Buy Local Funding Builds Industry Capacity

BC Buy Local program investment in local market development is doing more than increasing sales for local companies, it is supporting a number of campaigns that are building capacity in local organizations and value chains across the province.

In 2015, the BC Buy Local program committed over $2.8 million to 85 projects aimed at helping BC’s agrifoods and seafood sectors develop local markets. While some of these projects focus on a single company or product, others have a broader reach.

Over the summer of 2015, the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets (BCAFM) launched a campaign to encourage British Columbians to share their farmers’ market experience with friends. The #MeetMyMarket project used a combination of traditional and social media to offer incentives at local markets, as well as provincial prize draws.

Seventy markets across the province participated in the campaign, generating extensive coverage from local media. One of the pivotal successes of the campaign was a commercial and series of public service announcements on Global TV.

“Individual farmers’ markets are often very small grassroots organizations, run on volunteer hours. By offering this campaign together we were able to get a level of media attention and promotion that we would never be able to get otherwise,” says Elizabeth Quinn, executive director of the BCAFM.

In addition to generating media interest with the provincial campaign, BCAFM helped support members to develop their own public relations skills.

“We took a collaborative approach with the organization we worked with, so members who wanted to reach out could call a PR professional and get some guidance. It helped build capacity in our membership,” Quinn explains.

The BC Landscape and Nursery Association (BCLNA) is taking a similar approach with their PlantSomethingBC campaign. The project, which launched at Agrifoods Day in Victoria in November, is not just promoting BC grown plants, but encouraging consumers to ask their retailers and landscapers to buy local as well.

“If we engage consumers, the retailers and landscapers will jump in as well,” says Hedy Dyck, executive director of the BCLNA.

“People want to buy local. Part of our campaign is letting consumers know where they can get their BC-grown plants, and part of it is selling growers on this as something that people really want. We’re building holistically as an industry.”

The movement reaches beyond provincial associations. Chilliwack-based, Johnston’s Meats, considered the whole value chain when they received funding to increase retails sales of their pork products.

“We’ve done some co-advertising to allow our customer, the retailer, to also be able to take advantage of the funding dollars by working together to support the local farmers,” says Bonnie Windsor, assistant plant manager at Johnston’s Meats.

In addition to sharing advertising placements, Johnston’s created a promotional calendar and off their retailers branded copies. It’s a creative twist on promotion that has encouraged more retailers to buy in to the campaign.

“We are trying to market to the consumer by driving them to our customers, the retail shops and grocery stores by thinking outside the box about what’s really going to work for everybody,” says Windsor. “If our customer, the retailer, is doing well, that translates to us doing well and creating a sustainable market for local food.”

Funding: $47,135 to the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets (BL083), $49,650 to the BC Landscape & Nursery Association (BL096) and $62,375 to Johnston’s Meats (BL086.01) through the BC Government’s Buy Local Program.