Remembering Jennifer Grant, who brought organics to Dufferin-Orangeville

February 17, 2022   ·   1 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Jennifer Grant, founder of Harmony Whole Foods Market on First Street, passed away earlier this month on Feb. 2. She was a pioneer, passionate about bringing more conscientiousness to what we consume. Her passion, her kindness and her personal generosity fill the memories of so many of us who knew her.

She leaves behind her two children, her daughter Katy and her husband Nick and their daughter Grace. Also, her son, Evan Borgstrom, his wife Eva and their children Zoe and Milo.

It was Ms. Grant who brought the idea and the facts of organically and sustainably grown produce to the Orangeville-Dufferin area. Ultimately and over the course of her professional life, she helped influence organics through her work of sitting on a number of Boards of Directors, associations, Councils and other collectives, at both the provincial and national level. These were researching and otherwise involved with organic agriculture across the country. Among these, she was an advisor to the Canadian Government for the Development of Standards for Organic Food Classification.

Throughout her career, she was given several awards and accolades.

How she put her money where her mouth was, was by opening her first bricks-and-mortar shop of Harmony Whole Foods in Orangeville in 1978.

According to Nicky French, Harmony’s [Whole Food Market] Supplements & HABA manager and long-time staffer, who wrote in an email to us, “Jennifer started Harmony Whole Foods 44 years ago in an 800 square foot store; in what she described as a ‘fiercely defensive conventional farming community,’ she began selling local, whole foods and promoting awareness of food issues and sustainable and organic production.”

Like many pioneers, Jennifer Grant’s beginnings with the store faced a slow start and there were days when she wondered whether she had misunderstood how well her message was being received by the general public. Nevertheless, this leap of faith of opening a “health food store “ in 1978 in a town of only 10,000 souls, was buoyed by her vision to support local farmers and her own community. Soon enough, her customers did find her and by their support, she was able to move into a space twice the size in 1988.

A full ten years later, she took a space of 5,000 square feet. Here she established her new and improved Harmony Whole Foods Market and began her re-envisioning of “promoting the well-being of our community in body, mind & spirit, [also] offering a complete selection of organic products, as well as a café and a naturopathic clinic.” 

Ms. French credits Jennifer Grant, at least in part, for the abundance of holistic practitioners in the Orangeville area by virtue of her determination to bring a knowledge of a holistic and nutritional approach to good health in this community. 

“Her courage to start Harmony gave these practitioners courage to pursue their practices here. She built the awareness and grew the support for holistic lifestyles. She gave them the comfort of knowing that if she could do it here, so could they. She had blazed the trail for them,” the email from Ms. French said.

On a local level, Jennifer Grant assisted many farmers in the area with smaller productions on how to convert their land to organic methods. She welcomed and befriended individuals coming into her shop, with information and encouragement to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. She wrote informatively in local newspapers, spreading the word that the good nutrition of live produce, grown organically as much as possible, would always be better for them.

While so much of her life was tied to her business and the promotion of organics locally and in Canada as a whole, she also loved to ride her horse in the Hockley Valley and it was in this idyllic setting that this writer had the pleasure of her friendship and wonderful sense of humour. There was one fine summer’s day when several of us rode to a specific spot in the valley where others brought the lunch we had assembled collectively. There, we loosened the saddle girths and tied our horses to graze. We sat about in the sun and the shade dining on the fruits of our preparations and toasting this being the best of living in the country.

From Rowan Lalonde, Ms. Grant’s partner for a while who has owned Harmony Whole Food Market for some years and is dedicated to carrying on with the mission and the passion, “She just had a wonderful personality. Harmony was considered the second organic standard in Canada. Jen was here in the beginning of organic. She meant well for everybody; brought an awareness that eating well is good.”

Jennifer Grant’s daughter Katy sent us an email in which she said, “What I think of most and what I will miss the most is the incredible joy, energy and light mom radiated wherever she went and with anything she did. Her smile. Her passion. Her confidence. Her inner and outer beauty.

“Mom’s passion for food, holistic healing, love of nature and care for others has influenced me in every way of my life, in my personal and professional life,” the email continued.

“I have worked in the natural food industry for over 15 years now, I love getting lost in the woods, traveling and gathering with friends – all things that my mom loved and passed on to me. I always knew how much my mom influenced and connected with others; however, my mother’s passing has highlighted this well beyond what I knew.”

Jennifer Grant was a wonderful woman who did extraordinary things and all her associates are so grateful to have the opportunity to carry on her legacy of providing their customers with the best products and best service they can at Harmony Foods.

There will be a celebration of Jennifer Grant’s life in the “warmer weather.”

Readers Comments (1)

  1. Steven Adamou says:

    How sad is this. A great remarkable woman.

    What is the cause of death? It doesn’t say?


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