With a productive summer of farmer outreach and markets over, the Northern Cohort continues its work to build up local food security and ease of access to locally produced goods.
Co-ordinator Bess Legault says plans are still ongoing to implement a food hub that would allow multiple producers, processors, and distributors to share facilities, equipment, and services to reduce costs and better market product to whole sale and retail suppliers.
“The next step right now is really bringing our cohort together and making sure there’s an understanding of the next steps in continuing the launch of the food hub network,” said Legault. “In the next month we’re going to have an online platform, we’ve started aggregating Thanksgiving boxes based off a group of producers within the co-hort.”
The food boxes will be used to fund other services for hub, which is estimated to need roughly $25,000 to $40,000 to get started, but has the potential to generate a million dollars in revenue every year for local producers.
Legault added the Peace Region is one of ten areas to receive funding through the Living Labs Project, a federal initiative which supports innovative solutions to address climate change on farms.
“It literally drives all the work we do. It’s really exciting," she said, noting mixed farming solutions are a big part of the puzzle. "The Northern Cohort is at the table with a dynamic group of producer associations that have been doing a lot of great soil health and carbon sequestration work in the region for a number of years,”
A proposal has also been put forward to BC Hydro’s Site C agricultural compensation fund for a soft fruit cultivation project involving soil microbes. Haskaps and other unique berries are already grown in the North and South Peace by cohort members.
“We’re hoping to bring a national audience, and cherry producers across the country are excited to hear about beneficial microbes, and we might be able to help the long-term producers who’ve been at it for 20 years and are now looking at orchard rejuvenation,” said Legault.
Eco farm skills support students have also finished their work for the season, with a map and profiles of local member farms in the Peace soon available when the Cohort finalizes a new website.
Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News