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My Grocery Gig: The Big Carrot's Jyne Greenley, dispensary department purchaser

Greenley discusses her journey into the world of herbal and alternative medicines
jyne greenley
Jyne Greenley

Job title: Dispensary department purchaser of The Big Carrot Community Market

Age: “My fifth decade” 

Location(s): Danforth Community Market, Beach Community Market

Where were you born and raised? 

I grew up in Toronto, near the Bluffs. That is where I developed my love of nature. It wasn’t as built up as it is now with development. The wild parks were really a special place for me.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

I started doing early morning art classes when I was maybe 12 or 13 and thought I would grow up to be a graphic designer. I ended up going to the University of Toronto in Fine Arts, and studied painting, photography and printmaking. The program was very hands-on.

READ: Canadians are putting their personal health and wellness needs at the forefront

How did you get interested in herbal and alternative medicines, which is a big component of the supplements category in grocery dispensary? 

I was always into plants because of my mom and dad. As a kid, they would show me the wild herbs growing at the Bluffs, and so that world wasn’t foreign to me. But as a young adult, I had fallen into the art student scene of pub crawls and bad vegetarian eating habits. I went to see a naturopath, and started really getting into and adopting alternative medicines, herbal remedies, homeopathy and nutraceuticals, and felt great! I ended up moving to Vancouver with my boyfriend at the time, where we opened a video store that carried artsy and cult films, and also ended up working with Capers Community Market. 

What was your first experience like working with an organic food and natural health store in Capers? 

It was really well-run and at a wonderful time to be in herbal and natural remedies because there wasn’t the cutthroat competition that we have now with the discount retailers on pricing and inventory. We would literally buy products out of the backs of vans. Health food stores would support and help and share learning with one another. Now as a purchaser, I have to do a lot of wheeling and dealing to get competitive pricing. Still, what my job really comes down to is helping people, which is why I got into it in the first place. 

READ: The Big Carrot adds two new additions

You moved back to Toronto and joined The Big Carrot in 1998. What have you been most proud of during your time with them? 

Building up the dispensary. It wasn’t like in Western Canada where a culture around health and wellness outside traditional medicine had already taken shape and was booming. The Big Carrot was really one of the first in Toronto to have a full-on dispensary staffed by real professionals. We would also introduce our customers to unique products and take a chance on local growers and brands. The Big Carrot is also one of the founding members of The Non-GMO Project. We were really committed and tireless about doing all the background checks to ensure everything sold in the store was non-GMO, and we still are dedicated to it. 

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greenly's artwork
Greenley's artwork (

What attribute do you have that has been most instrumental to your career success?  

I’m a go-getter. I don't like standing around doing nothing, I'd rather be on the ball. I'm an ideas person, and love brainstorming and being creative to get things done. 

In your view, why have supplements recently seen such a big spike in consumer demand? 

It’s really a combination of factors, including COVID and a growing anti-pharma sentiment. But I think people are also feeling like our healthcare system has collapsed and the onus is now on the individual to help themselves feel better and be the healthiest version of themselves. And supplements are an alternative to Western medicine that can help people feel better and maintain their health. There are so many herbal remedies in the dispensary today, from Ashwagandha, which has been found to be amazing for people with a lot of stress because it lowers high cortisol levels, to astragalus, which is effective for boosting immunity. 

READ: Post-COVID, consumers are taking a more proactive approach to their health

You are also a professional artist and have had solo shows of your work, in which you combine, painting, photography and mixed media on natural canvases like stone and reclaimed wood. Tell us a bit about your other career.  

About 20 years ago, I realized that I really missed doing art and started again, but this time incorporated my love of nature, herbs and plants. I actually paint with the herbs I grow at home, making natural dyes from Dandelion Root, for example, and Chaga mushroom, which gives a really unique colour. And I always incorporate a small amount of beeswax from the hives that I used to have for an encaustic finish on the pieces.  I think everyone should have a creative pursuit. I find if I am having a hard time at work or just feeling a bit exhausted, taking out my sketch pad or doing a little painting is wonderful for relieving stress. I will be in the Haliburton Tour De Forest show in August and I am working on my solo show in November at Gerrard Art Space in Toronto. 

Careers in grocery are as diverse as the products that line store shelves. From the frontlines to the c-suite, a job in food retail can bring about many opportunities. Canadian Grocer’s new series, My Grocery Gig, will profile people from across the industry about what they do and why they’re passionate about their profession. Have a pitch? Send it to digital editor Jillian Morgan. 

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