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Food suppliers keeping it close to home

Farmer and marketer provide food for thought



A carrot grown in Pemberton then eaten in Whistler is a carrot that has impacted the world less significantly than a carrot grown in Mexico and eaten in Whistler. This is the belief of food advocates like Lana Martin of Sea to Sky Organics and Sarah McMillan of Rootdown Farm.

Martin is an Internet-based retailer based in Squamish and McMillan is a farmer based in Pemberton. Both are working hard to offer Sea to Sky residents good food produced close to home.

McMillan sells the vegetables produced at her farm to restaurants, Nesters Market, the Pemberton Valley Supermarket, farmers market shoppers and participants in the Rootdown harvest box program. The people who purchase the produce are offered a wide variety of vegetables. There's only one vegetable McMillan doesn't grow.

"We don't grow potatoes because everyone else in Pemberton does a really good job of it," says McMillan on a warm Saturday while she multi-tasks trying to determine why no water is coming out of the taps at her home.

According to McMillan, a very small amount of Rootdown's produce is sold to the grocery stores while harvest box subscribers pay early in the year for 15 harvest boxes distributed over 15 weeks filled with $30 worth of produce in each box. McMillan's customers meet at a central location at a specific time to get their harvest box each week during the warmer months of the year.

Martin operates her service all year around and when she can't source products close by she searches the globe for what her customers are demanding. Martin is also offering a higher level of service for her customers by delivering their weekly orders to their homes.

"I got really passionate because I just kind of said to myself, 'Why am I not buying all organic and as much local as possible?' and I went out to do it and found it was really difficult," Martin explains from her home in Squamish where there were no problems with the water system. "In Squamish I find it very difficult (to get locally produced organic produce)."

She started grocery shopping in Vancouver but that wasn't really working for her.

"From there I kept developing Sea to Sky Organics," Martin says. "I really wanted to be able to bring as many of the local farmers in to it as I could."

She is working with, and constantly looking for, producers nearby to provide her customers with everything from vegetables to meat, bread, canned food, packaged foods, soap, pet supplies and even small appliances.

"I try and find as many locally made organic products as I can and try and integrate those in," says Martin. "We even had wild-crafted stinging nettles and wild-crafted fiddle heads this spring."

While Martin is filling weekly orders and with McMillan's water flowing again McMillan and her team are preparing for June 16 when the Whistler Farmer's Market opens again for the season.

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