From the outside, Farmer Robert’s Store looks like a market in the middle of farm country.
And that is exactly what it is… and much more.
It is the final piece of the logistical puzzle that brings locally produced and organic produce to a demanding consumer in the most efficient way.
Step through the doors and you will feel like you are standing in the middle of a barn with its rough cut wood display cases and walls. Again, that is exactly what it is and, again, it is much more.
There is a cleverness and a passion at work here that immediately showcases Yukon-made produce up front and organic B.C. produce behind and it flows to bulk bins on the right and then on to a tea shop.
“Yes, this is a tea shop,” says co-owner Simone Rudge, the part owner.
“Well, maybe it’s a tea salon,” she corrects. “I don’t know what to call it.”
Then, “It’s a tea barn,” she exclaims.
You see, this is also a work in progress. The partnership with Robert Ryan, of Ibex Valley Farms, was formed last December; they bought the building in January; wood was purchased from Dawson City and it was left to dry until March; construction; and the soft opening was held in late August.
A baker has been hired, so the bakery will open next to serve up breads and pies and such.
There have been talks with a butcher, so the meat shop may happen soon.
A kitchen for prepared foods will be next to give patrons something to nibble on for lunch or a snack in the “tea barn”.
It was hoped that eggs would be on the shelf by opening day, but the federal inspector is overdue. So, for now, eggs will be sold by “farm gate rules,”: which means they cannot be displayed and can only be sold for personal consumption.
Even when all of the moving parts are working, Rudge says the public should expect empty shelves from time to time.
“That is the nature of farming,” she explains. “That is the nature of feeding ourselves. Local product really has a season.
“People raise chickens and start in the spring and butcher them in July and August. And that is when chicken is available. Anytime after that, it will be frozen.
“Most Yukoners know that you only have fresh moose a week after it is hung. After that, you have frozen moose.”
Another reality is that Farmer Robert’s Store won’t offer all organic all the time.
“We have a priority list,” says Rudge. “As local as possible and as organic as possible.”
Yukon produce may not be certified organic, but they know who the farmers areis and they know their philosophy and practice.
The new grocery store,located at 21 Waterfront Place, which is at located aton Waterfront Place in the old Harley-Davidson locationlocation, was borneborn of the age-old need to bring many products under one roof.
Yukoners needed to know someone who had farm-fresh eggs and they would drive for 20 minutes to get them. Then, they needed to know who to buy tomatoes from. And so on.
Co-owner Robert Ryan hashad a background in the military and, later, setting up logistics for businesses in countries recently ravaged by war.
Moving to the Yukon, he and his wife, Victoria, wanted their children to know where their food came from. So, they started a small farm … and it grew.
The Agriculture Branch introduced them to Rudge and her husband, Tom, who are well-experienced, well-respected and well-liked in the Yukon farming community.
They became friends and now partners.
With their life’s savings, they invested in this next logical step to bring farmers and consumers together.
Rudge takes a special pride in the frugalness of your stereotypical farmer.
: “A lot of the décor in here didn’t cost anything,” she says.
“I rummaged through a lot of junk piles and Tom and I were on scaffolding to paint the walls.
“These wooden chairs were bought for one dollar. There are eight of them, that’s 12.5 cents each.”
Cutting costs helps keep the prices down. Rudge says bagging your own organic cereal is cheaper than any boxed organic cereal in town –… guaranteed.
Yes, some things will be more expensive, but others are less expensive.
But, really, she and Ryan would earn a more reliable income by buying Canada Savings Bonds with their life’s savings…?
“But that wouldn’t be nearly enough fun, would it?” she shoots back immediately.
“Farming isn’t a money-making venture, either, so farmers all understand why we are doing it because they are doing the exact same thing.
“We really want to make a difference in the community and that is worth something.
“That is why we are doing this, we really care about it.”
Farmer Robert’s Store is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
More information is available at www.farmerroberts.com.