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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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.

From https://kimberlysnyder.com/blog/2012/01/23/dharmas-kale-salad-recipe/

submitted by Barbara Walters

Photograph by Ela Lichtblau

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

Pfenning’s and the business of organic growing

Farming is a strange business these days. Steeped in tradition and rooted in love of the land, vegetable growing now involves layers of regulations, packaging and brand development, processing infrastructure, logistics, accounting, and supply chain relationships.

We consumers demand vegetables year-round, while southern Ontario fields yield fresh produce for about half that time. And we want clean, crisp, unblemished product, necessitating a mix of washing, packaging, refrigeration, efficient transport, and much product discarded. Hours spent by farmers on the business of selling product is time away from growing and harvesting it.

For over 50 small ecological farmers, one solution is to sell their vegetables to Pfenning’s Organic Farms. Pfenning’s has emerged as a major packer and distributor of organic produce in southwestern Ontario, as well as growing carrots, corn, and peas on 700 acres in New Hamburg, west of Kitchener.

I spoke to Jenn Pfenning, whose parents-in-law, Wilhelm and Barnhild, founded the business. She told me that they immigrated to Canada in 1981, after the fields that Wilhelm’s family had farmed for generations in Germany were expropriated for a new highway overpass. Slowly they formed sales relationships with Ontario’s pioneering health food stores of the time, including Karma.

In the 1990s, their sons Wolfgang and Ekk (Jenn’s husband) took over the farm but shifted from direct sales to a distributor. That distributor did not have a strong connection to the local farm community, so Ontario growers were forced to compete with low-cost California imports even in peak season. Meanwhile, retailers were calling Pfenning’s for local vegetables that distributors didn’t offer.

In 2004, Pfenning’s returned to direct sales, offering their own produce and a little imported product to fill the gaps. The business evolved as other farmers started offering their product at wholesale to sell. Pfenning’s has the infrastructure to store, wash, and pack produce, and sell it under their brand—all operations that require scale.

Pfenning’s does not require contracts or acreage commitments, nor do they set yield expectations for their growing partners. Pfenning’s asks only that their partners record time and materials inputs for fair pricing. They also sell other farmers’ brands, such as HOPE Eco-Farm, so those farmers can minimize their own accounting and logistics work.

Jenn explained that Pfenning’s has a range of import relationships with small family farms and like-minded distributors in California, Florida, and Georgia, but maintains an absolute dedication to local first. The provenance of their vegetables fluctuates, but the bulk are Ontario-grown and over half are from their own fields.

Each summer Pfenning’s hires 25 men from Jamaica (20 per cent of their peak season workforce), under Canada’s seasonal agricultural worker program. Jenn advocates for human rights and better treatment of migrant workers as an integral part of sustainable agriculture.

I visited the centre of operations at Pfenning’s, a huge old barn converted into an industrial-looking packing facility, with warm spacious timber-framed offices taking up much of the second floor. A river of beets and rainbow carrots covered the two conveyor belts that morning as three-person teams sorted and packed them into bags. Bins of brightly coloured vegetables were moved by forklift. Upstairs, there was a quiet buzz from people on phones and computers. Two dogs greeted office visitors. Barnhild, now in her 80s, occupied a recliner near Ekk’s standing desk.

In winter, 40 or so people are employed in the office and warehouse, on packing lines, and driving trucks. Wolfgang and his wife, Regina, live in the house next to the barn, while Ekk and Jenn live across the road. Some of their young adult children work with them. Ekk is the logistics mastermind; he manages import licences and trucking contracts, and arranges deliveries to approximately 100 retailers. It’s a long way from the family’s fields outside of the medieval-era German village where Wilhelm started farming—and not just in a geographical sense.

Amy Stein is writing a series of articles about Karma’s farm-based suppliers.

Read more articles from the spring 2017 issue of Karma’s printed newsletter, The Chronicle.