COMMUNITY INSIGHTS: Columbia Basin Virtual Foodshed Gatherings

Posted by Hailey Troock on April 10, 2020 2 Comments

In response to a very rapidly evolving local food system, networks are mobilizing to share information, best practices, personal experiences and collaborating in new ways in order to maximize the use of resources, minimize duplication of efforts and envision a response that is informed from the ground up.

Every Thursday for the foreseeable future, the Central Kootenay Food Policy Council, creator of the Central Kootenay Farm and Food Directory, is hosting a weekly meeting to provide a space for those involved in food systems in the Columbia Basin (farmers, food processors and businesses, non-profits, local government) to discuss their work, challenges and help find a path forward in this pandemic – for the immediate and the long term.

Join in the local food conversation!

When: Thursdays at 1:30PM PST

Where: Zoom virtual meeting link – https://tinyurl.com/y86bjfhh

Use this Zoom password to enter the meeting: 319995

You can find more insights from the Executive Director of the Council on the homepage of the Council’s website here.

The Young Agrarians Columbia Basin Land Matcher attends these weekly meetings so if you’re unable to join, you’ll find summary notes from each week below!

March 31, 2020 Insights & Observations

  • Farmers Market farms are facing huge disruptions in business models and processes
  • Farmers Markets themselves having to reinvent their business models at the same time
  • System templates available for markets: entrances, exists, flows, hygiene from BCAFM, BCCDC and GAP sanitation procedures exist
  • As of now, ½ of BC’s Farmers Markets will be using Local Line, an online marketplace software for Farmers Markets
  • Can Farmers Markets viably open if they don’t get fees from non-food vendors to subsidize markets?
  • Closer points of distribution to public are most disrupted (Farmers Markets)
  • Challenges with inventory and moving product
  • Agri-tourism disrupted due to forecasted seasonal tourism decline
  • Retail sales not as disrupted
  • Cattle sector’s concerns are more related to worker safety than supply chain issues
  • Food safety questions regarding food as vector of virus in emergency food providers and recovery programs
  • No conversation about imported food, more concern about local food
  • Looking at successful food distribution business models past and present: Endless Harvest vs Kettle Valley Coop
  • Viability of seed businesses and importance of cooperative models
  • East Kootenay markets can’t survive without tourism – visitors
  • Columbia Basin Trust has no intention to cut wage subsidy program

April 7, 2020 Insights & Observations

  • Food-related policy meetings happenings at all levels of government
  • Some CSAs have tripled from 25 to 75 members in CSA
  • Trade-off of between budgeting with CSA (upfront cash) vs selling weekly at markets
  • Renewed interest in land and food and increasing production all around
  • Some Chambers’ priorities: (2) food security and (1) health care
  • Chambers as convener for discussion with grocery stores
  • Increased need for emergency access to food
  • Membership for CSA has grown (doubled or tripled) for many farms but ¾ of sales from Farmers’ Markets
  • Questions around how to get people through the Farmers Markets
  • Plant sales exponentially growing
  • Some big suppliers like Bylands Nursery temporarily on shutdown so concerns arise about how to get plants by May with workers in quarantine
  • Farm gate sales and joint efforts with multiple farms at one sales point?
  • Limiting crop diversity and focusing on sustenance crops
  • Some winter CSA requests from community
  • Rural Dividend Grants reissued now and initiatives for agriculture is back on the table
  • East Boundary meat producers to expand capacity of local abattoir
  • Distribution and production challenges
  • Long-term infrastructure and lack of inputs vs getting farmers onto land
  • Labour shortages at local abattoirs ad increased demand vs. decreased capacity
  • Concerns around slandering of farmers who want to sell at Farmers Markets
  • Farmers Markets as essential services – IH team reaching out to municipalities that are hesitant to offer support and information and educate them on importance of markets in local food systems
  • CBT has working capital grant for small businesses require minimum sales of 150k a year
  • Grocery store health best practice guide by BCCDC

April 14, 2020 Insights & Observations

Resources

  • Protocols for safe use of community gardens: City of Victoria & City of Toronto 
  • Food Communities Network
  • BC Food Security Gateway
  • KBFA resources
  • Seed libraries like Saskatoon’s based in a public book library
  • Basin Business Advisors is navigating government supports
  • Small Scale Food Producers Association access to finance for women SSFPs and offering a 6-week course on food processing
  • Weekly IH meetings with BDCDC to bring community issues up to provincial calls
  • First KLAS tool rental of the season went out last week (BCS rototiller)
  • AGRI hands-on with foreign workers and employment

