From the GM—February 2020

Happy February! The days are getting longer and brighter which means, soon, we will start seeing local greens and start reconnecting with many of our local farmers. 

Over the past couple of months, members of the board and I have been working hard! We’ve been busy building a robust health and safety policy, starting new committees (TBA!), reinvigorating old ones, and starting to think about Karma’s future. If you would like to be part of the magic that is moving Karma forward, please get in touch with either myself ( or the board (

I’ve been working with one of Karma’s members on updating Karma’s website. This much needed change will make our site more current and user friendly, as well as better feature our amazing content. And yes, the site will be mobile friendly. ???????????? Thank you to Neil Joyes for working long and hard on this project, which we hope to launch by the end of February. The update is long overdue. I hope you love the changes!

Many of you have been asking about when, and if, Karma will be getting tap on our debit terminals. I’m happy to announce that yes, we will. Very soon! Getting tap will make cashing out a little bit faster. You’re welcome!

You may have noticed a new face at Karma. Kevin Bowman is our newest addition to the Karma team. Kevin has a strong co-op background (currently sitting on the Guelph Campus Co-op board, as well as having established a co-operative board game cafe in Guelph), and he has experience with local and organic foods. Welcome Kevin!

In co-operation,

Talia McGuire
General Manager

Bulk dental floss at Karma

Unlike rows of new bulk bins, or the recently installed kombucha bar, there are many other new arrivals at Karma that can easily escape our notice. One such product is silk dental floss. A brief mention of it in the Karma e-Chronicle a few months back caught my attention. Shortly thereafter, I bought a Flosspot and a tiny box containing two refills of woven silk threads. I’ve been hooked ever since.

For those of us wanting to reduce single-use plastics, count silk dental floss as one small but important step. Flosspot is a refillable mini-mason jar with a metal lid and a 40-meter-long spool of silk threads inside.  But unlike plastic dental floss, you add it to the compost instead of your garbage bin after each use.

Flosspot’s silk dental floss is lightly coated with candelila wax, which comes from a shrub.  Using a plant-based wax enabled this product to earn USDA certification as a bio-based product. While there are other brands of silk dental floss, many use wax derived from fossil fuels. And KMH Touches, the company that makes Flosspot is Canadian.

I have noticed that silk dental floss is not quite as tough as plastic, so in order not to waste it, I try to use it a bit more gently than the plastic floss I have used in the past.

While in Karma the other day, I noticed a new product on the same shelf. Flosspot Gold is a dental floss whose threads are made from corn. Like all products made of silk, silk worms die in the process of making silk thread. So KMH Touches now has a vegan-friendly alternative. I look forward to trying it in the coming months.

submitted by Tim Grant

From the GM—December 2018

Dear Karma Members,

It’s been a busy time at the store! We’re busy getting ready for the holidays which means getting in some amazing products for you to savour, share, and enjoy for yourself! The Darn Tough Socks are out in full force and the Stollen awaits you! Be sure to check out our holiday hours (below) as we will be open late over the Christmas weekend and open on New Year’s Eve. ????

You know we’ve got everything you need for your holiday entertaining needs, but Karma is also an amazing place to do your holiday gift shopping. We’ve got some amazing beauty care products that your loved ones are sure to enjoy; plenty of accessories and package free gift options for the zero-waster on your list; and of course, an array of delicious edibles for the foodies. We also have gift certificates for the Karma curious on your list! When in doubt, gift your love for your co-op! ❤️

In addition to the holiday excitement, we’ve had some exciting developments in our ever expanding bulk selection. Shea and cocoa butter, Anarres face masks and tub truffles, Alchemy Pickle sauerkraut and kimchi, coconut aminos, and frozen local organic berries and peaches can now all be found in bulk! We also now carry Prairie Boy and Spent Goods bread package free! If there’s something you want to see in our bulk and package free section, let us know! We’re always looking for suggestions. We hope you enjoy!!!

Yours co-operatively,

Talia McGuire
General Manager
Karma Co-op

Holiday Hours
Saturday, December 22 — 9 am – 9 pm
Sunday, December 23 — 9 am – 9 pm
Monday, December 24 — CLOSED
Tuesday, December 25 — CLOSED
Wednesday, December 26 — CLOSED
Thursday, December 27 to Sunday, December 30 — regular hours
Monday, December 31 — 9 am – 7 pm
Tuesday, January 1 — CLOSED

From the GM—September 2018

Dear Karma Members,

It’s September! Another summer has flown by. I was rather shocked and not quite ready to see the pumpkins that Tony Neale delivered two weeks ago. “These can’t be real pumpkins… It’s too early,” I thought. But no, the pumpkins are very real and, presumably, delicious. I say presumably because, despite being very fond of pumpkin, I haven’t yet purchased one. Doing so would only actualize the end of summer for me, and I’m just not ready. I’m just not. I don’t often feel that way about the changing of the seasons, and perhaps it’s because so many exciting things that I am proud of happened over the summer months that I’m feeling reluctant to let go.

