The Gathering Place Organic Farms
Little known fact! Long before there was Gathering Place Trading, there was Gathering Place organic farm. We lived north of Whistler, had a wee baby, and grew and sold organic salad mix, edible flowers, and herbs to Whistler restaurants and at the local Farmers Market.
That’s how we started out—as farmers—and those roots run deep. Over the last twenty years, as our business has grown, we have continued to farm, growing much of our own food on our Cortes Island homestead. And in the last few years, we’ve also started growing herbs for our own customers!
Farming Bay Leaves & Rosemary
All of the bay and rosemary in our line of Canadian culinary herbs comes from our home property or other small homesteads on Cortes. Each leaf of bay and rosemary that you find in your Gathering Place Trading package has been gently plucked by someone in our family and then later, carefully washed, graded, and dehydrated by one of our teammates. The last step is to delicately place those leaves into the bags you see in stores. This tender “hands-on” process explains the bright colour and freshness of our herbs, which so many of our customers comment on and are delighted by!
These two products are not yet “certified organic,” but we can absolutely guarantee their organic nature. They grow in pure rich soil, surrounded by large cedars and firs, caressed by the salty brine air, and watered by west coast rains and pure well water. We love that we can offer you products that grow right on our own land, but we’d be lying if we said it was easy. It’s not!
Most consumers don’t know how difficult it is to grow these plants. In Canada, the delicate Bay tree (Lauris Nobilis) and Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) both need a Zone 8 (or above) climate zone to survive outdoor year-round. But Zone 8 only exists on the extreme west coast of the country, including Vancouver Island and surrounding Gulf islands such as Cortes.
The plants are able to survive outside because our winters are usually mild, but last year wasn't! We lost more than 70 rosemary plants and have been hearing that many other herb growers on Vancouver Island lost their rosemary and bay trees as well.
We’ve been madly planting rosemary to replace what we lost and carefully tending the plants that did survive. Even so, we are currently struggling to have enough plants to harvest in order to keep our rosemary in stock. If you notice a blank spot in our Canadian Culinary Herb Collection on your store shelf, you'll know why!
Despite the challenges, we are so proud that we can grow culinary herbs and share them with our customers. It’s become an important part of “walking our talk.” One of our key values is knowing the farmers who grow the food we sell - we can’t get much closer than this!
It also nicely cinches the loop and brings us right back to the young farmers we started out as - not quite as young anymore (!), but still holding all the same ideals.
Stay tuned for next month’s blog post where we tell you all about the other amazing herbs in our all-Canadian Culinary Herb line-up!