Notes from the Editor

Author: Abhishek Chari (Chronicle Editor)

Photo Credit: Dave Belle

ood intentions are like seeds. When they grow and flower into transformative change, it is only through thoughtful and concerted action. This is just as true for Karma Co-op as it is for the rest of the world. Read today’s Chronicle to find out how you can make a difference with Karma. 

And when you feel like you need to take a break and just enjoy life, we’re here to help with that too!

Whether it’s at a community or personal level, being Karma Co-op Members means that your words, choices and actions have power: the power to change things for the better. So, what do you want to do?

And that’s not all we’ve got for you today! Enjoy a sampling of the many benefits that Karma provides when you:

On behalf of the Chronicle Team, including Alli Floroff and Amelia Bailey,

Abhishek Chari, Chronicle Editor.

Review: How a Movie about Too Much was Exactly What I Needed

Photo Credit: Mateo Ham

Author: Mateo Ham

I can’t say I expected a movie with googly-eyed rocks waxing philosophical about the meaning of human existence to bring me to tears. But this movie did. Several times.

I feel like explaining the plot of Everything Everywhere All At Once (EEAAO) would be missing the point, because you’re going to enjoy the movie more for its content than its outline. This is a film about the struggles of marriage, the overwhelming responsibilities of adulthood, generational divides, identity and acceptance, the meaning of strength and what it means to fight, the challenges of being an immigrant, the fear you made the wrong choices in your life, the inability to focus on anything when you’re trying to do everything, and taxes. It’s also a mind-blowingly colourful and creative action dramedy that could have starred multiverse Jackie Chan.

Yes, this movie was originally supposed to star Jackie Chan instead of Michelle Yeoh, and it shows. It is filled with that Jackie Chan style of fighting with whatever you happen to have around you, except in this movie what you have around you includes the multiverse. That being true, I’m glad they went with Michelle Yeoh. She brought a depth of character that really anchored this film, and given just how crazy it gets that is no small feat. In interviews she gets teary when she remembers seeing the script and feeling for the first time that she was going to be able to show her full range as an actor. And believe me, it’s quite the range.

Ke Huy Quan also gives an incredible performance in the role of her husband. Having first starred in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies, he took a 20 year break from acting to work behind the camera. Then he saw Crazy Rich Asians, and in seeing it felt that representation for Asian actors had come a long way in the last two decades and that it was finally time to get an agent to try working once again in front of the camera. Two weeks later he got a call for this film. But, from his incredible performance, you wouldn’t know he’d left. For all the weight of Michelle’s character Evelyn, Ke’s character Waymond offers silliness, sincerity, and kindness in return. There is a balance in how their personalities decide to face this multiverse-spanning struggle that is beautiful to watch and is perfectly complemented by a cast which includes Jamie Lee Curtis and James Hong.

EEAAO takes so many genres and gleefully throws them together; it could easily have come out a jumbled mess. And yet, the emotional heart of the movie anchors it, allowing me to take a psychedelic roller coaster ride that had me laughing one moment and crying the next. These occasionally jarring switches between the totally absurd and deeply sincere acted almost like an emotional pry bar, with each switch further loosening the door to all those emotions I kept hidden for fear they would just be too much.

EEAAO made me feel seen. I struggle with indecision and the feeling that I am living in the shadow of what could have been because I feel like I could have done so many different things but never committed to anything. The writers and directors of EEAAO, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, seem to understand that struggle and decided the best way to communicate their understanding was through the mode of this absurdist multiverse action dramedy.

Ultimately, Everything Everywhere All At Once is a movie about ‘too much’. How there is too much to pay attention to. Too much to do. Too many paths that we could take at any moment, and don’t, and too many feelings to have about it all. It is about dealing with how overwhelming it can be to have everything everywhere fighting for every last scrap of our fractured attentions. It is about all the things we want to say but struggle to. It is about the temptation to just give up when faced with the seeming meaninglessness of everything. And it is about kindness in the face of the absurdity of it all.

