Chatting with Ann Barnes is a real eye opener into the world of food, health, and business. With a background in law, she’s always had the tendency to ask questions. Already an ethical and healthy vegetarian since age 18, when her interest in food grew further she started digging, and became shocked with the misinformation spread by the food industry.
After investing in a health food company a few years prior, the opportunity to run the company full-time with her husband Mark arose, and Ann was able to realize her passion for sharing and eating wholesome food. Their business, Mum’s Original, sells natural and organic products like hemp hearts, chia, goji berries, and cacao.
Ann’s personal research sheds some light on why foods today can be unhealthy and even cause intolerances. Milk, for example, starts out nutritionally dense, but loses these qualities in processing. The same is true with other foods which are mass produced and where corners are cut, or modifications have taken the place of the natural ingredient.
“Even with gluten, the reality is that what our grandparents used to eat was grown with heirloom seeds passed down for generations,” said Ann, “Since then wheat has been modified scientifically to increase levels of gluten for a stickier consistency, which we’re raised to think is a good thing.”
So, we now eat different foods, and ones made cheaply, so you pay for food but aren’t getting the same amount of nutrients. The sticker price is a fake deal. Ann dedicates her life to selling nutritionally-dense foods, and educating people on how to make simple changes that can help people take charge of their health.
The super foods Mum’s sells are not only super healthy, what makes her company even more interesting is where they get them from.
Outside of big food chains, Mum’s works with independent growers who have significant expertise in what they do. They work with farms and co-operatives in Canada and abroad, and support them to grow and produce the best food naturally.
In a region of The Philippines lies one of their partner co-ops in which Ann says the best variety of cacao (where chocolate comes from) was brought to 400 years ago. The standards in this area are higher than in other countries they could source from, and they work with the growers and local authorities to ensure fair wages and good working conditions. They use stone milling and natural fermentation to bring out the nutrients and avoid heavy metal contamination before it arrives on store shelves.
“Respecting how we see growers, it changes the food,” Ann said. “With our support they can make the right investments, and make the products better while sustaining their livelihoods.”
Ann’s focus is on educating other women, because she sees that they are often still the main caregivers for children, partners, and elders.
“Women prepare information and make choices for their homes. They want real information and not to be lied to so they can make good choices for their families,” she said.
Darcy Higgins is the director of Food Forward and writes a monthly column on the food movement. If you have questions you'd like to see Darcy address, drop him a line.