A look back at Hamilton’s first food co-op in the 1970’s: The Hamilton Natural Food Co-op

by Mustard Seed member Barbara Wallace

In the late 70’s, several of us living in Hamilton came together to create the first food co-op.  We found space at 228 Locke Street South where LuLu & Lavigne Home Studio now sits.


Few of us knew anything about co-ops or even running a store, but we were eager and energetic.  I remember we had a fridge we weren’t using and we lent it to the store. Others cleared out their basements to donate shelving units, counters, blackboards and old couches that we put in the basement for our meetings. We bought very little.  Everyone bought a share – maybe about $200 and we were all expected to contribute at least 3 hours of volunteer labour a week.  My family’s original job was washing out the gallon jugs and taking them up to Bennett’s to fill them with cider for the weekly order. We would buy 30-40 jugs a week that we then delivered to the eager folks stocking the shelves.  There were buyers and stockers, cleaners and cashiers, admin folks and financial “wizards”. Some of the folks I had an opportunity to reminiscence with were:  Jennifer Powell-Fralick, Jean Sedimhradsky, Edie Thompson and Joy Warner. We remembered stalwart members like: Chris Priest, Lorelei Kilgour, Sharon and Graham MacQueen, George and Lenore Sorger, Jesse Kaye, and Jim and Gail Spring.

Some memories we had were:

  • the key issue: who had the keys, who was home to open for the next shift, how did we lock up, the woman next door – maybe Agnes’ Florist who kept an emergency key – just in case.
  • critters appearing in barrels which meant the whole thing had to be thrown out.
  • dead bees in the barrel on top of the honey.
  • members getting the co-op to buy their particular item – be it garlic or sprouts or seeds. Oh the laws we broke!
  • members who didn’t show up for their shift and those who had to fill in.
  • repeated requests for yet another levy because we had no money.
  • the big decision to hire a manager – the only staff person we had.
  • drinking wine at the “BOC”…      (basement of the co-op)

Even with a lot of devotion and hard work, we were not able to keep it going more than about 5 years.  None of the folks I talked to remembered “the end”. People just drifted away.

What a difference the Mustard Seed is – how clean, how well stocked, how well managed, what knowledgeable staff.

If others have memories or knowledge of the life of the Hamilton Natural Food Co-op,  do in touch with me (barbarawallace666@gmail.com) or share them on this Facebook post.  It would be fun to learn other memories.

Editor’s note: In particular, if you have any photos to share of this former Co-op we would LOVE to have them for our archives!


DOGtober Fest October 7th!


October 7, 2017 – 10am – 3pm @ the Co-op

We pretty much all .love. dogs, don’t we? But how often do we have events that are truly for man’s best friend?. On October 7, we will welcome dogs and their people to The Mustard Seed (parking lot) for a day full of dog-related activities with local vendors. We will have Hamilton/Burlington SPCAshowcasing dogs that need a home, local dog treat makers included Dolled Up Desserts, and other local dog paraphenalia. We will have a “dog trick” contest at 1pm and dogminding while you are in the store.

What about for people? We will have several farmers in an outdoor farmers market and Rescue Dogs Vegan Hot Dogs & Street Fare will be there to serve up their delicious vegan hotdogs throught the day.

Please bring a sturdy leash and be mindful that there will be other dogs and kids around. For more info: bit.ly/DOGtoberfest2017

Thanksgiving Free Range Turkey Pre-Order

Turkey Image

We are taking turkey pre-orders now until Wednesday, September 20th. To place your order: https://tmsthanksgiving2017.eventbrite.ca – you can also place your order in-store.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner which means we’re dreaming of cozy dinners with friends and family, oven-roasted turkey, delicious cranberry sauce, a classic pumpkin pie, and the inevitable food coma that follows immediately after!

The Ross family’s free-range turkeys are your best option for your local holiday feast. Located in Wellington County (north of Waterloo), Buck Ross and his family have been farming for four generations. They’re the only commercial producers in Ontario allowed to grow fully free-range turkeys. Their turkeys enjoy fresh air, direct sunlight, large outdoor yards, fresh water, and all-natural locally-grown feed. The Mustard Seed’s sourcing priorities guide the products we stock. “Ethical Animal Practices” is one of our core values because we know that consuming meat involves an animal giving its life to feed us. We therefore have a responsibility to know the conditions that animal experienced. We recently visited the Buck Ross at his farm- read about it and check out our photos here.

The turkeys will range from 14-25 lb, and are priced at $3.99/lb. Be sure to place your order soon!  These turkeys are naturally raised, so the size ranges are estimates and we can’t guarantee the weight of the turkeys that we’ll receive. We will aim to match your preferred size, but we can’t guarantee specific size availability, so come early for pickup to have the best selection to choose from.


As a thank you for pre-ordering your turkey, you will get a free pie pumpkin to either make into pie or put on display. We are hoping to run a workshop on how to make pumpkin pie from scratch, so stay tuned!


This year, in addition to your turkey pre-order we are also offering:

  • a large Local Bounty Box with all the fruit and vegetables you will need for your celebration ($35 value), OR
  • Thanksgiving feast with one click: a large Local Bounty Box with local cranberry sauce, delicious stuffing ingredients (gluten free or regular), Bennetts apple cider, and a local pumpkin pie. You can pre-order this Thanksgiving feast with one click for $85. Note that this includes everything for your meal, including a $20 deposit for the turkey. You will still need to pay the balance of your turkey order at the checkout when you pick up, depending the the size.

Free range turkeys from Ross Farm in Wellington County.

To place your order: https://tmsthanksgiving2017.eventbrite.ca