I want you to feel some version of what I felt when I saw this film, and I think the best way to do that is to know as little as possible going in. Avoid trailers if you can. Avoid interviews with the actors talking about the film. Avoid video essays about it. Just go in with an open mind, and more importantly, an open heart.

To watch the movie in theatres, check out this link. To watch it at home, check here.

Matteo Ham (Photo Credit: Matteo Ham)

Wear your heart on your sleeve for local justice issues with Untold Unknown

Author: Andrea Dawber

Untold Unknown is a clothing line that shares Karma’s values for local production, sustainability, and action on local justice issues. Check out the website now live! One of the line’s tops, called Labour of Love, highlights the important contribution of migrant farmers in Ontario and features locally grown produce. Karma members can get a 30% discount on all of Untold Unknown’s products when using the code  KARMACOOP30.

Saving Lettuce Seed

Photo Credit: Jennifer Knoch

Author: Jennifer Knoch

Has the lettuce you planted this summer started to look like a curving, Seussian tower? The lettuce will be bitter now, but don’t pull it out: if you’d like an abundance of seed for next year, let it live on.

Here’s what to do, in just a few steps:

  1. If you have multiple varieties, label them while you can still identify them. As the plant matures, they become harder and harder to tell apart. (You think you’ll remember, but  trust me, you probably won’t.) 
  2. The lettuce will produce small flowers, which the bees will enjoy. Keep waiting until the flowers dry out and have white, fluffy seedheads where the flowers were. 
  3. When the seed pods are starting to look dry, pull out the whole plant, and cut off the part with the seed pods. Store this in a paper bag for a few days until it’s dry and crispy.
  4. When dry, remove from the bag and hold the seed pods over a large bowl. Gently roll the pods between your fingers and seeds and chaff (fluff and other plant parts) will be released. 
  5. Once you have released all the seeds, go outside and you can either blow gently on the bowl to remove some of the chaff, or, if there’s a gentle breeze, grab a fistful, hold it about a foot above the bowl, and release it slowly back into the bowl. Much of the chaff will be carried off, while the heavier seed will fall into the bowl. 
  6. Label your seed with the variety and the year and store it in a cool, dry place for next year. Paper envelopes are ideal for storage, or if the seed is completely dry you can use a jar or plastic bag. You’ll have enough to share with the Karma seed library

Jen Knoch is the keeper and originator of the Karma Seed Library, now in its second year. She makes sure it’s organized, and adds many of her own saved seeds (which you can identify by the atlas-page origami). You can find the library underneath the members’ table, near the Terracycle/Gillette recycling drop box. To use the library, take any seeds you need, and try to save seeds from that crop. (Watch the Chronicle for more tips on seed saving.) Then put the seeds in labelled packages with the variety and year harvested, so that others can grow them next year. 

You can follow Jennifer’s gardening adventures on Instagram at jkknoch, where you can see videos about saving your lettuce seeds. And remember to subscribe to Karma Co-op’s Instagram channel at karmacooptoronto

From the Archives: Last-minute Karma gift guide

Author: Sean Carruthers

Tagline: Christmas in July? Here’s a Karma gift guide from 2014

Disclaimer: This is an article from the Chronicle’s archives (from 2014), as such, the co-op’s product selection has changed over the years. As a result, this article shouldn’t be seen as a representation of the co-op’s current product offerings.

Has your holiday shopping stalled? Don’t panic. We toured the aisles of your friendly neighbourhood co-op to help you find gifts for everyone on your list.

Lunch time!

Lunch time at work or school can mean a whole parade of expensive meals and throw-away takeout containers. Instead, consider one of Klean Kanteen’s vacuum-sealed stainless steel food containers, so your loved ones can pack a home-cooked meal. It’s economically sensible and ecologically friendly. The Klean Kanteen food canisters keep food hot (or cool) for hours, and they’re also good for day trips, hikes, or picnics. And Klean Kanteen has a full lineup of stainless steel water bottles, too!

