Thought for Food: Co-op helping Kootenay-Boundary farmers stay working on farm

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Derek Doyle is an organic farmer and a director on the Creston Valley Food Action Coalition board.

Hello and welcome to Thought for Food, a column dedicated to exploring the future of farming. I am a small-scale organic farmer in the Creston Valley. My first topic is the Kootenay and Boundary Food Producers’ Co-op (KBFPC).

West Kootenay residents spend $266 million annually on food. We import over 95 per cent of the food consumed. Addressing this local food shortage is the purpose of the KBFPC. The food producers’ co-op is designed to create more farm/market garden start-ups and help existing farms expand. I call it “farmers helping farmers”. The KBFPC has identified the main barriers many beginning/existing farmers face, and offers solutions to marketing, distribution, labour and value-added food processing.

This service is used by several farms with great success in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island and acts like a smartphone for agriculture. Through the service, produce is picked up from the various farms and delivered to the purchaser, which includes restaurants and grocery stores throughout the Kootenays. This saves the grower valuable time and headaches. The farmer can stay on the farm and grow more food. Former Nelson-Creston MLA Corky Evans, who is an organic farmer, is on board; he loves the innovative solution this service provides.

There is also access to an organized qualified labour pool. Farmers can have skilled labour at critical phases in the spring, summer and fall, ideally allowing more diverse and lucrative crops to be grown. This mix of produce also helps meet consumer demand, kale being an obvious example. A shared commercial kitchen for value-added food processing and food storage facilities for winter crops are other major benefits.

I invite readers wanting to hear more about this exciting topic to a public meeting at the Creston Valley Public Library at 7 p.m March 24.

Derek Doyle is an organic farmer and a director on the Creston Valley Food Action Coalition board.

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