Online farmers’ market in Calgary provides ‘incredible’ opportunities during COVID-19 pandemic

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Online farmers’ market provides ‘incredible’ opportunities for Calgarians during pandemic
WATCH: The move to support local is helping a lot of Canadian companies make it through the COVID-19 pandemic. As Gil Tucker shows us, it’s providing a chance for one Calgary business to not only survive but also thrive. – May 19, 2021

Stocking up at a supplier on a Wednesday in mid-May, it was another busy day for a fast-growing Calgary food delivery company.

“We’re Canada’s first online farmers’ market,” founder Dan Berezan said.

Berezan was loading up his van at Deepwater Farms in southeast Calgary, preparing to drop off orders at customers’ homes. Deepwater Farms is one of 70 vendors CultvatR works with.

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“We’re an indoor vertical farm, doing hydroponics,” Deepwater’s Paul Shumlich said. “Growing baby kale, arugula, beet leaf and watercress.”

With CultivatR selling only locally-produced items, it’s providing a new market for companies like Deepwater, at a time when it’s really needed.

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“Before the pandemic, 90 per cent of our sales were to restaurants,” Shumlich said. “And then when the pandemic hit, that changed overnight for us.”

Deepwater quickly switched to selling its produce to stores and through CultivatR.

“We’ve got about 70 different vendors, all southern Alberta and central Alberta farmers,” Berezan said. “So we have everything from beef, pork, chicken to carrots and potatoes. Right now, asparagus is in season — that’s a big one.”

It’s all part of the huge growth the company has seen since starting off small in July 2019.

“The pandemic was a game-changer for us,” Berezan said. “Our 2020 sales growth was about 6000 per cent.”

CultivatR benefitted from customers shifting to supporting local businesses, while trying to stay safe by avoiding in-store shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The company’s growth has allowed it to provide more jobs, increasing from a staff of two just before the pandemic began to the current total of 15 employees.

“You always wonder ‘How am I going to pay the rent?'” Berezan said. “And now we’ve had to move to a space three times the size.”

CultivatR’s growth is also creating more opportunities for its many Alberta suppliers.

“Oh, it’s huge, because we don’t really have that reach as a farm,” Shumlich said. “But having partners who do have that reach has been incredible for us.”







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