Bee bright

Beeswax candles are always a good idea, producing negative ions and cleaning the air, all without the harmful chemical pollutants released by typical paraffin candles. This goes double through the holiday season, when many a candle is lit in celebration or commemoration. In addition to the usual pillars, stick, and tealights, you can also get beeswax candles in seasonal shapes like pine cones or Christmas trees.

Lip-smacking

Speaking of beeswax, Toronto Honeys has a new lip balm made with fair trade cocoa butter and beeswax taken from hives in and around Toronto. Even better, it’s produced by two Karma members. Nearly everyone gets chapped lips at some point during the winter, so this would be a great stocking stuffer for anyone on your list.

Chocolicious

Q: Chocolate? A: YES, PLEASE. Fair trade chocolate is always a big favourite during the holidays, and thankfully Karma has a whole wall to choose from. My personal favourite these days is the dark chocolate variety made with 72 per cent cocoa from Montreal’s Galerie au Chocolat (the brown cardboard packaging may be basic, but the taste certainly isn’t). There’s also a great assortment of stocking-size bars from B.C.’s Denman Island Chocolate and a selection of vegan options from Orangeville’s Giddy Yoyo. If you’re not sure which to choose, just get them all, because … chocolate!

Wild and woolly

If your gift recipient is more practical in nature, never fear. Everyone wants their clothing to come out of the dryer soft and static-free, but sometimes the options are dubious: ye olde dryer sheets can spread a layer of toxic stink onto your clothes, and those spiky dryer balls can actually damage fabric. In our house, we’ve become really fond of Moss Creek’s dryer balls (made of 100 per cent merino wool). You get three dryer balls per box, which comes with an adorable sheep on the label.

Stain-b-gone!

Also on the practical side is Bunchafarmers’ stain remover stick, which is all-natural, biodegradable, and made right here in southern Ontario. Just rub the stick straight onto stains caused by grass, grease, ketchup, wine, ink, etc., and then wash as usual. (Stubborn or long-standing stains may require multiple treatments or a bit of manual scrubbing, of course.)

Recycled beer

If you’re looking for a gift that’s a bit more unique, how about recycled beer? Okay, not the beer itself, but the bottle it came in: Ontario’s Artech Glass Blowing Studios use heat to recraft old bottles into glassware that can still hold an entire bottle of beer. They’re all done by hand, so each new glass has some character to it . . . much like the type of person for whom you’d get this as a gift, no doubt!

If you’re just not sure . . .

Still can’t decide? There’s always a Karma gift certificate. They’re available in any denomination and can even be used by non-members. Why not share your love for Karma by treating a friend?

“Movies for Co-op Meetings” A Fascinating Slice of history

Author: Benjamin Miller, Outgoing Karma Chronicle Editor

If you’re like me, you’re probably always looking for fascinating films about the cooperative movement. There are a few movies on Netflix but they lack substance. If you’re looking for genuine learning, then you will probably get a kick out of this “forgotten book” called Movies for Co-op Meetings. This booklet offers a list of films (no doubt now quite difficult to track down even if you do have a VCR) on issues relating to co-ops The very existence of the list speaks to communal and social nature of co-ops even at their AGMs.

Here’s a sample of some of the films that sounded most interesting to me and were actually available in some form:

1. Power and the Land: This film documents the struggle of rural communities in the US to access electricity and their creativity and resilience in doing so. It’s available on YouTube!

2.Farm Electrification: This film documents Canada’s early efforts to electrify farms. It is available through the National Film Board. For those who want to put Canada’s modern industrial farming in historical context, this will surely be of interest.

3. A Trip to Cooperative Europe: This film is a travelogue of visiting co-ops across Europe. I was not able to find the film but it seems to be based on a book which is available through Florida Atlantic University library!