Farmers Markets

  • How can Columbia Basin Trust support them
  • Funding for market coordinators and operations is ASK
  • Some markets not BCAFM members (Lardeau, Slocan City); important for CBT to consider that non-members need to be able to access funding too
  • Markets considered business and manager is staff person; wage subsidy for full-time managers
  • Nelson Market is going forward with 20% of vendors attending; still struggling with funding 
  • EcoSociety has received verbal confirmation from the City that they want to support them
  • Environmental Health Officers from IH can work with Market Managers

Online Orders

  • Local Line use as food hub model vs other platforms
  • Meat producers getting online; easier to manage then market gardeners using the program
  • Kootenay Food Marketplace as local food marketplace platform that can have many locations on it
  • Local Food Marketplace (Oregon) – could use in other regions like the Columbia Valley

Central Kootenay 

  • Farmers overwhelmed by CSA support
  • Proposal for backyard hens and apiaries in the City of Nelson
  • Everything covid related is taking farmers extra time from packaging to online platforms
  • Kootenay Food launched delivery service to pick up and deliver basic supplies from Nelson to vulnerable populations and as a way to help farmers; aggregation / distribution support that local farms need; ready to pack and send out 400 packs of seeds with excess harvest directed to appropriate harvest rescue groups

Boundary 

  • Community Services Cooperative received grant money for Rural Dividend to build meat value add meat facility; running by fall in Rock Creek
  • Food Bank support – foundations – Boundary area – has low income and vulnerable populations
  • Stronger food security network in the region, with better resources
  • 12% demand in BC met by BC producers
  • Grass-fed Certification to support environmental integrity with meat production
  • Boundary Community Food Safe Lab
  • Farmers in Boundary thankful for new processing facility

Columbia Valley 

  • Food and Farm launching community meals program on April 15 with CBT funding
  • Trying to procure as much local food as possible; funding for 12 weeks
  • Columbia Valley Pioneer – seniors rely on local paper for information – covid 19 supplement
  • Developing food security plan for Columbia Valley 
  • Farm in Columbia Valley expanding farm stand and doing more online sales
  • Food recovery and local public produce garden with Cranbrook Food Action Committee
  • CFAC is using Kootenay Food’s model for free seed sign up; rolling out free seed delivery in hopes it will encourage more food growing in the community; bought seeds from Top Crop

Creston Valley

  • Some medium sized farms can’t afford some of costs of bringing in workers from Mexico so some may not plant this year; farms that supply Creston with a lot of food (not exports, local consumption)
  • Local producers challenges with multiple government supports for students being contradictory
  • Programs for food production – planned with college – 6 week programs? virtual / online
  • Skills needed; talk to producers to find out what skills they’ll be missing because of the pandemic

April 21 2020 Insights & Observations

Small Scale Food Processors Association

  • Online food processor training
  • Meat meeting would be useful given closures in Alberta meat plants
  • Weekly food security groups in Boundary on Zoom and things going well
  • Noticing less people coming to get support payments and don’t need to go to the Food Bank
  • Noticing that food security is a welfare problem more than anything

Basin Business Advisors

  • Free service through BBA Program – processors, food, farmers; next day turnaround
  • Adaptation in uncertain times and questions about government supports
  • Lots of groups working together to support – how to start CSA – can do regionally?
  • CBT will have funds for Farmers Markets but no details yet on how much or roll-out process
  • Economic Development recovery model supporting shop local marketing strategies; local food marketing and pushing that

Kootenay and Boundary Farm Advisors

  • Farmers behind the scenes trying to address labour shortage
  • Making apprenticeship program more accessible through student wage subsidy as it’s not practical for any farm to pay cost of additional labour right now and they can’t expect equal returns from up front investments to adapt to covid and risk is high that product won’t be sold; risk bringing in more labour
  • Haven’t called Field Days but waiting until next summer – maybe digitize field days – Soil and Water
  • 1:1 support for farmers; still taking referrals

