Discovery Organics: B.C.'s Fairtrade Pioneers

Discovery Organics

Here at The Good Stuff, we know that what comes out of your blender is only as good as what goes into it. So we're profiling some of the great BC suppliers we buy from. Next up: Discovery Organics!

We buy all our non-leafy organic produce from them. That means carrots, apples, mangos, bananas, and more. We chose them because of how their values align with our own.

How do they align? Read my interview with Discovery’s Purchaser Brody Irvine to find out:

How did Discovery Organics start?

For a wonderful overview of Discovery Organics, its history, and its different from other wholesalers check out this report from Western Producer. Here are a few select excerpts:

Discovery Organics started in 1998 by distributing out of owner Annie Moss’ living room in Burnaby.

The other owner, Randy Hooper, has travelled to Latin America 60 times in the last 9 years. This helps ensure that their Fair Trade and organic standards are being met.

Only 1 percent of bananas sold in Canada are Fairtrade, compared to 50% in Switzerland.

How does Discovery decide who to purchase from?

First off, all producers must be certified as organic. We then purchase as locally as possible - we’ll even coach local farms to grow what we see demand for and work with them on growing techniques and storage to extend the local growing seasons.

If we can’t purchase locally, we then search for small family farms with high quality standards in the U.S. Outside of the U.S., we try to work as directly as possible with certified Fairtrade co-ops. As an example, our banana and avocados are sourced from Fairtrade co-ops that we have personally visited several times and helped build their export programs into Canada.

What does “Fairtrade” mean?

Fairtrade is an incredibly important certification that confirms certain standards regarding working conditions, worker rights, fair payment to labourers, as well as built in social premiums into the purchasing price of the commodity. These social premiums are collected by the company or co-op and spent on community projects within the local farming community (this can include new equipment to increase efficiencies at the farm, but often includes health centers and schools for the community).

That Western Producer article goes into more detail as well.

Tell us about your Rebel Foods program.

Rebel Foods Discovery Organics

The Rebel Food program is our answer to the “ugly” fruit and veggie movement. Its initiative is to help keep food out of the compost pile, give our farmers more return for their hard harvesting efforts, and also provide consumers with a more affordable certified organic option.

Tell us a little about your home on “Produce Row” and its issues right now.

The city plans to demolish the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts and build new arterial roads, replacing the existing route of Venables and Prior. Their initial plan has been to re-route everything down Malkin Avenue (AKA Produce Row), which would have a devastating impact on the large truck access to all of the businesses that currently exist, including ourselves.

Over the past few months, Discovery Organics and the other produce houses have been talking with the city and educating them on the negative impact that this existing plan would have on the individual businesses, the Vancouver economy, and the entire produce market for Western Canada. The city has since agreed to review their plans in depth. So fingers crossed we have some good news soon!

Who are Discovery Organics’ customers?

As the only independently owned certified organic produce wholesaler in Western Canada, we tend to serve similar customers: small, independently owned grocery retailers, markets, restaurants, and food service businesses.

Anything else you’d like to share about Discovery Organics?

Nothing much other than it is just an awesome place full of incredibly genuine people. We all work hard and love our jobs and love working with like-minded people such as yourselves.

Want to read about The Good Stuff’s other suppliers? See below:

Fresh Roots: Leafy Greens From Urban Schools

UBC Farm: A Paradise in the City