Popular poppy products raise funds for Royal Canadian Legion

The poppy is not just for Remembrance Day, thanks to an ever expanding line of poppy products being sold through the Royal Canadian Legion.

It started with poppy seeds from Veseys, and has expanded to other products

The Legion Poppy Store now generates around $300,000 a year with sales of items such as this tote bag.

The poppy is not just for Remembrance Day, thanks to an ever-expanding line of poppy products being sold through the Royal Canadian Legion.

The poppy products range from clothing, to seeds, to a new bird feeder that was introduced this spring.

"They really promote from two perspectives," said Peter Underhill, director of Supply with the Royal Canadian Legion in Ottawa.

"To promote remembrance — to help fundraise — but also to encourage Canadian businesses and communities."

Peter Underhill says the Royal Canadian Legion works with Canadian companies to develop products featuring the poppy. (Submitted by the Legion Poppy Store)

For the last three years, the poppy products have been sold online at the Legion Poppy Store, on the Legion's website.

"We've been working with Canadian companies to develop products to try and engage different people using channels and products that are modern," said Underhill.

Bird feeder

One of the new products this spring is a poppy bird feeder, a cast iron bird feeder in the shape of a poppy, intended for use year-round. Underhill said more than 3,000 sold in first two weeks.

Peter Underhill says they are always working on more products to feature at the online Poppy Store. (Submitted by the Legion Poppy Store)

The poppy bird feeders were being produced by a company in the United Kingdom and sold through the Royal British Legion.

We were really pleased with the appearance of the product and how it displayed the poppy.- Peter Underhill

"We do try and keep an eye on what other folks are doing around the world and we noticed them and approached the manufacturer and had some samples brought in," said Underhill.

"We were really pleased with the appearance of the product and how it displayed the poppy."
 
In another bonus for the Canadian Legion, Home Hardware will have them in their stores across Canada this fall.

A P.E.I. company helped to inspire the creation of the Legion Poppy Store.

The bird feeders are cast iron and designed to be used year round. (Submitted by the Legion Poppy Store)

The Legion started selling packages of poppy seeds six years ago, produced by Veseys Seeds in York, P.E.I.

"Initially within the Legion we were doing those as a promotional item that we would produce and distribute through our branches," said Underhill.

"But the sheer number of calls we got from people in the public, we were more than happy to start accommodating people."

Money supports programs

Underhill just placed an order for 25,000 packages of poppy seeds from Veseys, and the Poppy Store now generates around $300,000 a year.

The money, said Underhill, goes to important programming provided by the Legion across Canada, including visits to veterans, homeless veterans programs and this year's sponsorship of the Invictus Games.

Poppies are now being featured in a wide range of products year round. (Bruce Tilley/CBC )

John Yeo, president of Provincial Command for Prince Edward Island, first saw the poppy bird feeders in Ottawa and liked the look of them.

He said he is pleased to have awareness and money being raised outside of the 11 days in November leading up to Remembrance Day.

"All the legions are promoting them." 

The bird feeders are not available on P.E.I. but can be ordered online.

About the Author

Nancy Russell

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water rowing, travelling to Kenya or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca