Protecting BC Agriculture, BCFB donates PPE

BC Food & Beverage worked together with BC Agriculture Council to donate their remaining PPE after the conclusion of the Protecting our People program.

BC Cranberry Contest Sparks Creative Juices

A dual campaign celebrating a favourite fall BC berry helped brighten a tumultuous 2020, thanks to the BC Cranberry Marketing Commission (BCCMC). Tailored to two distinct audiences, the initiatives sparked both provincial and national promotion of the delicious and nutrient-dense berry.

With support from the BC Government’s Buy BC Program, the BCCMC partnered with Black Press Media to launch the “BC Cranberry Culinary Social Media Contest,” inviting British Columbians to enter or vote for their favorite cranberry recipes.

“Social media is a significant tool for Millennials, Gen X and those seeking new recipes, these are key influencers in household consumption,” says BCCMC General Manager, Coreen Rodger Berrisford. “Recipe contests are also a fun way to demonstrate the diversity of uses and benefits of cooking with cranberries year-round rather than just seasonally…it’s really such a versatile ingredient.”

Image of winning recipes

And with a chance at multiple prizes (paired with lots of Covid downtime), there was no shortage of competitors! More than 400 recipes were submitted and are now available at Check out the winning entries including a Cranberry Walnut Cheese Ball, Cranberry Stuffed Pork Roast and more!

Beyond promotions and prizes, the BCCMC ensured the campaign also included a strong educational component.

“We made sure people can learn about how cranberries actually grow and their nutritional value,” explains Coreen. “The audience seemed to like the approach as there was an 82 percent increase in Facebook followers and more than a doubling of impressions on Pinterest – the project really generated some good cranberry buzz!”

That impressive nutritional potential was the focus of a second initiative aimed at one of BCCMC’s key target markets. According to Coreen, registered dieticians represent a significant audience given their influence on institutional markets such as hospitals, as well as individual clients seeking meal planning support. While the Dieticians of Canada Conference has traditionally enabled them to connect with about 700 participants annually, Canadian Agricultural Partnership funding allowed a more robust approach in 2020.

Thanks to an ad campaign placed in the Dieticians of Canada’s e-newsletter, the BCCMC was able to promote their message to over 7,000 dieticians and nutritionists a week for 38 weeks, giving them ten times the exposure for less money and significantly increasing website traffic.  

“The two projects together really increased our social media presence and activity in BC and Canada,” reports Coreen. “People who love to cook are super enthusiastic about the new recipes and everyone is looking for ways to enhance their health during Covid.”

Check out BCCMC’s Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter for more recipes and to learn more about about one of BC’s favourite fall berries.

Funding for these projects has been provided by the BC Government’s Buy BC Partnership Program and by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. (BBC201, MD146)

IAF Helps Livestock Sector Tackle Disposal Challenges

With increasing focus on the safety and security of our local ag sector, developing collaborative solutions to industry’s most pressing issues has never been more imperative – or in the case of the 2020 Livestock Waste Tissue Initiative (LWTI) relaunch, more productive!

Following a discussion with the BC Association of Abattoirs (BCMeats) on the current disposal challenges facing meat processors, we began exploring opportunities to refocus the former funding program. Initiated in 2005 with funding from the BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, the LWTI was established to deliver the BC Waste and Specified Risk Material Handling and Disposal Strategy.

“Over the years IAF has delivered LWTI funding to help BC’s agricultural communities develop viable waste disposal solutions,” says IAF Executive Director, Michelle Koski. “Naturally, we were eager to revive this important program and have worked closely with both industry and government to align current sector needs with the original framework.”

After coordinating consultations with the provincial government, BCMeats, the Small-Scale Meat Producers’ Association and the BC Cattlemen’s Association, the revitalized initiative was launched in August to support affordable disposal options for animal tissue waste.

Given the increasingly limited options available to processors and the rising costs of waste disposal, BCMeats Executive Director, Nova Woodbury is relieved industry can now access the support it needs.

“The re-opening of LWTI funding has allowed meat processors across the province to invest in methods of disposal that meet their specific needs,” says Woodbury. “Thank you to IAF for helping to facilitate a practical solution to this critical problem, we appreciate their commitment to developing responsive programming that addresses industry priorities.”

Nearly 25 projects are now underway across the province, helping BC operators upgrade infrastructure, enhance transportation methods, and invest in new equipment like the Ecodrum. Thanks to this Canadian-made composting system, BC processors will be able to save time, money and increase regional capacity for more remote communities like Salt Spring Island.

