The Big Carrot is a worker-owned natural food market that has been committed to local, organic, non-GMO and sustainable food systems since 1983. We are a one-stop shop offering produce, grocery, bulk, body care and a wholistic dispensary. Our juice & smoothie bars and kitchen serve up hundreds of healthy dishes and drinks, daily. Building community is at the core of our vision which we deliver through education, outreach and giving. We want everyone to share in the goodness we offer.
Our purpose is to create a healthy society.
Our vision is to provide the communities we serve quality, sustainable food and exceptional customer experiences through an inclusive environment that promotes among staff and customers trust, integrity and awareness of healthy food and lifestyle choices. We are committed to supporting the production of organic, non-GMO and local food.
Mission: For natural food customer and those curious about becoming natural food customers, The Big Carrot provides complete one-stop shopping, by offering high quality products, friendly and informed service, competitive prices and ongoing public education to make natural food selection easy. We support the development of a healthy and sustainable food system by purchasing from small local, organic producers when ever possible and by ensuring each product meets a set of rigourous standards. All of this is supported by providing our team satisfying employment in a fair and productive workplace.
We’re Worker Owned
Growing from 9 founding partners to a thriving worker-owned business, The Big Carrot is run in the same democratic manner as when we first opened.
All staff who have been continuously employed at The Big Carrot for at least 3 years are eligible to purchase shares in the company. A minimum of 5 shares must be purchased and 1 common voting share is included in the buy-in.
The Big Carrot is proud to offer its customers complimentary store tours led by our certified Nutritionists. Nutritionists are on site for general questions Monday through Sunday.*
Complimentary nutritional tours can be on any topic. Popular topics include: achieving optimum health, understanding organics, anti-inflammatory diets, food sensitivities, weight control and more. A one-on-one tour is between 30 – 45 minutes and will include a brief discussion of your health concern with a specific focus on how it relates to your diet. A walk through of our aisles allows the nutritionists to highlight foods to consume and avoid.
In order to ensure a nutritionist is available and to allow for a more individualized tour it is recommended that you book your appointment in advance. Nutritionist hours vary between stores.
To book a nutrition tour, please call 416-466-2129
If you would like to organize a group tour, please call ahead of time. One of our nutritionists would be happy to discuss your specialized tour. Schools, seniors groups, fitness groups, environmental organizations, etc. are welcome!
To book a one-on-one or group tour, please call 416-466-2129
* A nutritionist is scheduled whenever possible but there may be occasions when they are not available.
“The Big Carrot nutritionists are very knowledgeable and offer great advice.” Mary .L.
The Big Carrot is committed to contributing to our neighbourhood. We are proud to donate a percentage of our annual profits back to the community. We support local non-profit organizations that provide on-going services within our community and whose goals are consistent with The Big Carrot mission statement.
We support groups and organizations that promote:
Co-operative Development, Organic Agriculture, Community Projects, Environmental Preservation, Healthy Food Programs
How to apply
If your non-profit organization is seeking a donation, please submit your donation request on letterhead, describing your organization, goal of your project and how a donation from us can benefit your project. We limit one donation request per organization in any calendar year. Unfortunately, we are unable to support individual causes and individuals soliciting pledges or holding fundraising events on behalf of a charity.
In Kind Donations
Local schools and community groups who would like to request food products, raffle prizes, Big Carrot gift cards or silent auction items, should submit donation requests at least 4 weeks in advance. Please provide all pertinent information on your organizations letterhead including organization, address, date & time, reason for the fundraising event, approximate attendance, and contact information.
If you are planning an event with values similar to The Big Carrot and looking for sponsorship, please submit your information package at least 2 months in advance for consideration.
All donation and sponsorship requests must be emailed. We will contact you upon review of your submission. Requests by phone or fax will not be accepted. Although we consider most requests for support very worthy, not all can be fulfilled.
Carrot Cache is a non-profit organization supporting small projects in Ontario working toward a sustainable and just regional food system. Information and grant criteria can be found at www.carrotcache.com
Nature’s Finest Fund
In 2018 Carrot Cache adopted The Big Carrot’s annual grant, Nature’s Finest Fund. You can learn about the grant and the application process through www.carrotcache.com.
One of the guiding principles of our business model is to share knowledge and live better together. We believe public education on social and environmental issues is key to the health and prosperity of individuals and the community as a whole. One of our goals is to develop a skilled and knowledgeable staff, able to introduce customers to these issues.
