Recognizing member contributions

Karma Co-op is made up of members who contribute their time, expertise, and passion for local food and products to make this community an open, vibrant, and knowledgeable food store for all of us.

Our members dedicate themselves to many parts of the co-op, including the array of committees we have that help Karma thrive. Some of our members have gone above and beyond, committing years of service on committees, showing leadership, and helping shape the community we have today.

In this e-Chronicle, we turn to our newsletter — The Chronicle — and extend our gratitude to long-serving members of this committee.

Karen Fliess
Karen first joined the Chronicle Committee in 2008, contributing articles and fulfilling the role of publisher and later communications manager, only recently retiring from her position in the spring of 2017. Many meetings were hosted in her home, where committee members shared food and enjoyed tea while reviewing past issues and discussing what stories would appear in the next newsletter. Karen also introduced us to other members through her column “In the aisle.” Individuals and couples were interviewed by Karen, explaining why they shopped at the co-op, what products were their favourites, and what improvements they would appreciate seeing at the store. We are very grateful to Karen for the leadership, order, and high standards she helped to set for our co-op’s newsletter and the many members she worked with on the Chronicle Committee.

Ellen Pauker
Ellen is a professional graphic designer and lent her valuable skills to The Chronicle for more than five years, taking numerous newsletters and transforming them into wonderfully designed co-operative publications. Any member of this committee can tell you this position is no easy task — fitting the articles and photos into the set number of pages, finding creative ways to lay out pages, and making edits, all in a condensed period of time. While Ellen has since retired from her position on the committee, we are very grateful for all the newsletters she designed for us. Thank you, Ellen!

Amy Stein
Amy has been an active editorial contributor, copy editor, proofreader, and content editor of The Chronicle for several years. Thanks to Amy, we’ve been introduced to some of the local farmers and producers of the special food available at the co-op. She is an excellent editor and helped polish many articles over the years. Amy also stepped up and helped engage the committee and membership in discussing the evolution of the newsletter from print to online. We want to thank Amy for these and so many other contributions she’s made to our community over the years. Amy moved on from the committee in the spring of 2017.

by Kate Rusnak

Karma’s best practices for reducing food waste

Karma members have a yearning to enjoy food at the height of its quality. Karma members also feel a deep sense of responsibility for the impact of our food consumption on the environment and society. One aspect of this is to ensure that food is enjoyed as much as possible and not wasted. Canada wastes $31 billion worth of food annually [Toronto Food Policy Council], so the cooperative takes this responsibility seriously and is committed to maintaining quality while reducing food waste. Karma endeavors to reduce waste at three stages of the value chain:

At home

Approximately 47% of food waste in Canada is produced in consumers’ homes [Toronto Food Policy Council]. To help avoid surplus food that ends up being wasted, Karma is committed to offering many food items in bulk, allowing shoppers to buy the amount they need and not more.

In store

Karma routinely checks products and produce nearing the end of their shelf life early enough to divert them. Prices are reduced before the expiry date for certain foods, including bread and prepared food, to sell them quickly, and damaged produce is placed in the half-price bin. Each week, the equivalent of two big banana boxes full of unsellable but still edible items are donated to the kitchens of Fort York Food Bank and Christie Ossington Neighbourhood Centre to support the 850,000 Canadians who use food banks each month [Food Banks Canada]. Every day at the store, organic scrap gets carefully separated from recyclables and garbage, to allow efficient processing of each type of waste. Most unsalvageable food is composted in the City of Toronto composting program, which returns nutrients to the soil, reduces methane emissions, and stimulates carbon sequestration. These are other important and harmful aspects of food waste. Worldwide, “the carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten is estimated to 3.3 Gtonnes of CO2 equivalent: as such, food wastage ranks as the third top emitter after USA and China” [Food and Agriculture Organisation]. Furthermore, some of Karma’s organic waste is collected by farmers to be used as animal feed. Finally, part of the organic waste — about 50 litres a week — also goes to the booming worm population in Karma’s dedicated compost binto be transformed into valuable soil amendment and plant tonic.

At the suppliers

Among other benefits, Karma’s priority to local suppliers means food travels shorter distances, and less food is spoiled during transportation. Karma’s quality standards are based on nutrients rather than aesthetic aspects, so fewer shabby vegetables get discarded and wasted for that reason. Karma’s buying practices do not involve signing many contracts with volume commitments and thus avoid encouraging big inventories at both Karma and its suppliers, which are associated with greater food waste. Karma has close links with four farmers, which allows them to come and offer items left over after a market.

It would be extremely difficult to quantify the positive impact of these efforts on human and animal life and the environment. They show us how Karma achieves the sense of community that its members are so proud of and committed to. Yet, they are only part of the larger contribution of members to reduce, at home and everywhere possible, the food wasted in Canada each year.