With neither composting facilities or landfill sites to handle the 24 tonnes of annual waste generated by its 60 local livestock producers, the Salt Spring Abattoir Society has long grappled with the financial, environmental and logistical challenges posed by off-island shipping and on-farm composting alternatives. But with construction of their first composting facility in the works and project funding to purchase and install the Ecodrum, the Society will soon be able to process abattoir waste into Class A compost in accordance with BC’s Organic Matter Recycling Regulations.

“The Ecodrum system allows for adding modules to increase capacity as needed in the longer term,” explains society president, Anne Macey. “We believe this system will significantly reduce operating costs while protecting the environment from nutrient-rich runoff, eliminating nuisance odour and simultaneously producing a valuable soil amendment.”

Visit the Livestock Waste Tissue Initiative to learn more.

Dutch Technology Helps BC Growers Pack a Better Pear

While proudly rooted in history and tradition, the sixth-generation Days family farm is looking forward to the future of tree fruit packing in the Okanagan.

After facing increasing requirements by retailers and regulators alike, Days Century Growers decided a “proactive investment” was needed, embarking on a project to expand the technological frontier for the local tree fruit sector.

After working with IAF to obtain funding through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program, the Days were able to import and install a state-of-the-art packing line, box conveyor system and traceability program to enhance volume, efficiency and quality control at their Kelowna facility.

According to co-owner Kevin Day, the new packing line from Holland is specifically tailored to pears, offering unprecedented optical sorting technology within Canada.

“This is one of the most exciting projects ever undertaken on our farm…the Van Wamel Perfect Grader includes the first pear-specific high-resolution defect sorting system of its kind in Canada,” he reports, noting the grader not only scans and sorts the pears for all types of external defects but is equally efficient at sorting the many shapes of pear varieties and precisely measures weight, size and colour.

Having successfully completed a full harvest with the help of their new equipment, the Days are thrilled to find the new technology is significantly increasing efficiency and production with existing staff, as well as allowing them to partner with new growers to increase overall volume.

The new automated traceability system is similarly promising, with the ability to track fruit back to between six and eight trees within a block in each grower’s orchard. Thanks to the new database, a thorough profile of all fruit – including harvest date, location, harvester’s name and more – is just a few clicks away.

While the Days have been doing this manually for years, the new database is revolutionizing both efficiency and accuracy, even allowing them to trace forward to the end retail and consumer level using the barcodes on individual fruit.

“Thanks to government funding, we are now able to ensure a higher-quality pear is shipped from the Okanagan Valley throughout North America and potentially the world,” explains Kevin. “As retailers are asking for this type of technology, competitiveness in the marketplace will increase, resulting in an improved grower return for the industry and ultimately expanding the volume of pears grown in BC.”

Funding provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. (INV097)

Buy BC Pork Promotion Raises Sales…and Spirits!

With nearly a century of corporate history, veteran pork processor Johnston Packers now serves more than 450 local retailers, butchers and restaurants from its family-run Chilliwack facility. But despite its sterling reputation, the Johnston team wanted to do more to satisfy the growing consumer craving for information, connection and community.

“It is increasingly important to reach consumers and share more about our farms and the BC pork industry as a whole,” explains assistant manager, Bonnie Windsor. “We wanted to educate consumers and chefs about our industry including our food safety regulations, and encourage them to support local butchers, grocers and retailers that carry BC pork products.”

Fortunately, their recent Buy BC initiative presented them with a unique opportunity to increase consumer awareness while fostering more collaboration across their sector.

With project funding to develop an assortment of marketing materials including videos, truck wraps, in-store promotions and nearly 20,000 recipe calendars, Johnston’s was able to support retailers in engaging shoppers and sharing the stories of local farms.

For Bonnie, the most effective outreach should elicit a laugh, like their new slogan: “You either like bacon…or you’re wrong,” or a truck wrap featuring an image of a chicken telling viewers to “eat more pork.”

“We often get feedback from consumers who see our trucks on the road and tell us how much they love them and find them funny and entertaining,” says Bonnie. “We feel we have been successful in drawing attention to BC pork with our humorous approach which has created a connection with the consumer.”

Now that brand recognition is on the rise, with sales climbing in both the fresh and value-added product categories, Johnston’s plans to capitalize on this momentum and leverage their new tools at consumer-facing food events, such as the annual Barn Burner BBQ in Yarrow.

“The Buy BC Program has enabled us to support our industry and enhance sustainability across the entire value chain of BC pork, from farmer to retailer to consumer,” Bonnie declares. “All of the activities completed in this project will continue to educate and promote BC pork, processors, retailers, and farmers for years to come.”

