that inspires the entrepreneurs who produce coffee and jam and bread and that inspires our business.
I hope that you know how much we appreciate your choice to support a local business. It matters to us, it matters to our farmers and it matters to our community and you matter to us so very much.
Amy + Jenny
Tell me if you have heard this one? "Building a business is like jumping off a cliff and building a parachute on the way down." That is a little like how we've been feeling around here lately but I have to say that it feels like the parachute is coming together pretty well so far, with a lot of help from a lot of amazing people!
We are on track to open our webstore soon with our first delivery date planned for the first week of April. We heard from many people through our survey and market research that they would like to be able to access a pick-up location for their grocery deliveries so we have made that happen! We are very pleased to announce that the new home of Long Table Grocery is going to be 678 Doherty Drive in the former Bistro, next to Kwik Kleen Laundromat. We have also arranged to have two more pick-up locations - one in South Quesnel at QBREW and one in Bouchie Lake at Bouchie Lake Country Store. We may add to these pick-up locations in future so if your workplace would make a good pick-up spot please let us know!
Groceries from Long Table are going to be available by subscription, or you can shop every two weeks without committing to a subscription. There are many benefits to our subscription model though, one of the main ones being that it allows us to make buying commitments to our growers and producers that give them more security and capacity. Committing to our farmers means they are able to commit to delivering you fresh, local produce.
Our subscription process starts with choosing one of our box options. Once you choose a box (or several), you can choose what options you would like to add to your box. Options are things like coffee, honey, bread, eggs etc. Subscriptions can be changed, paused or cancelled at any time by logging into an account you will be given. You can also add occasional items to your subscription from our online market as long as it is before the order cut-off.
Here is a little product description of our main Harvest Box:
"Harvest Box: This box is great for those who cook at home at least a few nights a week and snack on fruits and veggies. If you appreciate a variety of delicious fruits and veggies you will adore this option. This box is sized for an average couple or small family or 1- 2 vegetarians who don't cook at home every night and should last about a week to ten days depending on how much you cook.
Produce in this Harvest Box is a mix of locally grown (both organic and non-certified organic) and organic BC/Fair Trade items. Most family harvests feature: 1-2 types of greens, 6-7 types of veggies (both cooking vegetables and snacking) and 4-5 types of fruit.
The types of produce in this box will be curated for exceptional seasonality, popularity, price and quality. We prioritize locally grown produce first, then BC Grown organic, then Fair Trade organic. We will mainly focus on things that you are likely to use, with the occasional unusual vegetable or fruit in the mix for variety."
So far we have been able to source local suppliers for meat, produce, cheese, syrup, jams, herbs, pickles, bread and baked goods, spice mixes, soup, granola, garlic, honey, coffee and more! I have been surprised to find, even as a long time Farmers' Market shopper, that there are so many more local food producers here than I thought. It is an exciting time to be doing local food work, and we can't wait to show you what we have been building!
Sometimes ideas arrive slowly, drifting into our thoughts like clouds, interesting but without insistence, without any demand to be noticed or attended to. Sometimes ideas come in the box of other people's "shoulds", like a gift that you would rather take back but you feel too guilty to exchange it. Sometimes ideas are exciting and flamboyant, demanding to be the center of attention, the star of the show, but failing in the end to have any substance or depth. And sometimes, if we are lucky, an idea arrives that is just right. It is both exciting and practical, challenging without pressure, and the one that keeps you up at night unraveling the potential of it in your mind, the one that won't leave you alone.
For us, Long Table Grocery is that kind of idea that has caught our imagination and stirred our hearts to act. I (Amy) first heard of an online grocery store for local food from my good friends Diandra Oliver and Laura Sapergia who were the owners of Home Sweet Home Grocery in Prince George.
I occasionally was able to purchase from them (and LOVED it), and being friends with them was able to hear how it was going and how things worked for them. I was busy with other projects though, working on building the Love Northern BC sites and other consulting work and it never occurred to me to do anything similar. Last year I had the chance to attend the Community Economic Development Program at SFU with Diandra and we spent a lot of time talking about local food systems and community development as a whole and my thinking about local economies began to evolve and change. As well, last year I completed my work with Northern Development and handed off the sites we built to them to manage and run and found myself with the time and mental space to consider new projects. With this newfound knowledge, perspective and time I spent a lot of 2016 thinking about what I could do to help create some real systemic change in our local food system. During this time I also became obsessed with the Permaculture movement and began working to incorporate the Permaculture Principles into my life and business projects.
Recently my sister and her partner purchased a property in Bouchie Lake, (Long Table Cattle Co. ) and began working towards becoming cattle ranchers which has meant many conversations around our family dinner tables about the local food economy, entrepreneurship, farming and community building. Out of these conversations and my own experiences with the local economy movement the idea of Long Table Grocery landed with us and inspired us to act.
I realize we are (very) late to this conversation as there are many local food pioneers in our community who have been working on this cause for many, many years. Our own parents were a part of the organic food movement in the 70's and spent many years working on a local cattle ranch as food producers. We are exceptionally lucky in the Cariboo with incredible farmers, food producers, retailers and food advocates and organizations in our community who have been doing incredible and important hard work that we all benefit from on a daily basis whether we realize it or not. We are also inspired by these people, and want to do what we can to carry on and build on the work of those who came before us and support their legacy and commitment to organic and local foods.
Jenny and I are building Long Table Grocery with the 12 Permaculture principles as the framework of our business. At the heart of Permaculture is three ethics: care for the earth, care for people, and fair share. These ethics form the foundation for the Permaculture Principles which are listed in further detail at the end of this article.
As Long Table Grocery launches and grows we know that there will likely be all the challenges and ups and downs that come with starting something new but we are 100% committed to caring for people, caring for the earth and fair share in our efforts to build a sustainable business that supports our local food producers, growers, farmers and entrepreneurs. Our vision is to support our community and build capacity in our local economy while also making it easier for people to choose local, organic and fair trade products.
One of my favourite authors, Micheal H. Shuman says this about local economies:
“The relationship between any two communities in the global economy is not unlike a marriage. As couples counselors advise, relationships falter when two partners are too interdependent. When any stress affecting one partner - the loss of a job, an illness, a bad-hair day - brings down the other, the couple suffers. A much healthier relationship is grounded in the relative strength of each partner, who each should have his or her own interests, hobbies, friends, and professional identity, so that when anything goes wrong, the couple can support one another from a position of strength. Our ability to love, like our ability to produce, must be grounded in our own security. And our economy, like our love, when it comes from a place of community, can grow without limit.”
We believe this to be true and can't wait to see what comes next. We hope you will join us on the journey.
For those of you still reading, here are the 12 Permaculture Principles (as described by David Holmgren, the co-founder of the Permaculture movement):
- Observe and Interact – “Beauty is in the mind of the beholder” By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
- Catch and Store Energy – “Make hay while the sun shines” By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.
- Obtain a yield – “You can’t work on an empty stomach” Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the working you are doing.
- Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback – “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children of the seventh generation” We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well. Negative feedback is often slow to emerge.
- Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services – “Let nature take its course” Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.
- Produce No Waste – “Waste not, want not” By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
- Design From Patterns to Details – “Can’t see the forest for the trees” By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
- Integrate Rather Than Segregate – “Many hands make light work” By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
- Use Small and Slow Solutions – “The bigger they are, the harder they fall” Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.
- Use and Value Diversity – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
- Use Edges and Value the Marginal – “Don’t think you are on the right track just because it’s a well-beaten path” The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
- Creatively Use and Respond to Change – “Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be” We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing and then intervening at the right time.