Kootenay Farm to Folk: from the living room to the storefront

Kootenay Farm to Folk: from the living room to the storefront

It’s been just over a year since Jessy and Rhianna Embury’s business Kootenay Farm to Folk made their first order, making it just about two years ago when their son Lucas developed an eating disorder, which served as the motivating factor to start a business that provides healthy eating options in Cranbrook.

“We ended up in Vancouver for five months and he refused to eat anything that was processed,” said Rhianna Embury. “So we had to go around, find all these different places, or try to make it to farmers markets to try and find all these foods that were not processed; that were good for you — he wanted the farmer’s food.”

After visiting with some friends who run a similar business in Saskatchewan, they decided that the best thing they could do is start something themselves in their hometown. They started operating out of their home last August, sourcing out produce and other food from local farms and small-business food growers and producers and then delivering those products to customers.

“We picked up all this different stuff and it ended up in our living room and it was really, really okay for a while and then it got to the point where we had 1,100 pounds of fruit in our living room. So we said ‘we need to move, we need to separate home from business.’”

READ MORE: Kootenay Farm to Folk reflects on first months of business

They moved out of their living room and into a 400 square foot space they called the “deep, dank basement.” It had no windows and was 14 steps up and down each time — not ideal for the middle of the winter. So they decided to move again and now they have their own storefront, the doors of which opened about two months ago. It is located at 223 Cranbrook Street N.

“Why not have everything in one spot where people can actually come and shop, and at the same time do our online orders as well?” said Embury. “So that’s what we did.”

She said that the first two months of operations have been “insane.” Despite not doing a great deal of advertising, Embury said she feels like they’ve been accepted as the new store in Cranbrook, where people can get fresh, local food.

The business also gives the hard-working farmers from around the region a place where they can bring their products and have people shop at a local store and buy it.

The Emburys run a weekly program called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) which allows farmers to sell more of their goods. The business sends a weekly box of food to your house, and it allows the farmers to plan ahead and guarantees them some sales. Embury said she’d love to see more farmers come forward and utilize their business as well.

As Jessy and Rhianna are doing it all on their own, the process has been a huge learning experience, and comes with a big cost. When they first moved the storefront they were renting Farm Kitchen’s walk-in cooler but then decided they need to make the big investment and buy one themselves.

“It’s a saving grace right now, especially with the fruit season. We’ve got thousands of pounds of fruit coming in, you’ve got to have space to store it.”

As for their son Lucas, according to Embury he is doing fabulously. The eating disorder is a thing of the past and Lucas is getting as involved as he possibly can with the family business.

“He’s actually homeschooling right now so he can help us because he thrives in helping us. He thrives going out to the farmers and meeting them and picking up the food,” said Embury, adding: “He says he’s going to take some business courses so he can run it when he’s older and it’s what he wants to do.”