Funding support provided by the BC Government’s Buy BC Partnership Program. (BBC123)

New BCfresh Brand Brings More BC Veggies to Canadians

While the Covid crisis has halted many industries in their tracks, Brian Faulkner from BCfresh is considering the silver lining in the latest curveball to hit agriculture.

Even as the BC-based grower-owned and -operated produce company anticipates inevitable client loss, Brian is focused on other opportunities, confident that even critical setbacks can “lead to renewal and innovation.”

If Brian’s reaction seems counter-intuitive, consider the approach of his latest market development efforts to bring BC veggies to more Canadians.

“Despite global recognition and respect for BC agriculture, we discovered that when it came to inter-provincial marketing, specific geographical branding didn’t necessarily offer a competitive advantage,” he explains.

So, using funding from the BC Agrifood and Seafood Market Development Program, they hired a consultant to develop a secondary brand that would appeal to the inter-provincial consumer base.

“Sometimes we’re able to sell more BC products to more provinces by highlighting features such as ‘Pacific’ or ‘Grown in the West’ and focusing more on our family farms, their stories and their commitment to good practices and sustainability,” reports Brian, adding that 100 percent of their farms are family farms.

Project funding also supported their exhibit at the Gordon Food Service Show in Edmonton, allowing them to expand their regional customer base and pursue a sales and marketing opportunity with a local Edmonton company.

“This was our first time participating in this event,” Brian says. “It was great having funding support to test it out and make sure it is worth the investment to continue attending future shows.”

While there were some unavoidable delays due to Covid, Brian is confident that all the pieces are in place even if the timeline for their national brand launch has shifted.

“We’ll probably launch at the Canadian Produce Marketing Association conference next spring, by then we’ll have our website, videos and other marketing materials…we’ve laid the groundwork to roll it out, we’ve just shifted everything back a bit.”

For Brian, government funding is critical to encouraging company growth, as is working with a delivery agent that helps facilitate funding opportunities.

“Our partnership with IAF has always been good, we’re a repeat client so we really appreciate recent efforts to streamline the application process and provide a pre-approval stage to expedite subsequent funding requests,” he says. “Opening a dedicated intake window also enhances the consultation experience as IAF staff can offer more focused attention on application inquiries.”

Funding support provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. (MD082, MD205)

IAF Assists Agricultural First Response Efforts

With the needs of BC’s ag sector rapidly evolving in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, IAF has spent the last few months collaborating with our industry and government partners to address the most pressing priorities of our sector.

Connecting with customers during the advent of social distancing is just one of many novel dilemmas facing our industry. But thanks to provincial funding, we are delivering $550,000 through the new Buy BC E-Commerce Fund to help local agri-businesses enhance direct-to-consumer sales, from accessing or developing e-Commerce websites to marketing and shipping products to customers throughout BC.

The funding clearly couldn’t be timelier – faced with overwhelming industry response, project funding was fully subscribed within days of the application window opening in May. Given the incredible demand and undeniable need, the Government of BC committed an additional $250,000 to the original $300,000 fund!

Following the provincial uplift, we’re now supporting more than 100 e-Commerce projects representing beef, berry, tree fruit, poultry and honey producers across the province, as well as a variety of food and beverage processors.

“The response the program received during the first round of funding was exceptional, and we needed to expand it to help more farms and businesses establish or upgrade their e-presence to reach their customers,” says BC Agriculture Minister Lana Popham. “Expanding online has helped companies adjust their sales model during the pandemic, and I’m very appreciative our partnership with IAF let us provide that support quickly, and when it was needed by BC farmers and businesses the most.”

We’ve also been working with BC Food and Beverage (BCFB) to address the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) facing food processors as a result of COVID-19. While food safety-related PPE standards remain unchanged, the surge in global demand has translated into higher premiums and minimum order requirements that exclude many smaller-scale food processors in BC.

With federal-provincial funding administered by IAF, BCFB launched the Protecting Our People Program, allowing bulk PPE ordering to ensure producers and processors can access more competitively priced supplies.

“During COVID-19, BCFB has pivoted pretty dramatically to provide support in a different way,” explains BCFB CEO, James Donaldson. “We identified the need for industry to access PPE early on and are proud to have been able to launch the Protecting Our People Program with the support of IAF.”

As of last week, we’re also thrilled to launch two new federal programs designed to enhance domestic food safety and security!