This summer my long-time dream of new bulk bins was realized; we worked and continue to work hard at increasing Karma’s package free and zero-waste product offerings; we got some great press; I also celebrated my son’s 4th birthday ????. My biggest sense of accomplishment though has come from the membership. Hearing all of your kind words of support and love for the changes have been so meaningful to me. I know I am doing my job and have made the right choices when I hear how happy you all are with what is happening around our store. Nothing makes me happier. Thank you everyone for your support in making these changes a reality. They wouldn’t have been possible without all of you!

I hope you have all had a chance to see the brand new beautiful sign that was mounted at the Follis entrance of Karma Lane. The sign was made possible thanks to two dedicated members who generously donated money for the cause and to a member who kindly gave us permission to mount the sign to their fence. Thank you! I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out and hope this will bring more walk-by traffic and awareness to our store.

On another note, it has come to my attention that some members thought Karma no longer stocked toilet paper. Rest assured, we do! We have simply moved the product to a nearby shelf to make room for… you guessed it… MORE BULK! ????

Yours co-operatively,

Talia McGuire
General Manager
Karma Co-op

Simple steps to special ordering

Did you know that if you can’t find a product on our store shelves, you can try to “special order” it? This service is available to all members and means you can likely do more of your shopping at Karma. Here are some details to help you get started.

What can I special order?

Karma has a vast array of products you can purchase through special orders. Ask a staff member about a specific item. The items most commonly ordered are beauty products, bulk items, and groceries ordered by the case, such as drinks.  Other categories include snacks, cleaning products, and health products.

You can also place a standing special order for highly perishable items that you might want regularly (usually weekly or bi-weekly), such as bread, milk, or meat. It is your responsibility to pick up the item every week. Staff give a courtesy call the first week an item is received from a standing special order.

How much does it cost?

There is no additional charge for special orders. As with all products in the store, the price of an item is the supplier charge (that is, the wholesale price) plus Karma’s store mark-up fee, which differs depending on the item and membership type. It’s best to check with staff about the actual price of the item before ordering it. If you order by the case or in bulk (e.g., 25 kgs), you will receive a 5% discount.

*Important note* Unless you specify “Price check” on your order form, placing an order in the special orders box is a commitment to buy the product.

Where do I place a special order?

Special order forms and the special order box are located on the shelving unit just outside the kitchen in the store. You will need to fill out one special order form per item being ordered.

When will I receive my order?

Ask staff approximately how long it will take to get your item from the supplier. When items arrive, you’re notified and items are placed on the special orders shelf for pick-up.

Cheese, please!

Karma also offers special orders on bulk cheese. This is great news for all your upcoming parties and events! Check with a staff member about the types of cheese and quantities that can be ordered, and remember to ask about pricing before you submit your form.

submitted by Kate Rusnak

revised by Mara Eksteins, with input from Talia McGuire

First published in The Chronicle (Spring 2015)

Nutritional yeast

What bulk item at Karma do you think triggers the most questions of James Byrne, Karma’s bulk, meat, and cheese purchaser? I’ll give you a hint: Read the title of this article. Members are more curious about those bright yellow nutritional yeast flakes than any of the other bins and tubs of bulk products.

First of all, what is nutritional yeast? It is a single-celled microorganism called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which grows on and feeds from cane or beet molasses. The molasses provides a source of nutrient-rich food, filling the microbes with 18 amino acids and a selection of vitamins and minerals.

What are the health benefits of nutritional yeast?

It is a source of essential nutrients, soluble fibre (beta glucan), and minerals, as well as a more readily available supply of protein than meat. Nutritional yeast is popular with vegetarians and vegans as it provides vitamin B12, which otherwise is found only in animal products. One tablespoon of nutritional yeast contains 100% or more of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin B12.

The Engevita brand that Karma carries contains 71% protein by weight, which is impressive for plant food, and is an excellent boost for the brain, body, and muscles. It is low in sodium and calories, is non-GMO, and is free of added MSG and flavouring. This table details the nutritional values.

How is Engevita produced?

Engevita is derived from baker’s yeast, which is a waste product in the beer-making process. This variety is grown specifically on beet molasses. After harvesting, the microbes are heated to 100 °C, rendering them inactive. They are then dried and rolled with a drum into flakes.

Where does Karma obtain its supply?

Karma buys Engevita flakes from Grain Process Enterprises Ltd. in Scarborough. Engevita was developed by the food scientists at Royal DSM Food Specialties in The Netherlands in 2002. In 2006, the privately-owned Québec company Lallemand Inc. purchased the yeast rights and moved production to Estonia, where it is produced today.

To keep members satisfied, James orders a 10 kg bag of flakes every couple of months. That’s a lot of yeast considering 1 cup of the flakes weighs 60 g. Compare that with water, which weighs 236 g per cup.

How does one use nutritional yeast?

Those who are familiar with it know it for its strong flavour. It is often described as cheesy or nutty, which makes it popular as an ingredient in cheese substitutes. It is often used as a substitute for parmesan cheese in recipes. You can sprinkle it or stir it into dishes to add a hint of cheesiness. Nutritional yeast can also be used to thicken sauces and soups.

