Putting the Money Where the Market Is

British Columbia is the epicenter of the Canadian locavore movement. Recognizing the opportunity for BC producers and processors to capitalize on the growing appetite for local products, the BC Ministry of Agriculture partnered with the Investment Agriculture Foundation to deliver $1.5 million to businesses and organizations to increase local promotion.

“The response to the Buy Local program was outstanding, and the close working partnerships that the Foundation has with industry and government helped us put that money to work very efficiently,” says IAF executive director, Peter Donkers. “In less than four months, funding for the program was committed, and over 20 domestic marketing projects are underway across the province.”

The program offered businesses and organizations up to $100,000 in matching funding for projects that promote local foods, including agriculture and seafood products that are grown, raised, harvested, or processed in BC.

“The Buy Local program shifts the gears of those who have solid proposals to galvanize momentum in the area of local food marketing,” says Catherine Frechette, communications manager for Tourism Kelowna. “In our case, Tourism Kelowna is marketing to the tourists to engage with local food producers and the restaurants who support them.”

Tourism Kelowna received $100,000 in matched funds to promote and expand its “Farm to Table” program, using visitor promotions and interactive website to grow word-of-mouth and awareness of Kelowna as a centre for agri-tourism experiences and to catalyze the momentum of the buy local movement.

From seed potatoes to shellfish, community health to agri-tourism, the Buy Local program provided support to innovative promotions across the agri-foods sector.

Ecotrust Canada’s ‘ThisFish’ program received $69,794 to help improve seafood traceability and assure consumers that the products they buy are indeed local BC seafood. The web-based seafood traceability system was developed in collaboration with the BC fishing industry to connect consumers to fish harvesters.

The funding will be used toward expanding the market potential of traceable BC seafood by engaging local small retail and restaurant markets. The system is also used to market and share information along the seafood supply chain.

According to Tasha Sutcliffe, fisheries program director with Ecotrust, the Buy Local program funding will give them the capacity to do the outreach required to develop the market.

“Ecotrust had already invested into developing the tool, but what we really needed for people in communities to benefit from it was to develop the buy local piece,” she says.

For Melissa Call, investment in local food is investment in building the local economy. Her company, Sunshine Organics, provides home delivery of fresh local organic fruits and vegetables in Powell River and the Comox Valley.

She has received $100,000 in Buy Local funding to partner with local retailers and food affiliates and develop a campaign to increase awareness and consumption of food products produced in the region.

“The Buy Local program benefits the industry by accelerating my company’s ability to reach more producers and more consumers, by increasing awareness in our region of the fact that there are great local farmers and food producers, and that these products are available,” says Call.

Funding: $269,794 through the BC Government’s Buy Local Program. (BL020, BL007, BL022)