Fields Forward’s fruit press machine. (File photo)

Creston’s Fields Forward collecting data for potential food processing plant

An Oct. 1 survey will collect input from regional farmers and food processors

Creston’s Fields Forward Society is hoping to have a food processing facility up and running in the Creston Valley sometime next year, and are now in the process of strengthening their application to develop one by gathering data from food processors throughout the Kootenays and Columbia Basin Trust region to find out who would use it.

“Having a facility here is really important because some of our food processors go to Kelowna. They drive there, or they go to Calgary. Economically, it would just create a new industry here in Creston,” said Elizabeth Quinn, the coordinator at the Fields Forward Society.

The region-wide survey, which is being emailed to farmers and food processors on Oct. 1, is designed to attract anchor-tenants for the facility — those who want to grow their food processing business.

Quinn said that the society has two anchor tenants who have expressed interest but are hoping to get at least eight in total. The facility’s anchor product, she added, would most likely be cherries.

“That will strengthen our application, if we know who wants to use it. We already have a few, but we need more,” she said. “We need to know that it’s going to be economically feasible to have a food processing facility.”

READ MORE: Creston Food Recovery Initiative saves 10,500 pounds of fruit from waste

In addition to the Creston Valley, the survey’s primary reach includes Cranbrook, Invermere, Nelson and areas in the West Kootenay.

“The vision is to start to have a truck pick up product in Rock Creek, which is the boundary area. Go through Grand Forks, Castlegar, Nelson and come over the pass to Creston, pick up stuff and go to Cranbrook, Invermere and then Alberta where our markets are,” said Quinn.

Gathering data for the project is at the top of the agenda, as well as finding a suitable location in the Creston Valley for the facility, she said.

“We’re close. But we also need a location, we need the anchor tenants, we have the collaboration happening throughout the Kootenays. We’re just strengthening our application,” she said.

Fields Forward had submitted an application to receive funding from the BC Ministry of Agriculture last year for the same project, but finished fourth in the race for $750,000.

“We’ve already done our application once. We have the framework for the application,” said Quinn.

She added food processors and farmers will have two weeks to complete the survey, as the group is preparing to re-submit their application to the Ministry of Agriculture, who will be accepting applications once again following the provincial election on Oct. 24.

“The BC Ministry of Agriculture and the Columbia Basin Trust think that the Creston Valley is a good place to have a food processing facility. But we need to demonstrate that through data,” she said.

READ MORE: Creston Valley Hospital addresses COVID-19 rumours regarding farms

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