This is the third in a series of three blog posts about our company values and how they influence our business decisions.
Our first post was about how our values of integrity and fairness influence our choice of products and farmers. The second post was all about how our company builds care for the environment into our business model.
And this third post is about how Gathering Place builds community, here in British Columbia, and in all the places around the world where our products are grown.
Our very first product, 19 years ago, was loose organic Rooibos tea from a farmer we got to know in South Africa. Not only was his Rooibos the most delicious we’d ever tasted, but he was absolutely dedicated to sustainable farming practices. At the time, we were organic farmers back in Canada, and his care for the Earth and his plants really resonated with us.
This experience, of buying tea directly from a farmer we knew and respected, became the template for all our product sourcing. And even though we now sell hundreds of products, our commitment to this direct connection has never swayed.
Over the years, we’ve taken time to meet the people who grow our food, seeing first hand how they farm, and getting to know them personally. This has given us the chance to deepen our connection to these farmers and to all the places where our products are grown.
We call it “personalizing the supply chain.” In a world where most people buy their food at grocery stores without knowing where it comes from, we are proud to offer an alternative. When you buy from us, you’re supporting small family or cooperative farms.
Plus, in each community where we source products, we choose grassroots projects to support and return 1% of our gross sales revenue for each product to these incredible organizations:
- Aldea Maya is a non-profit grassroots project in the Guatemalan highlands created to help indigenous Mayans be self-sufficient. They have initiated a wide range of projects that focus on education, food sustainability, and nutrition.
- We have long supported Vanashree School for Orphans and Marginalized Children in Karnataka State, India. On our visits to this community, we have always been impressed with the school’s progressive philosophy, developing the whole child through arts, music, and yoga, as well as traditional education.
- Their Future Today in Sri Lanka works to end the institutionalization and suffering of vulnerable children disadvantaged through poverty. There are many children in this country who are placed in orphanages while one parent is still living. This organization tries to return children to families wherever it is safe and possible.
- Help Lesotho is a non-profit organization registered in both Canada and Lesotho that delivers grassroots mental health support and training programs in rural communities in southern Africa. Their holistic and innovative programs empower children and youth to heal, learn new skills, and be advocates for social justice and gender equity.
- Our donations to the Madagascar School Project in the central highlands of Madagascar have helped to build schools, hire staff, and provide health care and basic improvements in the lives of the Malagasy people. Currently, over 700 students are being fed, educated, and provided with medical and vision care.
- Here in BC, we support the work of First Nations in their struggle against the systems of oppression that have dispossessed Indigenous people of their lands and denied their rights to self-determination. Our donation from the sale of our Canadian-grown herb line goes direct to front-line activists and their legal defence via Raven Trust. Their brave actions protect our forests, rivers, and oceans and all the creatures that inhabit them.
- Also on our home turf, we support local food banks, the Cortes Women’s Centre, plus BC Whales, a non-profit whale-research organisation, and Vancouver Island’s Surfrider, who work to protect our oceans, waves and beaches through their powerful activist network.
- And right on here on Cortes Island, we have long supported the Cortes Children’s Forest Trust. This land, in the wild north of the island, is lovingly referred to as the “Children’s Forest”. Our own kids spent much of their growing up years accessing these forest lands and participating in biological inventories of red listed and endangered species. Once purchased from Island Timberlands, these lands will be held in trust for all the children of Cortes Island, in perpetuity, providing the opportunity to practise stewardship and appreciation for the forests and watersheds.
In addition to providing money on the ground where it can make a difference, our company is also part of educational and community building initiatives. Lovena has been privileged to sit on the Boards of many local, regional, and national organizations. These include the Cortes Natural Food Co-op, Linnaea Farm Society, Cortes Community Economic Development, Whaletown Commons Society, and The Power of Hope, which curates life changing teen empowerment camps. She currently serves on the Board of Small Scale Food Producers Association and is working on a Sustainable Packaging Task Force with a group of other environmentally-minded entrepreneurs through Feeding Growth and Social Venture Institute networks.
Building community is baked into our bones. It’s been the foundation of our family home on Cortes Island, where we formed a small intentional community and homeschooled our children. It also informs who we hire and how we treat our employees – it’s much more family than corporate, as anyone who has visited our office can attest to!
Thank you for choosing us and the way we do business. Thank you for choosing kindness and humanity over profit. And thank you for your investment in a better world for all.