Food Hubs Help Meet Local Demand

In a survey of Cowichan Valley small and medium food businesses, farmers reported that they have trouble selling all their products, yet restaurants and stores reported there wasn’t enough local supply.

This discrepancy occurs because small- scale farmers and food processors can’t compete with larger-scale operations in terms of volume, consistency and pricing. They also can’t afford the proper equipment and systems to cool, store and market their products.

To better aggregate their products and resources, a growing number of farmers in the US and Canada are collaborating to form “Food Hubs.” After four well-attended meetings in the Cowichan Valley, farmers, retailers, restaurants and other local food leaders, concluded that they needed a thorough feasibility study to establish viability before they formed a Food Hub of their own.

With funding through Investment Agriculture’s Small Project Program, the British Columbia Cooperative Association (BCCA) prepared a Food Hub Feasibility Study for the area.

The researchers analyzed existing food hub models in North America, identified potential partners, evaluated market demand and developed potential scenarios. They concluded that a food hub co-operative is definitely a viable enterprise in the Cowichan Valley.

In 2014, the Cowichan Valley Co-operative Marketplace, in partnership with Cowichan Green Community started the “Cow-op” Online Market (www.cow-op.ca), a year-round internet marketplace for locally grown and harvested produce, meat, eggs, seafood, cheese, honey and more.

“The food hub in the Cowichan Valley will bring an increased income for farmers and a more stable local food supply for buyers,” states Carol Murray, Executive Director of the BCCA. “In addition, we expect an increased understanding of local agriculture, and an overall improvement in food security.”

FUNDING: $10,000 through the former federal-provincial safety nets framework. (SP218)