Discover the Past, Present and Future of Organic Food.
By Kevin Damaskie
Not many folks in Vancouver were talking about the value of eating organic nearly 20 years ago.
But Annie Moss and Randy Hooper were. Since 1998 the two have worked six days a week growing Discovery Organics, one the most important Certified Organic and Fair Trade produce suppliers on the West Coast. Twenty years of dedication is deserving of a break and Randy and Annie have tried to not work as much of late.
Enter Damien Bryan.
As the General Manager of Discovery Organics, Damien is at the helm of an organic movement centred on Vancouver’s “Produce Row,” Malkin Ave. Tucked behind Strathcona Park, Malkin Ave. is an important part of the $700 million produce industry packed into the bustling area of loading docks and nice smelling warehouses.
“Annie and Randy were doing this 20 years ago when no one was really interested,” Damien says. “They set the bar for reaching out to growers and making lasting connections and relationships that are still strong today.”
What Annie and Randy started was a way for local, organic producers to access markets. Annie had experience working at an organic co-op and Randy was farming and running an organic grocery store on Salt Spring Island.
From those humble beginnings, Discovery Organics is now at the crest of the organic wave lapping the West Coast as Canadians tune into nutrient-dense, plant based diets to increase their personal and ecological health.
We love Discovery at The Green Moustache as they fill a very important gap for over half the year when we can’t source organic produce locally.
You just can’t grow organic bananas in BC, chuckles Damien. But Discovery has a great relationship with a producer in Ecuador, he adds. Because of their commitment to Fair Trade, Discovery works hard to make sure all their producers are getting the best deal.
According to Pemberton’s Bruce Miller, who runs Across the Creek Organics, specializing in Certified Organic table and seed potatoes, with his partner Brenda and sons, Discovery is a big part of their success, having worked with them for over 15 years.
“We have been with Discovery since they were doing deliveries in a Suburban and their warehouse was a 5-ton truck,” Bruce says. “Randy was going down to Central America to connect with farmers when it wasn’t even safe to do so. They are great ambassadors for the organic industry and amazing supporters of local organic farming.”
Bruce says Discovery has managed to maintain a commitment to their original philosophy of farmer first through their period of growth from a small distributor to a major player in the North American organic scene.
“They have worked with us with us and helped us through some difficult times and always stuck with us,” he says, adding it is not always the “big things” that make a difference for small farmers. Discovery will order shipping boxes in bulk and sell them to farmers in small lots so they don’t have to shell out precious operating capital to buy 10,000 boxes.
Back down on Malkin Ave., Damien says Annie and Randy have flown under the radar as they worked to build the foundation of the West Coast organic sector. Annie was recently given a lifetime achievement award by the Certified Organic Association of BC, and Randy still leads a team of buyers who annually travel throughout BC, California, Mexico and Central America building and maintaining strong relationships with producers around globe.
Faced with climatic change, food insecurity and a mounting focus on food as medicine, Damien is thankful for the pioneering spirit Annie and Randy have brought to Vancouver’s organic industry. Discovery ships food every day in an area from Whitehorse, Yukon to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
“It all starts with the health of the soil,” Damien says. “It’s the where, who and how that completes a circle about respect for growers, the earth and your own body.”
Annie, Randy, Damien and their staff of fifty passionate individuals will continue working hard to promote Certified Organic and Fair Trade.
“We are living in an era of growing food literacy,” Damien says. “When people start to think about what they are putting into their bodies, we all benefit. ‘Where did this come from, is it GMO, was it sprayed with chemicals, can the farmer afford to have a good quality of life for their family?’ These are the questions Annie and Randy have been asking for decades and they are good questions.”
And the taste of the Discovery produce in our Green Moustache food is the answer. Chew on that.