The Stephens family

The Stephens family
The Stephens family are all passionately involved in Nature's Path Organic Foods

“Leave the earth better than you found it” – Rupert Stephens

This phrase, which was the title of a song written by his father, has become a refrain in the song of Arran Stephen’s life. It guides his decisions and is the ethos of the family business, Nature’s Path Organic Foods.

As a young boy, Arran would help Rupert on the family farm, spreading kelp on the fields or planting corn, and spending summer afternoons hiking or eating sun-ripened berries picked straight from the bushes. That childhood instilled in Arran a love for nature and sustainable agriculture.

Organic roots

In 1949, their farm and produce stand—Goldstream Berry Paradise on Vancouver Island—was organic long before organic agriculture became mainstream. “No poisons used” proclaimed a wooden sign among the crops. Through his songs and his farming practices, Rupert Stephens taught his son how to nurture the soil so it would continue to sustain them.

Arran’s wife, Ratana who he met and married in India in the 1960s, was the next great influence in his life. In 1985, they founded Nature’s Path together out of the back of their Vancouver restaurant. It’s now grown to be North America’s largest certified organic breakfast and snack food company, but remains a family-run company based in Richmond, BC. Ratana is co-CEO of the company, their daughter Jyoti is VP of People, Culture and Mission, son Arjan is VP of Sales and Marketing. Indeed all children are passionately involved in various aspects of the enterprise.

Triple bottom line

As the business grew, the Stephens family maintained their commitment to a triple bottom line: being financially, environmentally and socially responsible. Through their business and personal lives, they advocate for and support the sustainable, organic, non-GMO food movements. They believe they all carry the responsibility “to change lives and make the world sustainable via organic agriculture.”

Last year, the family brought that concept to the University of Victoria. “Through meeting faculty and students at UVic, we learned about the university’s commitment to sustainability and environment, and saw the opportunity to make a positive impact in the areas we care about,” says Arran. Ratana was inspired to “support new endeavours of research with tangible outputs.” In other words, plant seeds from which knowledge and positive change could grow.

Our business, I feel, has been a vehicle, in a very small way, to do good. - Ratana Stephens

The Stephens Family Research Awards

The family donated $25,000 to create student awards that support research in an area related to organic food, sustainable food systems, community and agricultural development, food security, or environmental stewardship in agriculture. The first undergraduate to receive the award, Riley Thackray, will use her research stipend to build a rainwater harvesting system to support a local urban agricultural initiative. The funding will pay for materials and dissemination of the project via a video and public talks, so she can educate others about the process.

Two graduate students will also receive generous awards this year. Daughter Gurdeep, Director of Special Projects, anticipates that learning about research projects like Riley’s will bring the family much joy. “Our company logo is based on my father’s painting of a pathway through a beautiful farm. This pathway and our family’s gift to the university flow organically into our vision of advancing people and the planet.”

The future is organic, and I dream of seeing – if not in my lifetime, in my children’s and grandchildren’s – a return to the regenerative agriculture that will heal the Earth and create a rich, vibrant, and sustainable future for many generations to come. - Arran Stephens