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Cincott Organic Farm Market and Cafe: Selling an organic lifestyle
Cincott Farms Organic Market and Café may sell gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and vegetarian options, but owners Cindey and Scott Taylor call themselves “redneck environmentalists.”
“We have people come in all the time and say ‘do you serve meat here?’ Just because we sell organic products and grow organic products doesn’t mean we’re hippies,” said Cindey.
For them, organic is a lifestyle. “It’s healthy eating and it’s clean. And I can tell you as an organic farmer exactly where your product comes from,” said Cindey.
The importance of organic farming became even more obvious to Cindey and Scott when they went to Saskatchewan for Cindey’s parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.
“We always grew organically, but when we went home, I’d never seen anything like that in my life. In the off season, nothing grows there, not even weeds because of all the sprays used, and that’s when it hit,” she said.
“For organics the base philosophy is that you feed the soil not the plant, so if you have healthy soil, your plants are going to be healthy and everything follows that,” said Scott.
Scott was born and raised in Calgary and Cindey was born and raised in Regina, and after spending time weaving their way around B.C., from Kelowna, and then Castlegar, they ended up in the Elk Valley.
“I was a real estate agent at the time,” said Scott. “And I answered an ad that I thought was for the Queen Charlotte Islands, but it ended up being here.”
Cindey worked in the restaurant industry for years, and grew organic produce that she gave to the chefs she worked with.
In 1999, Scott and Cindey started their greenhouse in Hosmer.
“We’d always had big gardens,” said Scott. “But we started the greenhouse to grow for commercial use.”
Cincott is the only certified organic farm in the Elk Valley.
“The Valley is not really conducive to growing. We only have 92 frost free days,” said Scott.
The short growing season means that they are often sourcing produce like fruits and berries that they can’t grow in the Elk Valley from farms in places like Keremeos.
“We really specialize in unique vegetables,” he said. “Because of our greenhouses we do 44 varieties of heirloom tomatoes. We do six different varieties of carrots, all different colours. We do several varieties of beets, and turnips.”
Scott said that Cincott’s major market is Calgary where they supply three stores and a woman who sells produce to all the high-end restaurants in Calgary, Banff and Canmore.
Cindey and Scott started selling their produce at farmers markets.
“I did that for 10 years, every weekend,” she said. “And then I got crazy and decided to open a restaurant.”
The Cincott Farms Café has been open (just down from the new Organic Market) on Seventh Avenue, for two years.
Cindey said the café has done well. They noticed that a lot of people stopped coming out to the farm because the price of gas increased.
“Plus everyone has babies, so you have to load up the kids and drive. Even though it’s only seven minutes people don’t like to drive that far,” she said.
“People in the city don’t think it’s a big deal to drive an hour to their favourite restaurant, but here, people really think about it, especially when it’s a green business,” said Scott.
Even though the new Organic Market, located where the Movie Gallery used to be, sells a variety of organic products including salt, spices, and pancake mix, they are known for their produce.
At the restaurant, Cindey makes comfort food.
“At night, I sell a lot of steaks and ribs,” she said. “For lunch, I really focus on comfort food. I make a lot of soup. I think the favourite is tomato peanut.”
The restaurant also offers macaroni and cheese and a grilled cheese sandwich with four different kinds of cheese.
“Our whole philosophy is that we’re seasonal, and our menu changes every season,” said Scott.
Cincott Farms is trying to educate their customers by providing them organic produce and products.
“It’s buyer beware, unfortunately,” said Cindey. “Everybody is using the term organic. You even hear designers saying “wooo, it’s organic looking.” Well what does that mean, do you have dirt in your living room? But to me that’s what organic means.”
Cindey and Scott don’t want to compete with local businesses.
“I don’t want to carry the same products that everyone else is carrying,” she said.
They are hoping to eventually have a local section in their market where local products can be sold.
“We try to keep our product, when it’s available, to B.C. and that’s huge because we are helping out the local farmers, which helps us, and helps the community. It’s a big cycle,” said Cindey.
Scott and Cindey acknowledged that it can be more expensive to buy organic, but they said where they can they try to be comparable.
At the old market location, Cindey said they were running out of space.
“We could only bring in so much of the same product and it was getting stagnant,” said Cindey.
“We know that the town wanted a market, and everyone has been really supportive of this, and it’s just going to get better,” said Scott.
Cindey and Scott are already working on their next project, a 70-seat restaurant next to the new market. And while they work on the new restaurant, they still have to prepare to plant and seed.