The Big Carrot, one of Toronto’s most-loved natural health food stores, first opened in 1983. Today, the store has become as much a local landmark as an organic grocer, and it sells more Weleda products than any other store in Canada. What makes The Big Carrot so special, besides a seemingly endless array of organic goodness? “Our employees,” says PR Coordinator Patrick Conner. “They are our greatest asset.”
The Big Carrot began as a nine-person, worker-owned co-op. The store has grown a lot since then, but it’s still managed the same way it always has been. Every employee who has worked there for more than a year gets an opportunity to become part owner. There are currently more than 65 owner-workers. They hope their passion for sustainably grown produce and natural skin care is contagious.
Located in Toronto’s vibrant Danforth neighborhood, The Big Carrot is surrounded by a wide variety of bustling cafés and shops. Big Carrot customers, many of whom live in the neighborhood and walk to the store, love organic food and are on the cutting edge of social issues, according to Conner. To keep up with their shoppers, all employees must be knowledgeable about the products in their departments.
There are strict guidelines in Canada about which products can be labeled organic, and to Conner, that is a very good thing. “My most memorable moment in the natural industry was in 2009, when the Canadian Organic Standard was passed,” he says. This law created a set of guidelines that were required to be met in order for a product to be labeled organic. “It gave legitimacy to organic products and eliminated a stigma — it showed there was scientific evidence backing up claims that certain products are organic. It proved that choosing natural skin care and organic foods is indeed a healthier choice for people and the planet.” —Erik Preuss