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Gary and Susan Snow
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The Tabletree juice product line up with the 2012 first prize award trophy
We are cherry growers and processors here in Creston, B.C. Five years ago, we anticipated the decline of the fresh market and began researching value-added opportunities for our fruit and invented and designed a new proprietary juice extraction machine. In 2009 tremendous rain storms that split 200,000 pounds of fruit on the trees catapulted our need to commercialize our juice business to the forefront.
In 2010 we won funding from the B.C. Innovations Council CAT Commercialization of Agricultural Technology competition, which we used to bring our products to market.
In 2012 we nervously took our black cherry juice onto the world stage at the World Juice Awards in Spain and were blown away when we won the ‘Best Pure Juice Product’ award.
We returned to the World Juice Awards this year in Cologne, Germany with our red apple juice and came back winners again – this time we placed second in the category ‘Best New Nectar or Juice’.
The wonderful thing was that the other company that won was a Canadian company as well – Haskapa from Nova Scotia, with a truly new juice made from the haskap berry.
It was so great to have two Canadian companies standing together as the top two in the awards. Attendees numbered close to 350 participants from 55 countries including many of the top juice companies in the world and those corporations and agencies that support the juice industry – it truly was the world of juice.
Loss of Farmers Worldwide
The conference covered much more than who had the best new juices or marketing campaigns, however.
Presentation after presentation described a worldwide problem of decreasing numbers of farmers due to their inability to make a decent living. In our little valley of Creston we have lost half of the fruit growers we had last year and more have told us they are giving up farming completely.
At last year’s conference we were disappointed that they didn’t focus more on the farmers.
We wondered if the declining number of farmers was particular to our region or country, but this year it was evident that it’s not just North America, but the world as well.
We were used as an example during one of the keynote speeches by a large processor from Chile who spoke about the general need to increase the price of food.
Our concern is that when the price of food increases, that increase is not passed down to the farmer, but remains in the value chain above the farmer.
Discussions on this problem included leaders in the industry from multimillion dollar processors in Spain, Chile, Denmark, and India, senior representatives from the worldwide Fair Trade organization, and senior representatives from U.K Walmart and others from all over the world.
We were awed that these people in a room were interested in what we had to say. “The world” listened intently to us as we answered their questions.
They wanted to know our experiences and reasons for stepping up one rung in the value chain ladder, and they recognized our story as being one of desperation to save the family farm.
We asked them to invest in agriculture and more specifically, the farmer themselves, to ensure that the farmer is profiting and thereby giving back to the economy of their respective countries.
A large processor from Spain stated the solution should be more corporate farms and the streamlining of operations through these large entities, but fortunately that was only one opinion. It was so refreshing and hit close to the heart to hear all but one of the major players speak out in defense of the small rural farmer and not the corporate farms.
One wonderful man from India said India paid their farmers first.
He said dairy farmers in India used to be the poorest in the country – that many could not even afford to have their own families drink the milk they produced. But little by little, they formed a cooperative service that picked up the milk from farmers, even if it was just one cup of milk. The milk was chilled or turned into cheese and then sold.
These farmers soon became the richest in India and India’s production of milk and cheese increased significantly. Most importantly the economy of the country improved because the farmer was giving back to the community they lived in by purchasing goods and services.
All this was from supporting the farmer. Could it really be that simple?
World Water Supply
Another major concern is the developing shortage of water in many countries. It was suggested the next wars could very well be fought over water.
One keynote speaker noted that Egypt had huge air conditioned facilities for the cows, which requires water for their operations as well as drinking water for the cows. The estimates are that where there was once hundreds of years of water, there is now only a century of water left. Saudi Arabia is not building any more factories because of decreasing water supplies.
Some countries, currently experiencing bad air and water quality, are buying large tracts of land in other countries in anticipation of future problems.
It seems obvious to us that in Canada we need to protect what we take for granted – our water – for future generations.
Concerns of the Consumer
The “world of juice” is listening to the consumers who want to reduce their sugar intake.
Portion control is one part of the answer to that. In North America when you order juice in a restaurant, you receive a huge eight-to-ten ounce glass while in European countries, it will usually be considerably smaller.
The health benefit of juices can be achieved in as little as an ounce of juice as is evident in our Tabletree Black Cherry juice. We encourage consumers to use only an ounce a day. In response are wonderful testimonials from people being helped with everything from gout, to arthritis, to emphysema, to mesothelioma, MS, and Crones Disease. We believe the health benefits of our juices, taken in moderation, far outweigh any damage coming from the natural sugars.
Access to Funding
A wonderful senior government official from South Africa wined and dined us, trying to entice us to move operations there. The government in South Africa will grant 80% of the capital needed to build a facility if we work with a South African company. In her words: “I would love for you to move to South Africa so I could give you some money!”
It saddens us to think that we haven’t been approached by anyone in our own country with the same proposition, other than through an application process that will take a team of accountants and grant writers a millennium to complete.
We now have two world class juices; we have the world looking at our products, and we can’t seem to find support for our invention and expansion other than through foreign countries, foreign investors and foreign companies. To survive we will probably have to take a foreign offer.
We are still hopeful that our country will assist farmers directly allowing Tabletree to stay in Canada, supporting our community and the rest of the farmers. Expanding our facility to include fruit from other farmers is part of the goal we set in the beginning to support our fellow farmers as well.
We feel very fortunate having been given the opportunity to be spotlighted and celebrated at such a prestigious affair. We have also been asked if we would participate in an interview for a chapter in his next book about entrepreneurs and their path to success.
We are still traveling that path. It has been a sometimes bumpy ride, and with some risk, but it has been a wonderful one to say the least. ■
Gary & Susan Snow are the owners and developers of Tabletree Juice products in Creston, B.C. In 2012 their Black Cherry Juice was awarded the ‘Best Pure Juice Product’ award and in 2013 their Red Apple Juice took second place in the ‘Best New Juice’ category at the World Juice Awards. You can find out more about their products at: www.tabletreejuice.com.