St. Francis Herb Farm

Natural oils, salves, tinctures, capsules and more in the Ottawa Valley
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
Forrest Lancaster

As a producer of herbal preparations, St. Francis Herb Farm has been in business for more than 25 years. The second-generation family-owned and -operated company makes its home in the Ottawa Valley region of Ontario. From a headquarters in Combermere, Ontario, St. Francis Herb Farm has established a strong niche in the Canadian market for naturopathic herbal products.

Paul Rivett-Carnac serves as the company’s president. His parents established St. Francis Herb Farm in 1988. In the early days, the business served primarily as a supplier of herbal extracts. Growing herbs and making preparations on-site, St. Francis Herb Farm attracted a loyal following of naturopaths, which later translated into a strong presence in Canadian health food stores. Now the team distributes a diverse product line to niche retailers across the country.

Quality first

While in the early years, St. Francis Herb Farm grew the ingredients for its herbal products on the family farm, the business has grown significantly. This has required the family to build new partnerships with growers and suppliers both locally and abroad. Quality of ingredients is essential in the production of small-batch supplements, tinctures, oils and other items. St. Francis Herb Farm prioritizes safety and consistency when building long-term relationships with its suppliers.

“It is really important to find the right people,” explains Paul. “We don’t always need 5 acres of each herb, as we are also proficient in manufacturing small batches. Our emphasis is quality. We just recently bought a farm and are in the process of having it formally classified as certified organic while we prepare the soil for our first crops in 2016. We plan to use it to grow small amounts or rare herbs that we need.”

Paul’s parents have mostly retired. He and his wife, Caitlin, have recently purchased their own farm, continuing the St. Francis tradition and lending emphasis to the farming aspect of the business. Improved access to local materials will help provide better value to customers. Localizing the supply chain provides a great advantage, while at the same time supporting Canadian organic farmers. Aside from concerns about freshness, quality and transportation costs, this system helps St. Francis Herb Farm avoid customs and currency exchange issues.

Keeping up with the market

St. Francis Herb Farm is continually looking to expand its specialty product line. The business has most recently expanded into herbal oils, with the food products being newer and also growing as a category. “One of the new products we just launched is a line of herbal powder capsules, which is a powdered extract versus ground herbs,” says Paul. “We introduced the herbal capsules last fall. This spring we have introduced Deep Immune for Allergies. Allergies are the result of an overactive immune response to things in your environment, which is why we have introduced a modification of our bestselling Deep Immune product as a point of further focus. It has been a good way to launch a product, drawing on the effectiveness and popularity of an established product line. There is a lot of growth coming here.”

Constant development of new products helps keep St. Francis Herb Farm ahead in an increasingly competitive market. “It is a tighter battle out there,” Paul explains. “Having been around for 27 years, we have a rich story and core competencies that we stick to. We are using those strengths to develop the marketing and communications part of our business.”

Another part of encouraging growth is to educate consumers. “I want people to ask the same questions about herbs as they do their food,” Paul adds. “That includes the impact to the economy, safety and where they are from as a focus. We plan to have people see the farm and the harvesting on-site and this is a big resource to the curious customer and our outreach message.”

Over the coming years, Paul wants to focus on the farm side of the operation as a destination – an experience for customers – where they can learn about the herbs and the company’s process. “We want it to be a source of herbal information and show people where the product is from and how products work together,” he explains. “People constantly ask to come and visit. Some customers just want to get out of the city, pick some herbs or weeds, or come and see what is happening. We can tie that experience into education.”

The herbal industry has seen great growth in recent years. Paul and his team plan to use this newfound popularity to their advantage. By focusing on quality of products, sources and service, growth is a given. Paul takes a lot of pride in his colleagues, many of whom have been with the business for many years.

With an experienced and passionate staff, proven expertise and access to quality resources, St. Francis Herb Farm will continue to produce quality herbal products while reaching out to a growing customer base through education.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
LeBeau Excel Ltd.