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Blogathon 2009 – Buying, Eating and Living Local: The Home Grown Grocer

Blogathon 2009 Vancouver for Vancouver Public Space NetworkThis blog post was part of Blogathon 2009, in which I blogged for 24 hours straight in order to raise money for the Vancouver Public Space Network, an entirely volunteer-run organization who do advocacy and education on the public realm in my home of Vancouver, British Columbia. Thanks for everyone who supported me by sponsoring me with a pledge, leaving a comment or who contributed a guest post.

Updated (May 2011): Thanks to James McKinnon for pointing to this article in The Tyee regarding recent events concerning Home Grow-In’s recent affairs and bankruptcy. I am refraining from commenting on the situation, as I have not been a regular customer for a little while now (grad school will do that to you, between the long hours and the being more-broke-than-before), nor have I spoken to more recent customers or any others affected by the most recent turn of events. The content of this post will continue to be available for archival purposes.

This video captures a fairly typical weekend summer afternoon for Richard and I:

(If you’re wondering, yes, Richard was on his iPhone reading his Twitter, and yes, we proceed to start talking about public transit policy in Vancouver. We mean it when we say we live it.)

What’s outside this frame? Richard and I are sitting on wicker chairs eating ice cream at the intersection of Columbia St. and 18th Avenue in Vancouver, in the middle of a quiet residential section of town. The baskets by the doors hold blueberries and apricots. Minutes earlier, Deb, the owner of the Home Grow-In Grocer, has assured everyone in earshot that the peaches were still on the tree until they were picked at 9am that very morning.

Home Grown Grocer

Deb’s business card for The Home Grow-In Grocer states, “We spcialize in only Natural / Organic / Local products of British Columbia.” When I first visited the store back in April, when they were just settling into the space, I was stocking up on flour for spelt cookies, but the store was so new that her Interac machine was not hooked up yet. “No worries,” she said, “I’ll start a tab for you.” I walked out with two bags of flour tucked in my pannier, and returned three weeks later with a friend to settle it up. It’s one thing to write about or think about a trust system; it’s quite another to see it in action.

I often say that I’m not very good at community, but from what I hear, it might look something like the story of this store. Deb tells me how she used to work the farmer’s markets back in 2006, and got the idea to start the store from running her stall then. She’s dedicated a huge chunk of her life to promoting organic farming and her work has taken her all over British Columbia. Speaking with her, I’m struck by the fact that the business she is growing here, is underpinned entirely by her social capital, her Whuffie.

The day we visited, she’s also telling us about the two bike racks that she’s hoping to get installed — at peak times, she tells us, there can be up to 15 bikes on the lawn next to the store. As Richard and I are settling into our ice cream cones, people are bringing their children to the store.

It’s already becoming apparent that Deb is pushing the envelope by offering an experience in keeping with what might be expected outside a city with the size and density of Vancouver. Yesterday, we raced back 7km from our bike ride to grab some fresh blueberries from them before they closed at 8, and noticed this sign on our way out:

Sorry, no more chairs will be provided for relaxing. Vancouver Bylaw. - sign at the Home Grow-in Grocer.

It’s unfortunate that the by-law says so much about such a small thing that goes such a long way for helping to build local social capital. I’ll be back to the store soon, for ice cream as well as to find out which by-law makes chairs on lawns a bad thing.

Update: See my later post from August 3rd with a summary of some new developments (all good!) for the Home Grow-In Grocer as well.

3 Comments

  1. I love the home grown grocer, the have the best dairy in the land, direct from abbotsford, and so many tasty local breads. They also often offer “buy one, get one half off” for banana bread/lemon loaf and other goodness. The home grown grocer is hyper-local! Awesome!

    Posted July 25, 2009 at 8:36 am | Permalink
  2. Joey

    So Happy to hear about – a true home style grocery store – One I am sure I will visit often. Reminds me of when I was growing up – and we had mom and pop grocers – in the neighbourhoods where we lived – Not many left – who sell real food. Blessings

    Posted July 31, 2009 at 3:00 pm | Permalink
  3. As you know, this home-grown grocer is in my dream house :) I am glad the final destination was such a positive entity!

    Posted August 4, 2009 at 12:01 am | Permalink

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