Our Calgary Community Partner: Community Natural Foods

Sonia - January 20, 2016

We’re delighted to introduce you to our Community Partner in Calgary . . .


Community Natural Foods is Calgary’s locally owned and operated natural grocery chain that has been providing organic, sustainable, fair food and building community around environmental causes since 1977. We are honoured that Community Natural Foods helps distribute CSF member shares in Calgary!

Skipper Otto’s CSF didn’t always deliver sustainable seafood to Calgary this way. From 2011-2014, my husband and fisherman, Shaun, would fish all summer, rent a freezer truck and drive across the Rockies to deliver CSF shares to our members in Calgary and other western cities, hoping to make it there and back before the snow hit too hard. He would set up shop in a community parking lot and members would line up to get their fish. Members had to decide what they wanted on the spot, Shaun would weigh it all out and write it down, and members would head home with their seafood.

We really loved meeting everyone and there was something charming about the whole experience, but it also came with its challenges: it was hard on our family personally, and it came with a lot of additional costs, uncertainty, and headaches. We needed a better system.

In early 2015, I began to look for values-aligned stores in all our member locations. I felt certain that if we could just find the right people who shared our vision and our beliefs, we could hit upon a more flexible, more affordable distribution system that would make everyone happy. I asked members in Calgary for their suggestions and soon found myself with an introduction to Frank Sarro, the Fresh and Bulk Purchasing Manager at Community Natural Foods. I can’t imagine what Frank thought of my proposal initially, (“you want me to hand out fish?! To whom? Why?”) but Frank had the vision, imagination, and patience to hear me out and agreed to give it a try!

In April of 2015, we sent our first shipment of member orders out to the Chinook Station location of Community Natural Foods. Store Manager, Nathan Froese and his team took on the logistics of receiving member orders, organizing them into their large walk-in freezer, and handing them out to members. So many of our members wrote to tell us how delighted they were with the customer service at the store and the convenience of picking up anytime during store hours. Staff presented new members with goodie bags and product samples. Our members felt immediately welcomed into a broader food community. We were thrilled!

And I was even more thrilled when September came around and we avoided the annual scramble to rent a truck and coordinate the epic “prairie trip” as we’d come to call it. Shaun was even able to continue fishing when the salmon unexpectedly kept returning well into fall. Our kids had their dad around between fishing openings and our members didn’t have to line up for hours in the cold to pick up their fish. What a win-win this was proving to be!

I flew out to Calgary in October to see a member pick-up in person and was so happy to see how simply and efficiently it all worked. Nathan showed us our member orders in their walk-in freezer, we met a number of members who were picking up their fish, and we had great chats with the kind, helpful staff at the store. That night, we met Nathan for a beer and talked about our CSF, food security, social justice, and raising young kids. And I realized something important. When we moved to our Community Partner model for distribution, my biggest concern was that we would lose a small piece of the community feel we had built. But after a season of working with all the staff at the Chinook Station’s Community Natural Foods, after seeing it in person that fall, and after hearing great feedback from our members, I realized that the “Community” in our Community Supported Fishery was bigger and stronger than ever. In expanding our distribution to include partners with a shared vision for a more just, local food system, we have done more than we could by trying to do everything ourselves. It really is true that “the more we get together, the happier we’ll be!”

If you’re in Calgary, drop by and say hello to our friends at the Chinook Station Community Natural foods! Check our event calendar to find out when we’ll be delivering to Calgary next!

Sonia - January 20, 2016

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Our Calgary Community Partner: Community Natural Foods

Sonia - January 20, 2016

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