Nathalie Rémond, on behalf of the Food Issues Committee

What to call an egg: a visit with the Howick Community Farmers

First published in The Chronicle (Spring 2016)

What do you want to know about the eggs you buy? This is no idle question. I set out to interview some of the people behind the Howick Community Farmers (HCF or Hoffnung) eggs; but they interviewed me, too.

HCF is a three-year-old partnership of farmers in an old-order Mennonite community near Wingham, created to share infrastructure (such as an egg grading station) and sell the combined output from their farms. Besides eggs, HCF sells certified organic flour from their new mill, certified organic maple syrup, pastured beef, ketchup, and more. Since their church community made the collective decision not to use any genetically modified inputs on their farms, the starting point for their egg branding is a clear non-GMO message. Beyond that, however, the labelling gets tricky. Each farm — there are roughly 15 delivering eggs to the grading station each Tuesday — is different. Most of them have flocks of up to 100 laying hens, the maximum allowable number without buying quota. Two farms were grandfathered when quota rules took effect, so are allowed 500 hens. Together, they sell over 15,000 eggs per week. On the day I visited, they were about to print new labels for their pastured organic eggs, while keeping the original label for the conventional eggs. They wanted to hear my perspective on wording, as a city-based consumer.

Organically fed. Elias Brubacher grows organic chicken feed, which most of the other egg producers buy from him. They also buy certified organic mineral supplements, even though the eggs are not certified organic.

Pastured. The hens are on pasture in warm months, with access to pasture in winter. Access does not mean the hens want to go outside – chickens will brave the cold, but they don’t like to walk in snow. At Adam Brubacher’s farm, the hens range freely around the property (he says foxes got quite a few this year), while Elias’s flock of 500 birds is enclosed in the barn beside other livestock when I arrive. Some hens surge outside when Elias opens the doors, but most are content to hang out at the feeders inside the airy barn. Patches of snow keep any from venturing far beyond the doorway.


Small flocks. If you do not think of 500 as a small flock, consider that industrial egg producers jam tens of thousands of hens into windowless barns. Last month, Elias’s hens did start pecking each other. (Henpecking can occur even in backyard flocks, but is exacerbated in enclosed space.) He and some helpers clamped little pieces of plastic in front of each hen’s eyes, eliminating aggressive behaviour by preventing them from seeing directly ahead. It feels surreal to walk among the hundreds of active, curious birds … all seemingly decked out in bright red and yellow sunglasses.


Harvested forage in winter. After detailed discussion, I am certain that most consumers do not know its significance or meaning (preserved greens, for high nutrient quality in eggs). Adam notes that the amount of harvested forage they get varies across farms, which concerns him even though it is not a focus of consumers.

Quality and integrity are paramount. For example, Adam tells me that one of the farms does not offer enough pasture to sell its eggs under the new pastured organic label. It’s a good-sized barnyard, but he feels there is not enough grass for the size of the flock. Adam has also run experiments to improve yolk quality, which is how they determined that sunlight in winter is a key factor.

As we talk, it becomes clear that Adam is a driving force behind HCF. He is not just working to build the customer base for their farm products, he is working to persuade all the other farmers in his community of the benefits – and the viability – of farming organically. Understanding what their customers value is not just a marketing exercise, it’s part of the mission.


by Amy Stein

Meals on a budget: a day in the life


The challenge: to produce healthy meals on a tight budget, using all-Karma ingredients

Breakfast: super morning oats

Total cost per serving: $1.38
Prep. time: 12 minutes
Ingredients (for one serving):

½ cup bulk organic rolled oats — $0.16
Small handful of bulk organic nuts/seeds (e.g. walnuts, filberts, pumpkin seeds) — $0.57
Small handful of bulk organic black currants — $0.15
Drizzle of bulk Temple’s Sugar Bush maple syrup — $0.20
Sprinkle of bulk ground cinnamon — $0.05
Splash of milk (of your choice — ours is Hewitt’s goat milk) or yogurt — $0.25


1. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add oats, smallest pinch of salt. Stir. Reduce to medium heat.
2. Immediately add the nuts/seeds and currants. Stir.
3. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the syrup, cinnamon, and milk/yogurt.

Lunch: Karma-style instant ramen noodle soup

Total cost per serving: $4.07 with kimchi ($3.82 without)
Prep. time: 8 min.

Ingredients (for one serving):

1 package Lotus Foods Jade Green Ramen — $2.49
1 small bok choy (or ½ large bok choy) — $0.75
1 Homestead free-range egg — $0.58
(optional) 1 tbsp. Ontario Natural Food Co-op Organic Kimchi Style Sauerkraut — $0.25


1. Follow directions on package to make ramen.
2. While ramen noodles are cooking, boil the egg in a separate pot until medium soft.
3. Break apart bok choy and slice leaves lengthwise. Add to water when ramen noodles are halfway done.
4. Serve in your favourite soup bowl. Add boiled egg and (optional) kimchi.

Dinner: fish on kale and squash

Total cost per serving: $5.23
Prep. time: 50 min.