Here are some of the titles I couldn’t find but sound great. They are mainly about the early history of the cooperative movement in rural areas of the US:

Banking on the land: a film about collective mortgage solutions.

Here is Tomorrow: a story about the progress of the co-op movement

If you watch any of these films, feel free to share the review with your fellow cooperators in the Chronicle!

Conversations on Co-operation: What Karma means to member John Richmond

Author: Rebecca Weigand

When I joined Karma Co-op in 2002, I didn’t really think of the twenty years ahead, or the thirty years behind me. What I remember from that time, what has always stuck out for me is the comfort of being part of a community where I know that everyone else shares my values of healthy sustainable food and community. Doing cash as member labour, back when we had to flip through the boxes of yellow membership cards, I remember the little thrill I felt (especially as a rather shy person who wouldn’t normally go up to other shoppers) when I’d meet someone new, or have a chance to welcome a new member, or join in someone’s excitement about a great product or the first strawberries of the season. I remember sometimes wondering about other people’s stories, about what drew them in to the co-op and what kept them here. I remember noticing the Karma kids and their sense of freedom and community while they shopped with their parents, and wanting this same sense of community for my kids (or maybe wanting kids so that they could be part of a Karma community). Karma feels almost like a home that one can drift away from and come back to. I’ve done that recently, and on my latest return, I have joined the communications/Chronicle team, found a great opportunity to hear and share some of those stories, as we celebrate our fiftieth year. A couple of weeks ago I sat down with longtime Karma member and co-op advocate John Richmond. John has been passionate about the co-operative movement since he first joined a credit union as a young teenager. He later became a member of Agora Co-op in Vancouver. He helped establish West End Food Co-op and Sorauren Farmers’ Market Co-op in Toronto, and he is an active member of Otter Co-op. Here are some of the highlights of that conversation.

Rebecca: You’re involved with a lot of co-ops. Tell me more about that, and how Karma fits in.

John: I was starting to get really active in the local food movement and urban and suburban agriculture, which in those days was not on the radar at all. But it was happening. There were farmers who were doing this and the food co-ops were the places where you could buy the food that they made because no one no one else wanted to buy it. No one, no one was interested in buying local, buying BC food and buying food produced in the city — the way we had done it in the 1940s and 1950s. That culture had completely disappeared. But the food co-ops had kept it going. I found this very inspirational.

I moved to Ontario in the 1990s and I arrived in Toronto on Via and the next day I went into Karma and signed up. I was super impressed with Karma because it reminded me a lot of Agora (co-op in Vancouver). Karma has that vibe that Agora had. It’s like a little family, everybody very supportive. I’ve been a Karma member ever since. And I tried to do all my shopping at karma. And I became a board member and I was the treasurer at Karma for a while which was a great experience.

Rebecca: What has kept you involved with Karma over the years?

John: I was really impressed with Karma during COVID. And I know not everybody in Karma feels that way. But I thought everybody was really lovely at Karma during COVID. It was a very stressful time. I’m a healthcare social worker. And certainly working in the hospital was very unpleasant, had to deal with a lot of very angry people, I still do. But so when I go for my weekly shop at karma, everybody just seems so nice. And so understanding and including understanding of people who are anti vaxxers, people who didn’t believe in COVID, people whose mental health was not good, and who were very angry, and who were standing inside, standing outside in line, you know, to get into karma and arguing. People were nice to them nice to them in a way that I didn’t see anywhere else in society. And I just thought this, this is a microcosm of how the world could be–the way we treat each other at Karma. I’m a cyclist and had a bike accident, and I had a stroke. And while I was in hospital, I got a gift basket from Karma, and a card from the staff. And it was just like the absolute loveliest thing. It was just so nice. I’ll never forget that.

Rebecca: What else do you think is important for Karma members to think about in terms of co-ops?

