For Vancouver residents who want to eliminate the global industrial food complex from their diet, help is on the way. Rick Havlak’s Homesteader’s Emporium, is a new store set to open in June servicing aspiring beekeepers, permaculture growers, home brewers, cheesemakers, disaster survivalists, backyard egg farmers, and front porch food growers will find equipment, ingredients and tools as well as practical advice.
The 1,700-square-foot store-front will offer a range including beehives and honey extractors, chicken coops, cider presses, food dehydrators, vertical small-space growing systems and home cheesemaking supplies for what Havlak believes is a burgeoning market of organic food purists, sustainable lifestylers and post-apocalyptic preppers.
“The survey I ran back in January found that most of the people who were strongly interested in these things are under 30,” said Havlak, with disposable income and an inquisitive and experimental nature.
The reasons people want to make and preserve their own food vary widely with the individual, according to Havlak’s market research.
“You would think that people are growing and canning their own food because they want to save money, but that’s not really a factor,” he said. “People are really interested in eating sustainably and being self-sufficient and they want to be in control of what they eat and what goes into it.”
The notion of community-building through shared projects like neighbourhood-wide garden sharing or multi-family sausage-making or canning is a powerful motivator for locavores.
“When you buy sausage casings there are 20 metres of it, you really need other people to use it all and so it becomes very social,” he said.
In addition to food-oriented equipment, Havlak intends to stock supplies for soap-and candle-making and emergency preparedness.
“Films like Food Inc. and Supersize Me have helped create a generalized distrust of the food industrial complex,” Havlak said.
There is a big crossover between the local food movement and a growing survivalist movement of people who are preparing to survive the collapse of the world’s oil-based economy, the aftermath of a tsunami or who object to the globalization of food, he said.
Havlak is optimistic that nostalgia for simpler times will drive sales for home canning equipment and cider presses.
“I’m in that [twentysome-thing] age group and I remember the way my mom made food and how my grandparents preserved food,” he said.
Havlak is looking at a variety of food-growing products suitable for the urban environment, such as terraced planters, seeds, soil and fertilizers.
“Growing food appeals to a very wide segment of the population, so I will have products that are specifically designed for people who are growing food in a small space like a porch or a window,” he said.
Havlak hopes to tap into a small but dedicated clientele for chicken-and beekeeping supplies.
More than anything, the emporium aims to be a one-stop shop for homesteaders who don’t want to drive or bus all over the city to find obscure ingredients, moulds and presses for cheesemaking, canning equipment, organic gardening supplies and home charcuterie gear.
“You can find stuff like canning jars at Canadian Tire, but you aren’t going to get much advice there on how to get started and succeed at canning,” Havlak said. “We want to help people get started at things they might not have tried before.”
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