Jessy and Rhianna Embury’s business Kootenay Farm to Folk made their very-first order form available in August 2017 and things have been progressing steadily since then.
The company sources local farms and small-business food growers and producers and then delivers their products to customers, creating an easy way for the people of the East Kootenay to choose healthy food options.
The Emburys were inspired in part by Saskatchewan-based friends of theirs that run a similar business with a similar model, but it was their experience with an unwell child that really made them see the need for healthier food options.
One of their four boys, 11-year-old Lucas, wound up hospitalized for five months with a severe eating disorder.
“He refused to eat anything at all,” said Rhianna, “but it began with not wanting to eat anything processed or that was bad for him. And then it went to him not eating at all which led to the hospital stay and once he started to get better we decided that for our whole family it would be better to switch out our whole way of thinking and eat better, for him.”
Rhianna decided at that point to leave her full-time job in order to stay at home with her son, and it was then that she began her search for easy access to good quality good options.
“It was really hard to find really good food unless you went to a farmer’s market or unless you went to the farmer themselves.”
Now, with the hospital trip a thing of the past and the first months of the business out of the way, the future is looking bright for the business coming out of the gates into 2018. Their system, which Rhianna describes as “organized chaos,” has been working fabulously for them. They went from doing 20 to 30 orders in the first few months to serving around 100 customers every two weeks.
“We have two relationships,” Rhianna said, “it’s with our suppliers and our customers and we love both of them.”
They deliver to Cranbrook, Kimberley, Fernie, Sparwood, Elkford and all areas in between and get their products from a huge range of farms and businesses from around the region. In the beginning, they operated out of their home, but they quickly realized that wasn’t going to be sustainable.
“After about a month we realized, we looked at our living room and there was a thousand pounds of fruit in boxes in our living room and our kids had nowhere to sit,” she recalls. “We kind of went ‘okay it’s time to move it out of the house and get a shop.’”
They were approached by Farm Kitchen who offered them part of their walk-in cooler, which has helped, but they know they will, in time, come to outgrow that space as well.
Rhianna said that within the next few years they would like to open their own commercial kitchen that would be made available to people and entrepreneurs that want to make their products there.
“We will be just the distributor for them. It’s advantageous for everybody if we just say, ‘yes use our commercial kitchen free of charge’ because we are making are money distributing it for them.”
At the end of the day, their main objective isn’t to make big bucks, but to use their business as a way of doing good in the community that helped them when they were down on their luck. Rhianna remembers the very difficult time when their son was hospitalized, and her family was separated — Rhianna was in Vancouver with their two younger boys and Jessy was in Cranbrook with the older two.
“The family was separated for a long time, so very hard but we made it through and we wouldn’t have been able to make it through if it wasn’t for Cranbrook,” she said.
Rhianna explained that countless people in the community rallied behind them, providing support in numerous ways.
“We love Cranbrook, we love the Kootenays, we would never change anything and we kind of just want to help everybody.”
That is the spirit that fuels their business: the desire to support local businesses, provide healthy food options for Cranbrook’s citizens and keep profits circulating in the place that they love.
They also added a Food Bank option on their website, where people can buy a “Food Bank box.” If you make a $10 donation, Kootenay Farm to Folk will combine all donations at the end of the order cycle and order the appropriate amount more from their suppliers. This usually totals around 150 to 200 pounds of food that goes to the Food Bank every two weeks.
To learn more, or to place an order you can visit www.kootenayfarmtofolk.com — orders are open now until January 24 for delivery February 2 and 3.