If using nutritional yeast is uncharted territory for you, maybe now you feel motivated to incorporate it into your cuisine for its nutrition-packed splendour. The Internet is the place to find recipes using nutritional yeast. Here’s one to get you started.


Dharma’s Kale Salad

Makes 1 to 2 servings

Author: Kimberly Snyder

Serves 2


1 bunch black kale
Pinch of salt
1 small avocado
Juice of a lemon
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
Cayenne pepper, to taste
2 handful sprouts, any kind
1 tomato, cubed
1–2 tbsp dulse flakes (seaweed flakes)
Handful of dill, parsley, or cilantro, or combination


1. Tear the kale leaves off the stem and place into a mixing bowl.

2. Add salt and tear into bite-sized pieces.

3. In a separate bowl, scrape out the avocado flesh and add lemon juice. Lightly mash and mix with a fork.

4. Add the avocado mixture to the kale and massage it into the kale with your fingers.

5. Stir in the nutritional yeast, cayenne pepper, sprouts, tomato, dulse flakes, and herbs, and add a little more sea salt, if desired.


submitted by Barbara Walters

Photograph by Ela Lichtblau

From the GM—March 2018

Dear Karma Members,

It has been a very busy month at the Co-op! We’ve been working hard to bring in some great new products for you with a real focus on reducing plastic and waste. We hope you love the new additions as much as we do. We had a lot of fun researching them and getting to know the people who make them.

As many of you have noticed, we moved some things around in the produce section. The reviews have been overwhelming positive. We’re thrilled you love the new space! We are also finishing up work in the bathroom. Soon it will have a fresh coat of paint and new backsplash!

We’ve also been working hard on getting our social media team and campaign off the ground. Thanks to some hard-working and creative members and our social media consultants at The Enabling City, we will be sharing our best content and spreading the word about Karma. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (click on “Follow Us” at the top of the page on the right) and to like and share our posts. The more things get shared, the more people will find out about our co-op!

We recently got news that Kathryn Camfield has decided to lay some roots in Victoria and stay beyond her leave of absence. Though we will miss her, we’re happy and excited for her. There have been rumours that she is keen to start up a food co-op in Victoria! ???? We’ll all be rooting for you Kat!

Join Karma’s Social Media Team!

Are you social media savvy? Do you love to create engaging content for the world to see? Are you passionate about environmental, food, or sustainability issues? Are you passionate about your co-op? We’re looking to up our social media game and need people with skills and passion in these areas to help us increase our social media presence. We need to fill various roles including team liaisons, content creators, editors, and schedulers. If you are interested in getting your member labour hours by helping Karma reach our social media goals, please contact Talia.

Yours co-operatively,

Talia McGuire
General Manager
Karma Co-op

The Shelf Elf goes bananas

The Shelf Elf has been busy again, but this time he’s into bananas. He thinks the banana tree, featuring Equifruit bananas — certified by Fairtrade Canada since 2007 — is a particularly nice addition to the store. The attractive Equifruit logo caught his eye, and he decided to investigate further. He discovered that the company was started in Drummondville, Quebec in 2006 by Danielle and Julie Marchessault, mother and daughter respectively. Ownership has since changed, and the team, now headed by Jennie Coleman, has doubled with four women now responsible for most of the Fairtrade bananas imported into Quebec and Ontario. They provide roughly 9 to 13 million bananas annually, or five million pounds. That’s a lot of bananas! Michelle Gubbels, Equifruit’s project manager, explained to me that the four paid members of the company describe themselves as being “passionate about international development, who see Fairtrade as a real alternative to the current exploitative food system.” They are supported by a phalanx of paid event staff who help to spread the word about Fairtrade at events such as the Fairtrade pop-up shop at Karma on Saturday, June 10, or the Buy Good. Feel Good. expo in May. The Shelf Elf loved the pop-up shop, especially the free samples. He thinks you should come next time.

The Equifruit team has been very encouraged by the growth of sales since its inception, particularly in the field of education. There are Fairtrade schools, Fairtrade cities (including Toronto, Edmonton, Barrie, and Vancouver), and perhaps most significantly, Fairtrade university campuses (such as Brock, McGill, Carleton, and Concordia), as well as Fairtrade events, workplaces and faith groups. In each of these contexts, our elven friend learned, becoming Fairtrade-designated involves getting organized, setting goals and making connections between Fairtrade products and the organization.

The Shelf Elf loves a good story, so he asked his new Equifruit friends if they might share a story or two about the banana producers. He watched the documentary Banana Split on the Equifruit blog. It provided background into the unethical relationship between banana growing companies such as the United Fruit Company (known as Chiquita today), and native landholders. After such a tough story, he was looking for some good news. He found it in the story of Victor Marquez. A farmer in Ecuador, he has a daughter attending university in Machala, an opportunity described as unthinkable before fair labour practices changed the life of Victor and his family. The Shelf Elf has many more things to tell you, as he’s a chatty little fellow, but let’s give the last word to the Equifruit team: “People say that organic bananas are a little sweeter and taste creamier than conventional bananas, but we’re in it for that sweet taste of social justice!”

By Sybille Parry

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)