Ingredients (for four servings):

1 Kabocha squash or 2 small acorn squash — $3.00
1 bunch organic kale — $3.50
2 small portions frozen wild caught salmon — $13.14
Zest of 1 lemon — $0.50
Sprinkle of dill — $0.15
(optional) 1-2 tsp. coconut sugar or maple syrup — $0.10
Olive oil


1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Chop squash in half. Drizzle olive oil inside squash and on pan. Place halves upside down on pan. Bake for approximately 40 minutes. Remove cooked squash from skin and mash with a fork. Add optional toppings.
3. Bring large pot of water to a boil. Blanche chopped kale in water for 3–4 minutes. Remove kale and rinse under cold water.
4. Place thawed fish in a pan with a little olive oil. Cook fish on low-medium heat with lid on. Add lemon zest and sprinkle dill to taste. When internal temp is 70°C (158°F), it’s ready. Cut each cooked portion of fish in half. Check for bones.
5. First plate the squash, and then the kale, and lastly place the fish on top. It looks pretty and tastes good!

by Kate Tessier

First published in The Chronicle (Spring 2016)

From the GM — July 2017

Dear Karma Members,

Thank you to all who helped us celebrate our 45th anniversary; it was an uplifting and energizing day filled with great company, food, and drink. We couldn’t have asked for a better day!

I would like to say a very big thank you to the sponsors who made our day extra special. Thanks to: Acropolis Organics, AllYum Onion Chips, Auggie’s Pops, Black River Juices, Dale Wilson, Laneway Project, Montforte Dairy, Neal Brothers, ONFC, Pfennings Organics, Southbrook Vineyards, Sunflower Kitchen, Sweets From the Earth, TWB Brewing Co-operative, Urbane Cyclist, and Zara’s Kitchen. Our connections with all of our suppliers have very deep roots, and we’re so grateful for your work and for sharing your products with us over the years.

Also a very big thank you to the Planning Committee and all of the members and staff who helped on the day of. Our 45th anniversary celebration would not have been possible without all of you and your devotion.

I also want to acknowledge Richard Haney, Karma’s founding President, for making the trek to Toronto from Ottawa. It was wonderful to hear his stories of our early years as an organization. It was such a pleasure to have you Richard!

For those of you who weren’t able to join us, don’t worry, we’ll see you at the 50th, if not before!

Yours co-operatively,

Talia McGuire
General Manager
Karma Co-op

From the GM — June 2017

Dear Karma Members,

It’s time to celebrate! If you haven’t already heard, Karma turned 45 on May 16 and we’re having a party to mark our co-op’s milestone! The big day is set for Saturday, June 24 from 2 to 6 pm in our parking lot and along Karma Lane. There are lots of fun activities scheduled and lots of great food and drink to be enjoyed. It is sure to be a great time! We hope you can join us to celebrate 45 years of co-operative action and sustainable food in our community!

In addition to the 45th celebrations, there are lots of other events happening around the store in June. Please see the events listings for more details on the 45th and other events.

Later this month we will be saying a temporary goodbye to Health and Beauty Buyer, Kat Camfield as she embarks on a one-year journey to Victoria, BC. We will miss Kat’s unwavering positivity, compassion, and cheery self. Best of luck to you Kat! We hope the year ahead has many great things in store for you. We look forward to having you back!

Yours co-operatively,
Talia McGuire
General Manager
Karma Co-op

From the GM – May 2017

Dear Karma Members,

It has begun! The local spring produce is starting to roll in. Wild leeks have arrived and we are getting more phone calls from farmers with the first of the season’s harvest. A lot of fresh greens at this point, but we can expect more and more variety from here on out!

If you are a home canner, Karma will have lots of options for you this spring. We are happy to take pre-orders for any crop you want to preserve: asparagus, wild leeks, fiddleheads, or strawberries! It’s going to happen fast, so we want to make sure you can plan ahead for your canning needs and source your produce from Karma.

May is Fairtrade Month, and Karma will be showcasing Fairtrade certified items and offering great deals throughout the month. Fairtrade is more than fairly compensating producers for their goods. Fairtrade has strict standards for worker’s rights, gender equality, protection of the environment and prohibiting child labour. In addition to the usual Fairtrade items of chocolate, coffee, and tea, Karma also carries Fairtrade tamari, spices, soda, and tahini! If there’s a Fairtrade item you would like to see on our shelves, let us know! We’re always happy to expand our selection of Fairtrade items. To help support suppliers of Fairtrade certified items, Karma will be hosting a Fairtrade Market on Saturday, June 10. Here you will have the opportunity to talk to the suppliers of, and taste Fairtrade products carried at Karma.

Happy Birthday Karma! May 16 is Karma’s official 45th anniversary! We will be having a very special day to celebrate our achievement of 45 years as a non profit, member owned and operated food store! Please help us celebrate

Yours co-operatively,

Talia McGuire

General Manager

Karma Co-op