In June 2013 a group of “Food Activists” looked around and asked – What is the best way to offer support to farmers and processors in our region to ensure their economic viability? The government isn’t helping, so we looked to see how other areas were doing it and the idea of a regional Producers Co-op was born. We believed the “region” should be from Creston to Grand Forks, north to Meadow Creek and Nakusp and south to the border.
A lot of research had already been done on what the region needs – check out www.farmfoodfork.com/reports to see the wealth of background documentation. We connected with as many of the already established organizations as possible to develop partnerships and ensure no duplication of energy or activities. Our partners include:
- West Kootenay Permaculture Co-op
- Kootenay Local Agriculture Society (KLAS)
- Kootenay Organic Growers Society (KOGS)
- Creston Valley Food Action Coalition
- North Kootenay Lake Community Services & the Kaslo Food Hub
- Grand Forks and Boundary Agricultural Society
- Kettle Valley Co-op
- Old Firehall Collective Society (Nakusp)
- Naturally Grown Herb and Spice Producers Co-op (Herb-Pro)
- Kootenay Co-op
- Young Agrarians
How we Got Started….
The BC Co-Op Association supported us with a $10,000 grant for a Co-Op Developer to work with us. Zoe Creighton helped us draft a feasibility study during the spring of 2014.
Check out the Feasibility Study HERE
And our Long term Vision HERE
Thanks to the great energy of the West Kootenay Permaculture Co-op Association (who organized Farm Food Fork) and those who voted for us in April 2014, we received a small bursary from that event to help with our costs. We presented the feasibility study to the various areas within our region in fall of 2014 to share, and get feedback. We held meetings in Salmo, Winlaw, Creston, Nelson and Argenta.
The 2015 Market Brokerage and Distribution Pilot
With an initial very committed small group of members in the Salmo area, we designed and carried out a pilot for 14 weeks in the summer of 2015. We developed a customer base of 4 retailers, 2 restaurants and 1 secondary processor. Our Part time Coordinator Susan Warren worked hard to understand the needs of the various customers, and we learned a tremendous amount on every level. And everything we learned got used to help develop our business plan.
First Business Plan and AGM
Thanks to the Columbia Basin Trust, we completed our business plan in November 2015. We also held our first AGM November 25, 2015 in Nelson. An amazing 25 food producers showed up from Creston, Grand Forks, Argenta and everywhere in between! Some were farmers, some were secondary producers. Our membership steadily increased as more producers saw the value of operating cooperatively to compete with the large industrial food change.
2016 – a Year of Expansion and Learning
Our 2016 coordinator, Nicholas Albright used his IT and accounting background to develop a logistics database solution to manage the distribution business process. Both our customer base and membership continued to grow, but we quickly realized that our volumes were not increasing quickly enough to support the paid coordinator position – vitally important to our young and growing organization. Many of our members were small diversified producers, not able to supply the wholesale quantities that our business plan was based on. So at our AGM in 2016 we voted to change our status from FOR profit to NOT FOR PROFIT in order to be eligible for grant funding. We also explored the possibility of new services: a shared CSA and/or a shared market table. Those plans, however, needed to be put on hold until either our volumes increased, or we were able to secure a grant to support them. Through the Basin Business Advisory program we were able to update our Business Plan to reflect these new learnings and directions.
2017 – New Services and a Growing Membership
We started 2017 by shifting our AGM to March and applying for several grants for which we were successful.
A Canada Summer Jobs grant allowed us to offer a Subsidized Labor Pool Service to those members who wished to participate. We hired an awesome young university student who worked on four different farms throughout the summer.
We also thank Cooperators Foundation for a grant that will help us continue building our foundation. Thank you also to Columbia Basin Trust’s Community Initiative Program for funding to help us explore the needs throughout the region for produce storage facilities, and to develop a business plan for providing that service.
Our contact info:
Phone: 250 551 5920
Or send us an email via our contact form