Gathering Place Trading

The ECOreport looks at a Cortes Island company with international reach, Gathering Place Trading 

By Roy L Hales

Lovena is Canadian and her husband Ryan is from South Africa. They wanted to keep in touch with their families in both countries. Being Rooibos tea lovers, the Harveys sought out a supplier in South Africa’s Cederberg Mountains. That’s where they found Frans and Gerda, who greeted the Harveys with a cup of the best Rooibos tea they have ever tasted. Gathering Place Trading was born.

Gathering Place Trading

Lovena Harvey visiting a sea salt supplier – Courtesy the Gathering Place

That was about fourteen years ago. Click on the Rooibos tab, on the Gathering Place’s website, and you will find Frans and Gerda are still their suppliers.

There are also pages for Wild Mountain HoneybushGreen RooibosRooibos ChaiYebol teas, bulk spices, Antarctic sea salt,  Coconut, Pineapple, Vanilla & Moringa.

These products are shipped to Canada by sea freighter, “that being the lowest carbon footprint way of transporting.”

All of the Gathering Place’s merchandise is “harvested by hand and are certified organic.”  Lovena and Ryan are only a phone call away from the farms where they are grown.

“Our strongest founding principal was that we wanted to have a direct relationship. We don’t want to get it from the middle man, who has potentially had that product warehoused for a year and maybe he’s got it from someone who had warehoused it for another year. Losing that integrity of what was the harvest date and what was the processing date; Knowing that we are getting our customers the very best, very freshest products.”

“…. [We are] really looking for people that are making a difference over there, with their people policy, how they treated their employees, how they treated the earth and whether they had a good life themselves and were happy contented people.”

Though most of their products come from South Africa or India, the Harveys also support a couple of Canadian farms  and are planning a cross country trek to find more.

A Family Business

Tosh and Asha selling – courtesy the Gathering Place

From the beginning, the Gathering Place has been a family business.

“When we go sourcing, we bring the whole family  – which we find to be well rounded  … with meeting with the farmer families because they usually have children or grandchildren and so our children are connecting with their children.”

“My husband is amazing at finding the farms and finding the products, especially when we are in South Africa. He speaks Afrikaans and a lot of the farmers are Afrikaans. He is also very friendly … and people easily warm to him.”

“My daughter Kai is helping us make YouTube videos for the company,  helping with social media and soon to be sets, sales and marketing.”

“Our youngest, Tosh and Asha, do markets with us, especially during the busy Christmas time. They often will run the booth themselves and sell the products.”

“Everyone knows the stories, which is what people want to know.”

The Cortes Connection

The Harveys were organic farmers when they set out to find a supplier in 2003. Lovena was one of the founding members of the Cortes Natural Food CO-OP, which became the first outlet for her products.

Their webpage of favourite links includes local sites like   the TidelineLinnaea Farm and Hollyhock.

After ten years on Cortes, the Harvey’s relocated their packaging facility to Campbell River.

“I timed it with my oldest daughter (Kai) going to high school and some of my staff were moving to Campbell River for their kids to go to high school. So my main staff, Karen Perras, was here on Cortes and now she still works for me …  in Campbell River.”

” … It is funny, almost everyone that we hire has some Cortes connection; has lived on Cortes at some point.”

“Now we actually have two Quadra Islanders .. that commute every day, by bike, to Campbell River to work packaging the products.”

The Harveys still have a small farm, at their home on Cortes Island, but only grow enough produce to meet their own needs.

I met Lovena at Manson’s Landing Friday Market.

(Listen to the podcast above to learn more about the Gathering Place and the farms where they obtain their products. Or go directly to their website: http://gatheringplacetrading.com/)

The Harvey’s home on Cortes Island

Top photo credit: (l to r) Ryan, Kai, Asha, Tosh & Lovena Harvey at the South African Farm where they obtain pineapples – courtesy the Gathering Place

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