John: Toronto used to have a lot of food co-ops in the 70s, and 80s. And by the 1990s, they were all gone. And there was a new one that opened in the 1990s, thanks to the Ontario government, which was called Stone soup. They went under as well. And so, you know, keeping a co-op going under neoliberalism, which is the system that we live under now, is very, very difficult. When you’re a place like Karma, and it’s just food and your margins are very low, it’s really tough. And I think it’s a real testimony to the strength of the community that Karma is still around. It’s pretty amazing…. That’s an untold story.

From the Chronicle Archives-Staying True to Karma Values

Tagline: Karma’s first president reflects on its origins (from 2010)

Author: Richard Haney

Hello Karma Members,

I still have Karma Co-op Membership card #348 that was issued to me in 1972. I can easily remember the first days of organising, planning and then opening the doors of the old, empty “white elephant” warehouse at 344 Dupont St. Our first Karma Meeting was held in the furnace room because there was so little heat in the building! That first Meeting was jam-packed with enthusiasm, high hopes and a strong sense of empowerment. We were all very disenchanted with the proliferation of very large supermarkets at which a consumer was virtually irrelevant as a person. We had extensively canvassed the whole Annex to find out what folks wanted in their neighbourhood and we then formulated a business plan to reflect those ideas and hopes and Karma Co-op was born! The first three products that people wanted were: bulk crunchy peanut butter, inexpensive cat food and inexpensive toilet paper. The day the store opened we had all three proudly displayed!

Recently I have been reading the Karma Chronicle on-line and observing that the issues of co-op size and the concept of potential non-member co-op shoppers are back on the radar screen. I fully and strongly believe that there are two main reasons why Karma has successfully survived for almost forty years when many other co-ops in North America have failed:

a. Karma’s fairly strict adherence to the 1966 Version of the Toad Lane Six Rochdale Principles.

b. Keeping a close and sharp eye on the relationship between co-op membership size and staying near the break-even point financially. Our hope in those early days was that Karma Co-op would be a proto-type and would REPLICATE.

Jane Jacobs, the legendary urbanologist, was an active Karma Member and, influenced by her literary inspiration, many of us attempted to start a Karma Co-op II down in Cabbagetown. We knew that by keeping the size of each democratically-governed co-op reasonable and by co-operating with other fledgling co-ops we could probably “change the world” of environmentally-destructive consumerism. I, for one, still ARDENTLY believe in the Rochdale Principles!

When I lived in San Francisco I was a Member of the Consumers Cooperative of Berkeley (CCB). It was a resoundingly successful co-op which started in 1937 and lasted until approximately 1986…..Almost 50 years! I have researched the reasons why CCB went “belly-up”. It appears as though the two major reasons were that it got too big and successful and that it veered away “step-by-step” from democratic control. They had a technique called “patronage return” by which Members would get a yearly percentage of any profits proportional to their level of purchases. There became so many non-member shoppers that democratic governance became at best an illusion. For a good article on the closing of the CCB check out the article by Karen Zimbelman at Co-operative Grocer. The article is in Issue # 38, January-February, 1992.

Please be sure to invite me to the Fortieth Anniversary of Karma! AND to the Fiftieth Anniversary! Anyone who would like to chat with me about the early days of Karma is welcome to contact me.

With warm regards,

Richard M. Haney, Founding President of Karma Co-op

In Memoriam: Michael Armstrong

We are so deeply saddened to hear of the recent passing of former longtime Karma Produce and Assistant General Manager, Michael Armstrong. Michael worked at Karma for 16 years from 1999 – 2015. His gentle, kind heart, and good humour made Michael a true joy to work with. He always brought good music, positivity and lots of laughs to the job, not to mention a real way with the veggies. ⁠

Our love and thoughts are with Michael’s family. We will miss you so much Michael. Your staff photo will always have pride of place on our famous retired Karma staff wall. Rest peacefully, friend. A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to support Michael’s family.