B.C. farmers concerned over store closure

B.C. farmers concerned over store closure
Nov 05, 2020

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Some producers may have to drive 45 minutes out of town to pick up supplies

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

An abrupt store closure in a British Columbia community has local farmers concerned about how they’ll acquire important supplies.

Last month, some farmers in Keremeos received an email from the local Growers Supply Co. store that it will close its doors on Nov. 21.

Producers who didn’t receive the email heard about the closure through the grapevine.

“A friend of mine who has horses told me,” Vickie Dennis, a local rancher, told Farms.com. “This was totally out of left field. There were no hints that this (closure) was coming.

“Farmers around here are feeling frantic and that they need to stock up.”

Dennis lives about 10 minutes away from the 5th Street store. She, like other farmers in the area, buy ear tags, feed, bedding, salt blocks, tools and other important items for their operations from this retailer.

With the store closing, farmers will have to travel to the next-closest supply store in Penticton, about 45 minutes away.

That 90-minute round trip could be the difference between life and death for some farm animals, Dennis said.

“If you have a calf that loses its mother, you could buy the powdered colostrum from” the store in Keremeos, she said. “Now you have to drive to Penticton and those precious minutes could mean the cow’s life.”

In addition, items in stores outside of Keremeos are more expensive.

A block of salt in the local store might cost about $7, but the same block in the Penticton store is about $15, Dennis said.

“If you’re buying eight blocks at a time, that’s $120 compared to $56,” she said. “Plus, you’ve got to factor in your gas and your time.”

Locals still don’t know why the location is closing and employees were asked to keep quiet about the situation, Dennis said.

“A close friend of mine works there and they’re not allowed to say anything,” Dennis said. “These people will be out of jobs in a few weeks, right around Christmas.”

The location wasn’t operating at a sufficient level to warrant keeping it open, said the BC Tree Fruits Cooperative, which owns the Growers Supply Co. chains.

“Over the past couple of years the cooperative has not been delivering the level of returns to our members that we needed to deliver, and really what that’s required us to do is find ways to transform our business,” Warren Sarafinchan, CEO of the BC Tree Fruits Cooperative, told Global News on Nov. 4.

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