Store owner looks to breath life into food sustainability

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>BEATRICE SCHULER-MOJON, PHOTO</p><p>Camelia Frieberg and her life-partner Angus Smith at Chicory Blue General Store on School Road in Blockhouse.</p>
  • <p>FACEBOOK PHOTO, CHICORY BLUE</p><p>Years ago, the building at 27 School Road in Blockhouse was a grocery store and butcher shop.</p>
  • <p>FACEBOOK PHOTO, CHICORY BLUE</p><p>The well-oiled wooden shelves of the store at the front of the building.</p>

While Camelia Frieberg thinks of herself as a farmer as much as anything, she isn't one to let the proverbial grass grow under her feet.

"I seem to like big projects. I'm a filmmaker, film producer. I also am a farmer and a few other things beside," Frieberg told LighthouseNOW.

The owner of the Watershed Farm in Baker Settlement, Frieberg is a two-time Genie Award winner for Best Picture as producer of Atom Egoyan's films Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter. She's a former co-chair of the South Shore Waldorf School, the first to establish a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program on the South Shore, and she's the visionary behind the new Chicory Blue General Store in Blockhouse.

Frieberg recently purchased the building at 27 School Road, which was once owned by Selwyn and Edna Langille. Years ago, they had run it as a grocery store and butcher chop.

"It really served the community in this very fulsome sort of way, which is, in a way, what I'm trying to get back to," said Frieberg. Most recently the building had been used for a home-based commercial embroidery business.

Hailing from Toronto, Frieberg has lived in Nova Scotia for more than 20 years. She has been involved with various efforts to help build up rural economies, including as a founding member of the former group Business Alliance for Local Living Economies or BALLE, as well as a member of Food Secure Canada.

The store has begun selling produce, first online and now from the premises. While Frieberg is looking to the community to help determine the goods sold in the store, her own vision of what lines the polished wooden shelves at the front of the building includes local produce, preserves and other products, as well as local crafts.

Long-term, in the back and patio area, she sees a small restaurant or cafe with local foods and coffee, and a licenced kitchen that could be rented out to small-time food producers, allowing them to create products for sale in the store section.

As well, she sees it as a community space, for workshops, book readings and other activities.

More than just well-oiled wood and nails, lettuce and coffees, Frieberg seems the store as emblematic of a post-pandemic way forward.

"In a certain way, COVID really sort of shone a light how necessary a place like this in a rural community ... in a very, I think, stark kind of way. It made clear why this is so important, to be able to support local, to be able to essentially build on the strengths that we have as a local community," said Frieberg.

She notes that only "a few short decades ago," 80 per cent of Nova Scotia's food needs were met within the province, whereas now it is less than 10 per cent.

"So we have really seen this sharp decline in our ability to take care of ourselves. And I think COVID has forced us to wake up a bit to the dangers of sort of farming everything out or shopping everything out."

Frieberg sees Chicory Blue as a source of home-grown and produced goods people can easily get to by walking, driving or biking. "You know, it's keeping it local," she said.

"We don't realize that so many of those things we could be getting from local, and that, if we did, that money would recirculate, keep those families fed, and keep those mortgages paid, and you know, create a much more sustainable future for all of us," said Frieberg.

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