I grew up in north central BC, quit school and went to work in the local mines and sawmills, working my way south. In the middle 70’s I ended up in Campbell River due to the plentiful jobs and big money in the logging industry. I excelled at logging, working my way from chokerman, hook-tender and foreman, to a partner in a well-run logging company. My addictions excelled at the same pace, as I was able to work and drink as much as I wanted, which I can see today caused a lot of problems. I started a family and lived in various locations in the community over the next 35 years.
Five years ago I found myself very unhappy, even with all the benefits that a successful logging career brings. I had health issues so I was forced into making some changes. I became aware that my drinking was a big problem. After some time and help I was able to stop drinking. Near the same time, work for our company started to become very sporadic which was painful to see as a lot of our long term employees were suffering. The favourite conversation was, “How long are we working this time?”, and our company became less viable financially which meant we had to make some tough choices. All in all it wasn’t fun any more.
I have always been amazed that we don’t support each other, especially in the logging industry. The provincial government has always said the logging industry was the backbone of B.C. yet they hardly ever built a school or government building out of wood. The municipal government built the community hall out of steel and bricks; the consumer would much rather buy a dresser made out of pressboard from Asia with exotic rainforest wood glued to the side of it; people put vinyl on the outside of their homes and shingles on their roofs that support the oil and gas industry. Businesses such as Tim Horton’s, a Canadian icon, and most of Campbell River’s commercial buildings aren’t built out of wood.
This was a favourite and passionate subject of mine for many years and I have always voted with my dollar, for example, I have never bought anything in my life from Home Depot, or Wal-Mart. Our company did the same. We always bought as close as we could to home, for example, wire rope was a large cost in our camp and Canadian rope is some of the most expensive, but we always bought Canadian.
I was once told that I was a zealot in regards to recycling. In camp I was kidded that I should have a bandana instead of a hardhat as I would shut pick- ups off if I saw them idling. The cooks put all the slop in buckets and I would take them with me into the woods with ravens following me all the way. If I threw them out in the same spot twice I would have a group of bears waiting for me. The way we were told to get rid of the slop was to burn it in an incinerator using diesel, and it takes a lot of diesel to burn slop.
With all the time off I had, and my mind and body healing from the alcohol, some of these values I had all along started to percolate and I decided to put my money where my mouth was. Today I have a little market that sells only locally produced products, fruits, veggies, meats, seafood, woodwork made from trees that grow here. We have all kinds of great wood here: red cedar is known for its long life as siding or roof covering; fir is very structurally strong and all our woods – fir, hemlock, alder, maple, red and yellow cedar, make great furniture if finished correctly and the look is second to none.
If you had told me a year ago that I would be stocking shelves and running around to all the local farms picking up whatever they can produce, I would have laughed at you. I have no experience in retail, working with the public, managing employees of the opposite gender…. WHAT A RIDE! Every contractor who worked on the renovation was from Campbell River, all the wood used was bought from the little sawmills around town, and all the furniture was built by local craftspeople from the same wood. All employees are from Campbell River and nothing sold at this point is out of a 100-mile radius.
The farmer, soap maker, woodworker, cheese producer, shellfish producer, etc. set their own prices and I do not try to force them to lower their price. At this point, most of what I sell is higher priced. A lot of that is because in general, our furniture makers, farmers, loggers create such little volume, and we, as consumers, love “cheap” stuff and this keeps the cycle going. Nobody supports the farmer so he has to buy cheap furniture, which means the furniture maker has to buy his tomatoes from Mexico and his beef from a feedlot. The furniture maker doesn’t need any wood if he doesn’t have any orders, so the logger has to …got the picture? This cycle wasn’t started by the Asian or Mexican people. It was started right here in the land of milk and honey fuelled by my generation that wanted more than their share, and corporations that wanted more for their shareholders.
I have found out that there is a lot more work running a little store than I thought, and a lot less money but it is a very positive experience, from both the consumer and the producer’s perspectives. Thank God I didn’t go into this for the money.
Ron Everett is a small business owner who believes in supporting his community, which in turn lessens his footprint on our planet.