New local food legislation could be boon to co-op 0
The Collingwood Community Food Co-op will be hosting a "soft opening" on Wednesday, selling local turkeys. Emily Innes // Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin
The Local Food Act proposed by the provincial government could benefit the Collingwood Community Food Co-op, say the chair of the Georgian Bay Food Alliance.
Last week, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced the introduction of a bill that aims to support and promote locally-grown fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products.
“With the new focus on the fresh, local food from the provincial government I think that will help just in terms of getting people more aware and interested in fresh local food,” said Eva Meriorg, a co-op member and chair of the Georgian Bay Food Alliance.
She said this might be done through advertising and, she hopes, education.
Meriorg said the other potential benefit for the co-op is if the bill includes tax incentives and supports for small-scale farmers that could help them make contracts.
“Right now it is hard to source producers because it is hard for them to plan ahead for the following year in terms of their sales. They don't know from year-to-year how much they can sell,” she said.
Though, not having a contract won't stop the co-op from buying produce from local farmers. They will either sell the excess produce, or ust it to make preserves.
“We are hoping it will reduce waste and teach people how to preserve food in the old-fashioned way that is good for you — and help farmers deal with excess produce that they may have,” said Meriorg.
She said she is still unsure to what extent the bill can help because it has not yet been released.
She said she would like the bill to include funding for grassroots initiatives, fewer regulatory barriers for farmers, and more locations for farmers to sell their produce.
“In Collingwood until now, they only had the farmers’ market (to sell produce) and that's pretty much it because the big box stores have big contracts with American producers,” she said.
Meriorg said this bill will only be a start at removing barriers because there are still health department and building code regulations that create prohibitive costs for small farmers and food co-ops.
To built a community kitchen, the co-op was required to spend more than $5,000 on refrigerators and freezers that met health code requirements.
Meriorg said they would have preferred to use donated appliances.
“It's trying to find the balance between the requirements of a commercial operation and the community — almost family-like — feel of the place, because that's what we really want,” she said. “We want it to feel like home, especially with the kitchen.”
Meriorg said the bill is missing a focus on nutrition and health benefits.
“The economics of it are great, but the thing that I don't think is in any of the McGuinty information is that eating food that is locally grown is much healthier for you. It doesn't spend time in transit losing nutrients and wilting,” she said.
The government's Local Food Act press release states since 2003, the McGuinty government has invested more than $100 million to support local, fresh Ontario food initiatives and that the agriculture industry contributes more than $33 billion to the economy each year, with more than 700,000 employees in Ontario.
The co-op, located at 65 Simcoe Street, will be hosting a “soft opening” on Wednesday, selling Duntroon Farm's turkeys for Thanksgiving.
“If the co-op market directly respects their local farmers and depending on the market share, it could be a farm-saving venture,” wrote Duntroon Farm owner and chef Carla Hanish in an email to the E-B.
“The new Collingwood co-op market might just be a mutually-beneficial situation for farmer, consumer, retailer — depending on how it's run,” stated Hanish. “My arrangements with them so far have been more than fair and benefiting me as a farmer.”
More information about the co-op and becoming a member can be found at https://www.facebook.com/Collingwoodlocalfoodcoop or by emailing email@example.com.