We offer a variety of workshops on topics that reflect our values, standards and expertise. These 30-45 minute presentations are suitable for classrooms, office lunch and learns or local community gatherings.
- Organic: Why You’re Worth It
- GMOs: Your Right to Know
- 10 Simple Ways to Improve Your Health
- Managing Stress: Foods to Support and Nourish
- Healthy Lunches: Eating On the Go
For more information and to book a workshop in your community contact Kate McMurray, firstname.lastname@example.org
“Our grade 5 class loved the hands on food prep and learned some basic healthy eating lessons.” Ms O’Ryan
Founded on Cooperative Principles
Back in November 1983, The Big Carrot opened its doors for business across the street from our current Danforth location. Owned and operated based on the principles of a worker owned co-operative, The Big Carrot was the first health food store to offer a one stop shopping experience with a vegetarian deli, organic produce department and a selection of frozen natural meat products.
The Big Carrot came about when five workers in a natural food store found themselves unemployed. They had bought shares in the company where they worked but discovered later that they had no say in running the store. Knowing they wanted to keep working together they were looking for a working model for their new enterprise. A chance viewing of The Mondragon Experiment, a BBC documentary about a successful large-scale worker co-operative system in Spain suggested a possible solution to the power problem. One share, one vote. Seven of the founding partners had experience in natural food retail: Mary Lou Morgan, Grant MacKinnon, Patricia Smith, Daiva Kryzanauskas, Les Bowser, Jane Langmuir, Jerry Lewicki. One partner was involved in a housing co-op (David Dennis) and one partner was a novice (Akemi Kobayashi).
The group negotiated personal loans with Bread & Roses Credit Union to bring their contributions to $5000 each (50 class B shares) totaling $45,000. By pooling their capital they garnered the banks support, which gave them the credibility to seek new investors. They received a $50,000 loan guaranteed by Ottawa under small business legislation and raised another $ 28,000 from investors and friends in the form of Class A shares (non-voting shares).
The partners looked for locations in various areas of the city. Back in 1983, the Danforth area was in transition with many young families moving in, so several partners surveyed the neighbourhood decided that Riverdale was ready to support a local health food store. The location was at 349 Danforth Ave. 2,000 square feet, now occupied by Second Cup. A lot of work needed to be done before it opened, as the space was in bad shape. The store was designed, built and painted by its owners.
Natural food stores at that time were predominantly small ma & pa shops that lacked in fresh products and relied mainly on vitamins for sales. The need for a one-stop natural food store was in demand and the Big Carrot was able to provide that experience, introducing natural foods to a neighbourhood not accustomed to so much natural food selection. Organic food was virtually unknown at that time limited to some European products.
Busting at the seams at its original location in 1987, the group was fortunate to meet David Walsh a real estate developer. Both worked on developing the concept and construction of what we now know as Carrot Common. A property available across the street, formerly a car dealership owned by the Playter family, would be a perfect location. The Big Carrot needed to come up with money to secure anchor tenancy in the new development, so they decided to seek new investors. A small sign on the cash register asked customers to invest $5,000 at 10% for an indeterminate length of time. Over the next eight months $264,000 in non voting shares was raised from customers. Suppliers forwarded $150,000 of inventory and the Federal Business Development Bank lent $250,000 and The Big Carrot was able to finance their expansion into Carrot Common.
The Big Carrot then had 13 worker owners and 25 staff and offered a full service natural meat department. A little ahead of ourselves, there was little demand for fresh meat to make it successful as this concept was a bit foreign to health food shoppers at that time. The space was later shared with our Body Care & Supplements Departments. The Big Carrot then expanded to the location next door, formerly Sanelli’s, an Italian Food Deli. Supplements and Body Care split into 2 separate departments. As business grew, The Big Carrot continued to occupy other retail spaces in Carrot Common. Supplements across the courtyard became its own Wholistic Dispensary and the Organic Juice Bar is located at the front of the mall.
In 2006, The Big Carrot Danforth Community Market experienced its biggest expansion and renovation. In June 2018, we opened our second location in the Toronto Beaches community. The Big Carrot has grown into Canada’s largest worker owned natural food market and continues to set standards for quality and selection of natural foods while observing a worker-owner model.
“…from 9 founding partners back in 1983 to currently over 70 worker owners.”