In partnership with Western Economic Diversification Canada, IAF is delivering the new Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund to help BC fish and seafood processors address safety, capacity and market adaptability during the pandemic.

Similarly, the new Emergency Processing Fund supports food processors and greenhouse operators in Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories as they balance new health and safety protocols with maintaining domestic food supply.

While the pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges across all sectors, IAF chair Don Low, is optimistic about the collective efforts to restore order and accelerate recovery.

“Along with our industry and government partners, IAF immediately mobilized to help mitigate the risks unleashed by this crisis,” he says. “Thanks to substantial investments by our provincial and federal funders, we’re able to expand our program delivery role and quickly implement responsive new programming to support sector resilience in BC and beyond.”

Funding for the E-Commerce Fund provided by the BC Government’s Buy BC Partnership Program; funding for the Protecting Our People Program provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia; funding for the Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund and the Emergency Processing Fund provided by the Government of Canada.

Bee Numbers Blossom on Kootenay Conservation Farm

In the increasingly complex landscape today’s pollinators must navigate, mounting pressures from food and habitat shortages continue to exact a sizeable toll on both domesticated honey bee and wild bee populations.

Fortunately, BC natural beekeepers like Kate and Ryan are doing their best to bolster bee numbers! Since 2017, the pollinator-loving pair has been propagating bee-friendly plants and foraging spaces at Elk Root Conservation Farm in the Slocan Valley. After carefully selecting and planting over 150 flower varieties (including many native plant species) and over 200 fruit and nut trees, they turned to the Bee BC Program to help them take the next step.

Thanks to project funding support, Elk Root is now home to a demonstration Bee Forage Orchard and Flower Meadow designed to enhance bee populations and health, while offering a model for fellow bee conservation enthusiasts.

According to Kate, the most recent challenge beekeeping in the Kootenays presents is seasonally limited natural nectar resources due to drier, hotter weather and extreme provincial wildfire conditions.

“This leaves insufficient means to naturally sustain our colonies, requiring us to supplement with nectar syrup substitutes,” Kate explains. “We have also been leaving the bees all the honey they produce from spring and summer foraging to ensure they have an adequate natural food supply over winter.”

But with an abundance of natural nectar sources now available in the newly established orchard, Kate is optimistic that increased honey store production is on the horizon.

“Thanks to Bee BC funding the orchard now includes thousands of additional nectar flowers blooming from early spring to late fall, many of which are not only edible but also boast medicinal benefits for bees like Echinacea and Chamomile,” she reports, adding that the unfenced land left open for roaming wildlife now offers a one-acre deer resistant wildflower and clover meadow as additional forage space.

While still in early stages, the results have been absolutely transformative – not only has Elk Root created a whole new ecosystem that attracts exponentially more honey bees, but Kate has observed a variety of wild pollinators also making the orchard and meadow “their personal forage oasis.”

And following their outreach and education efforts, Kate and Ryan are more than a little surprised to discover that Elk Root has evolved into a community hotline, fielding inquiries on all things bee-related!

When they’re not in the gardens or on the phone, the dynamic duo is facilitating the new not-for-profit Elk Root Conservation Farm Society to plan future tours. Kate hopes that by 2021 the new Society will be ready to open the demonstration orchard and apiary to public groups by appointment, once the gardens are more established.

“Ultimately, we hope to inspire others by creating a working model to demonstrate how our community can also select and plant beautiful nectar and pollen efficient gardens to optimize bee health and honey production,” says Kate.

To learn more about Elk Root’s conservation efforts visit:

Funding: $5,000 provided by the BC Government’s Bee BC Program. (BEE031)

BC-Made Nutrient Management Tool Offers Dairy Farmers New Solution

With new waste regulations effective under the Agricultural Environmental Management Code of Practice, the need to navigate nutrient management alternatives has become a mobilizing force behind BC’s dairy industry.  

For farms producing more manure phosphorus than their crops require, a surplus of phosphorus in the soil becomes inevitable, leaving land application of dairy manure increasingly untenable.

According to Carla Soutar, Producer Services Manager with the BC Dairy Association, centrifuges offer a potential solution long sought by industry.

“By using high speeds to create centrifugal force, they separate solids from liquids, extracting phosphorus from dairy manure into a solid product which then becomes cheaper and easier to transport off the farm,” she explains.

But despite the potential benefits offered by centrifugal technology and its increasing use in European and US dairies, on-farm application in BC remains limited.

