St. Francis Herb Farm expands amid major growth ambitions

Herbal capsules
(Stock image, for illustrative purposes only)

It may seem like a lofty goal for a herb producer based in a Renfrew County community that’s best known for its cottage country and lumbering heritage. But St. Francis Herb Farm is used to thinking big.

The 33-year-old business is setting its sights on becoming the leading herbal production, distribution and education brand in Canada.

Helping St. Francis move in that direction is its construction of a new 33,000-square-foot headquarters in Barry’s Bay adjacent to its 52-acre certified organic herb farm that’s expected to be completed this fall with a ribbon-cutting and site tours. On-site retailing isn’t part of the plan.

Down at the end of a dead-end residential street, the new production, distribution and warehousing facility is gradually taking shape.

St. Francis Herb Farm

The new state-of-the-art building will alleviate the cramped conditions the company currently faces in addition to creating 12 new jobs and the retraining of 50 existing workers in the latest wellness product manufacturing systems.

The project will consolidate St. Francis’s operations, which are currently scattered in several locations in Barry’s Bay and the surrounding area. The farm marks a throwback to the company producing its own plants rather than sourcing and processing them from several growers.

Growing consumer demand

Rather than a detriment, the COVID-19 environment is encouraging owners Paul and Caitlin Rivett-Carnac that the time is right for a giant leap forward.

Stay-at-home days precipitated by the pandemic have increased interest in personal health and wellness products, in shopping close to home and in knowing more about producers.

“People have become more proactive about ... personal wellness. That’s our sweet spot.”

“People have become more proactive about sleeping better, more exercise, stress management and personal wellness,” Paul observed. “That’s our sweet spot.”

The goal is to take the Canadian lead in awareness and education about herbs, along with extraction processing. In addition, the new St. Francis facility will become a tourism destination as visitors are shown around the farm and production plant, helping to diversify the region’s cottage and forestry economy.

Describing themselves as “multi-generational herbal artisans,” starting with Paul’s parents, the Rivett-Carnacs have spent decades developing ways of getting the best out of each of the plants they grow. They call it the “holistic herb approach” – as much a way of life as a business.

St. Francis Herb Farm - family
Paul and Caitlin Rivett-Carnac (left) with their children and Paul’s parents. (Photo by Bob McKeachie)

Among St. Francis’s 100-plus products are capsules, creams, salves and oils that target indigestion, skin care, the immune system and sore muscles. Its products are available at 1,200 Canadian retailers – including via a Shoppers Drug Mart listing – and through 2,000 health practitioners, as well as online.

Farm Credit Canada is financing the new complex. Paul declined to provide numbers for St. Francis’ annual sales or its investment in the construction project, citing competitive reasons.

The Rivett-Carnacs continue to work with the Township of Madawaska and Renfrew County governments, consultants, engineers, construction partners and their team members to meet “aggressive” timelines. Contractors include Maple Reinders and Zuracon, while SPH Engineering Inc. assisted with design.