The not-for-profit Arks Harvest officially opened its doors for business on June 27, 2022 from 122 Bond Street in Vankleek Hill.

The premise of the cooperative organization is to make fresh produce and some food items affordable for everyone, according to board chairperson Nikole Jalbert. She emphasizes that they are not competing with grocery stores; they are open to customers on Mondays from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. At the end of the day on Wednesday, the tables and leftover produce are put away as 122 Bond Street also serves the Club d’Age d’Or members.

Jalbert emphasizes that the group is looking for partnerships and that they purchase their bags from Vankleek Hill Foodland and refer people there when Arks Harvest is closed. “We’re not a competitor,” she said.

“We are here to offer quality, affordable food and to help each other,” Jalbert said of the group, which consists entirely of volunteers.

The board members include: president – Nikole Jalbert, vice-president – Alishia Jivraj- Davy, treasurer – Francine Allaire and secretary – Carolyn Danjaw. Their goal is to provide a beacon of hope for those who aren’t financially able to purchase fresh, local produce.

“We (Jalbert and her three board member’s) want to provide those in need with the essentials, while cutting out the inflated prices,” said Jalbert, the president of Arks Harvest, regarding what the establishment’s goals are.

During the days that the establishment is closed, community members come together, ensuring any perishables are refrigerated and put to good use, through donations to local food banks or storing food in fridges at local businesses.

“We are looking to expand through collaboration and community camaraderie,” said Jivraj-Davy, V.P. of Arks Harvest. “Students are encouraged to come and volunteer.”

Some of the ways Arks Harvest receives donations include donations from local gardeners. Members can also sponsor boxes by paying it forward for someone that may not be able to afford a box of food.

They offer meat from Fermes Terra Agri, maple products from Fine and Dandy Maple Products and they work with other community programs, businesses and farmers to ensure that any leftover food is donated – helping to ensure there is little to no waste each week and that food gets to the people who need it the most, according to an Arks Harvest press release.

According to Jivraj-Davy, the best day to visit is on Monday, especially close to the store’s opening time, as that is when the shelves are fully stocked for customers. She also said, “Kids are welcome here, and actually, I would say are encouraged. Bringing the community together one family at a time is important.”

“Educating and expanding,” said Jalbert; that is what the team at Arks Harvest plans to do going forward. There is lots of recipe sharing going on and customers are allowed to taste fruits and vegetables that they have never tasted — before they buy.

Nikole Jalbert holds up a basket to show how much food a client will get for their money. Volunteers were at work setting up produce on the tables on Monday afternoon, right after a delivery had been made to 22 Bond Street in Vankleek Hill.
Photo: Louise Sproule

It is not only a place to get fresh food – but also offers a sense of community, as customers often stop in just to socialize as well, according to the press release.

“We hope one day to bring jobs to the region,” says Jalbert.

The Arks Harvest Board of Directors. From left to right are Vice President Alishia Jivraj-Davy, Secretary Carolyn Danjaw, President Nikole Jalbert, and Treasurer Francine Allaire. Photo: Jan Amell