As the market for organic and similar foods grows exponentially across Canada, one Ottawa-based business is striving to get food to local dinner tables as easily and as transparently as possible.
Jonnel Sloane, who grew up in a hippy commune in Mendicino, California and worked as a door-to-door meat salesman for years in 35 different states, set up shop in Canada in 2013. He said one constant on both sides of the border was a growing desire for variations of locally-sourced, naturally-raised and organic meats.
“People are looking for transparency,” Sloane explained. “They want to at least know where their products are coming from.”
It was this feedback that led to him to his 2014 re-brand as ‘Farm 2 Fork,’ which looks to offer more local products that go beyond the current industry standards when it comes to processing and quality.
The different types of available meat are separated by a “value system” based on customer’s wants and needs, Sloane said, whether it be real organic, process air-chilled without water, vegetarian grain-fed or free roaming animals.
“Whether your ordering naturally-raised or organic or ordering specialty meats like elk, bison, boar, I can say, 'This comes from here, this is grown here and this is packaged here,'" Sloane said.
“People like that connection.”
He added, there’s a disconnect when people shop for meat at a grocery or big-box store and while it may have fancy marketing, it’s likely not from Canada.
“Beef’s a commodity, it could be sent from Australia, it could be sent from Latin America, it could be a U.S. product, it could be from Canada. You don’t get a guarantee all the time you’re getting cattle from Canada,” said Sloane.
Farm2Fork's meat stock is also not mechanically tenderized, a common practice for most brands carried at grocery stores.
After moving with his Canadian-born wife to Canada, the 44-year-old started with only a truck and a Walmart credit card, but has quickly turned the business into an operation that now serves Ottawa along with a number of communities in Eastern Ontario, Montreal, Toronto and Nunavut.
Compared to the U.S. market, Sloane said Canada’s demand for such products hasn’t quite caught up but expects it to flourish in the next six to seven years.
Farm2Fork has been steadily growing, pulling in close to $1-million in revenue last year with 90 per cent of those sales via Facebook, with the hopes of launching a new e-commerce website this summer that will eventually include home delivery.
And while the website will help streamline the process, Sloane said in his research and work going in to the website over the past year, he’s also hoping to maintain a human element to that as well.
“We’ll still have that element on the website because I really like that….in the middle of ordering being able to talk to whoever they need to get your question answered while you’re on the website. That may determine whether they order or whether the leave the cart,” he said.
Sloane also hopes to be carrying a wider variety of specialty products in the coming months, including things like grass-fed butter from Ontario, certified organic eggs and lines of produce.