“One key barrier is that no centrifuge has ever been designed to address the size and needs of the BC dairy industry, which features uniquely small farms,” Soutar points out. “For the nearly 500 dairy farms in BC, the average herd size is 135 animals per farm, meaning there are only a handful of dairy farms large enough to conceivably purchase a full-size centrifuge.”

Determined to fill the gap and find a feasible nutrient management tool for BC dairy farmers, Valid Manufacturing approached IAF to explore funding opportunities. With support through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program, Valid was able to undertake two projects that would allow them to design, manufacture and field-test a dewatering centrifuge tailored to the needs of BC’s dairy industry.

“Thanks to project funding we’ve developed a reliable, affordable, BC-made nutrient management option designed in close consultation with local producers,” reports Valid’s Corporate Development Lead, Chad Shipmaker, adding that additional funding for on-farm testing and field demonstration was essential for moving the centrifuge closer to market.

According to Shipmaker, the new centrifuge can process raw manure, which avoids the need (and costs) for additional de-watering technologies. While additional testing is planned for 2020, results so far have achieved phosphorous extraction ranging from 40-60 percent during on-farm trials!

“We’re excited to pilot technology to help facilitate enhanced environmental sustainability for BC’s dairy industry,” he says. “Not only can a centrifuge help dairy farmers reduce excess soil phosphorus levels and conform with nutrient management regulations, but it could also enable dairy farmers to increase their herd size without having to purchase or rent additional land.”

Considering the substantial and increasingly timely benefits the centrifuge offers, many in the dairy industry are eagerly awaiting its release.

“While steps towards technology adoption are still underway, this is exactly the type of work the province’s dairy sector supports,” says Soutar. “The BC Dairy Association is always looking at ways to ensure dairy farming delivers a positive impact on our community.”

Funding: $354,000 provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. (INV029AE, INV063)

Getting Students Through The Farm Gate

A taste of something special awaits shoppers at the UBC Farm’s weekly farmer’s market. In addition to a diversity of local foods at your fingertips, you can also uncover your local food economy firsthand; on any given visit, customers can tour the campus’ working farm, meet farmers-in-training, learn about indigenous food sovereignty, and explore on-site innovative agricultural research.

“The UBC Farm Farmers’ Markets are part of the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, a unique research, teaching and community engagement centre,” explains sales manager Matthew Delumpa. “We view the market as a venue to inspire, educate and nourish consumers while supporting the health and competitiveness of BC’s sustainable ag sectors.”

Offering local, farm-fresh seasonal produce and eggs from the UBC Farm and other local farms, as well as local meat, baked goods and prepared foods from Lower Mainland producers and processors, there are nearly 60 different local vendors participating in the market each year. And for those seeking a festival experience, the Saturday market also offers food trucks, alcohol and crafts, while local musicians entertain the crowd.

But despite a bounty of appealing options, one element was curiously absent considering the market’s location within a school – students!

According to Matthew, while the market commands a loyal following from the surrounding community, on-campus awareness among the student population has been surprisingly but consistently low (at least outside of the Faculty of Land and Food Systems).

“This was the main gap that we identified, where we have students just down the road that have no idea they have a farm in their backyard,” he says. “We also wanted to promote the new discount available through the Alma Mater student society’s coupon program to help students access fresh, local food.”

But with help from the Buy BC program the UBC Farm was ready to give it the old college try. With project funding to support a dedicated project coordinator and marketing specialist, they launched a targeted campaign to increase student recognition and drive on-campus visitors and sales.

“Our two posters reached students in 443 campus locations, promoted Facebook posts reached 1,440 people over 19 days, six digital signs appeared on more than 50 campus screens and our 5,000-subscriber newsletter has seen an increased unique click-rate since publishing the redesigned template,” reports Matthew.

So far this has translated into a 20 percent increase in market customers (including a 50 percent increase in customers identifying as Millennials/UBC students).

“Our recent promotional efforts have increased on-campus exposure and as a result our sales figures have risen and the UBC Farm produce subsidy is used widely, 1,845 times to be exact,” shares Matthew, adding that their farmers’ market team has received numerous student testimonials noting that they heard about the UBC Farm produce subsidy through Buy BC communication material.

And with the significant turnover every new semester brings, the UBC Farm team is especially grateful to have all the marketing tools in place to attract new arrivals each time.

For those graduating or leaving campus, Matthew is hopeful the buy local message continues to hit home.

“Beyond the immediate impacts to the market, we believe that the increased promotional effort supported by Buy BC will lead to positive changes in purchasing behavior and attitudes towards the local food economy,” he says.

Funding: $9,035 through the BC Government’s Buy BC Partnership Program. (BBC021)

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