Eatmore Sprouts and Greens Ltd.
Centered in the beautiful Comox Valley on the east coast of Vancouver Island, Eatmore Sprouts and Greens Ltd. has been producing certified organic sprouts and microgreens for the last 40 years in Courtenay, British Columbia. The family‐run company has a local focus and is committed to delivering fresh, organic sprouts year‐round, with high regard for the impact the farm has on the community and the planet.
“We produce 8,000 to 9,000-plus pounds of sprouts and greens a week, year‐round and we ship and distribute our products all over western Canada to restaurants, grocery stores and wholesalers, but we also sell a great deal locally,” says Carmen Wakeling, CEO of Eatmore Sprouts. “Our company is very community based and we have a 40‐person dynamic team that really cares about the work we do.”
A passion for growing good
Carmen, an Alberta native, came to the British Columbia coast with her family as a young girl in the ‘70s. She found her passion for farming and growing good for the community and planet working on the Eatmore Sprouts farm.
“My parent’s family friends actually started Eatmore Sprouts in 1975 and I began working on the farm at 16 years old,” she recounts. “I loved it and early on I was inspired by the idea of organics and growing food sustainably and the hope that we could leave the planet a better place than we found it.”
“I knew I wanted to be part of this movement,” she adds. But at first her career took a slightly different path. While attending nursing school, Carmen came home one day after giving a patient 16 different medications. “I said to my husband, Glenn, ‘what am I doing?’”
It was this epiphany that sparked Carmen’s full devotion to Eatmore Sprouts. She and Glenn purchased the company from the original owners in 1989. “Instead of giving people medications, I wanted to grow healthy food for them,” she says.
Carmen’s husband Glenn also grew up on a farm. His family raised sheep and cattle on New Zealand’s North Island. While neither Glenn nor Carmen have an official business background, the pair decided to purchase Eatmore Sprouts and together, the company has grown from a small operation to one selling produce throughout western Canada.
Focusing on food safety and sustainability
Eatmore Sprouts utilizes controlled greenhouse growing environments to ensure the highest quality, safely produced sprouts and greens. The list of the company’s products is lengthy and includes alfalfa sprouts, pea shoots, garlic sprouts, deli sprouts, clover and broccoli sprouts, sunflower greens, mixed bean sprouts and a small amount of seasonal certified-organic produce.
“We’re certified organic – that means no chemicals and no GMOs,” says Carmen. “Our products also meet the industry’s highest food safety standards. Growing indoors helps us control a lot of factors and ensure food safety.” The company has developed a food safety initiative based on Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) standards and regularly undergoes site evaluations by CFIA.
“We’re also fully Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points [HACCP] certified,” adds Carmen. “We take food safety very seriously and continue to invest time, energy and finances into the ongoing improvement of our food safety plan. We buy only organic seeds from approved suppliers and every bag of seed is segregated, sprouted and tested for STEC E.coli, including 0157-H7, Salmonella and Listeria. Once approved, we grow a sample to evaluate product quality. Once all of the above evaluation is complete, we work with our seed supplier to maintain access to that seed lot moving forward.”
“Once seed has been released and is part of our production, every crop is tested every time for E.coli 0157-H7, Salmonella and Listeria,” continues Carmen. In recent years, Eatmore Sprouts has added a new greenhouse facility.
Completed in December 2013, the third‐generation greenhouse grows sunflower sprouts, pea shoots and microgreens which are planted in soil, unlike indoor crops – alfalfa, deli, garlic, broccoli, clover and mixed bean sprouts – which are grown in water.
“This greenhouse was built with the intention of increasing production, while remaining as efficient and environmentally responsible as possible,” explains Carmen. “The beds are made out of earth and plastered with appropriate covering, allowing better mass heat storage than previous greenhouses.”
Heating the greenhouses takes a ton of energy in the winter and Eatmore Sprouts has made the shift from natural gas heat to wood. “Our greenhouse wood gasification heating system is carbon neutral,” explains Glenn. “Carbon can be recaptured by growing a new tree, whereas the carbon released from burning fossil fuels such as natural gas cannot be reclaimed. We purchase wood from a neighboring farm, which also supports their operation through the long winter.”
“In addition, we have 48 solar panels and we use the extracted heat from our wastewater, which is put back into heating the indoor growing systems through heat pumps,” adds Carmen.
Like any agriculture‐based business, Eatmore Sprouts had its fair share of challenges in regulations and keeping up with industry changes and technology. Carmen is very active in many local and provincial organizations that keep her finger on the pulse of the sprouts industry and agriculture overall. “I hold co-chair positions with the Certified Organic Association of British Columbia [COABC] and am vice chair of both the Small Scale Food Processor Association [SSFPA] and the International Sprout Growers Association [ISGA],” she notes.
On a local level, Eatmore Sprouts is proud to sponsor local events and the company regularly donates excess product to community food banks. “For us, business success is about reinvesting in the community and growing a product that contributes to a healthy, happier planet,” says Carmen.
Carmen says every one of Eatmore Sprouts and Greens Ltd.’s team members also value this mission and have made it their calling to deliver the highest quality, locally produced organic sprouts and greens – growing good food in the heart of the Comox Valley.