Farmers / ranchers

  • Local farmers assessing participation in Farmers Markets due to long lines of 6 people standing 6 ft apart
  • Increased production, more than planned
  • Labour is critical piece and wage subsidy assistance on that
  • ASK: CBT subsidy program is closed but may reopen, some businesses won’t be taking students they would have qualified for
  • ASK: Open up Federal Works again through MPs offices
  • BBA has communicated shortage of labour in agriculture to CBT
  • Impact of covid on slaughter facilities
  • PPE for food processing; is there a gap?; supply chain challenges like sanitizer
  • What can be done to maximize on current awareness for local food due to covid to provide lasting benefits in land preservation, communications for local food etc)?
  • What farmers might need while expanding production as there is evidence of increased interest in sourcing from local farmers and concern about over-planting now and then decreased demand in late summer / fall when frenzy subsides (Storage crops? Processing? Markets of scale access?)

Grocers – experience from the Kootenay Co-op

  • Adapt and keep doors open and keep safe
  • True Local Program at Coop is working suppliers on CERB program on how to get income before they go on it
  • Getting creative on being proactive in support
  • How to increase wholesale orders and create inventory watch lists with buyers; grocery or wellness products when buyer not looking all the time
  • How to order a lot more local produce if people have the supply; have to be careful and don’t know what member buying habits or trends will be
  • Want to hear from farmers if have surplus of products this season
  • Packaging it challenge for many suppliers and how to help with that
  • Packaged produce moving much faster and people trying to move fast as possible – mindful of going fast and moving out of peoples’ way
  • How to help people source packaging
  • Working on online shop and curb-side and delivery for most vulnerable
  • Customers still reaching for sale items – putting out flyer again that was suspended for awhile
  • Demands drops in summer; good local food system but impacts grocer produce departments
  • Potential of platforms undermining people trying to get physically to market
  • How does more people backyard growing change things
  • BCCDC says no to masks but others say yes
  • No need for people making food to wear masks
  • Same food safe protocol + extra physical distancing protocols
  • Gloves don’t make food handling safer

Economic Development and Emergency Response

  • Online system in West Kootenay more challenging (email, phone limitations, online platform limitations or non inclination towards tech)
  • Provincially, working with local officials on food security conversation embedded in emergency operations centres
  • Central Kootenay identified food security as 1 of 4 priorities in emergency response
  • Coordination is biggest piece and recognizing where the gaps are
  • Global food system needs to be regionalized; supply chains breaking down
  • Food security as growing part of emergency response in provincial conversations and the infrastructure needed to move food around the region
  • Emergency Food Providers meeting needed to find ways to support to offload some work and pool resources

Columbia Valley

  • Farm and Food and other organizations helping to serve 120 meals a day
  • Food recovery program with CBT support: food bank, sysco, health food store and just joined Second Harvest, which started 35 years ago in TO and is now in Vancouver; how to donate food and how to use recovered food (https://secondharvest.ca/what-we-do)
  • CV Pioneer to go online
  • Farmers Institute encouraging local farmers market to join BCAFM to get local line access

Kaslo

  • 2 main services provided in Kaslo now are Food Hub and Farmers’ Market
  • Food Hub looking at how to manage social distancing and safety questions with community meals in Kaslo
  • Kaslo market has Village support and starts in June; not using Local Line – farmers and producers luke-warm about platform because it requires someone (Farmers Market manager or farmer) to do weekly inventory updates; board wasn’t up to the work required
  • Only market revenue are table fees and worried about not serving customers
  • Collaboration between Kaslo and Columbia Valley to share best practices for community meals

Garden Sharing

  • Local Food Matters saw success from volunteer perspective locally but seed swap was cancelled so taking energy from seed swap but gathering presenters for next year in the fall for helpful webinars
  • Looking at garden share program and potential to collaborate with YA
  • Young Agrarians Garden sharing tool now available on U-Map
    https://youngagrarians.org/ya-u-map-now-space-connect-garden-sharing/

May 5, 2020 Insights & Observations

YA support for new entrants – land access

  • Increased land seeker interest for land to farm
  • Garden sharing prototype in Nest Lab
  • Moving people landowners and farmers through process takes times
  • Takes time to reach threshold in one area where needs and opportunities overlap enough 

Columbia Basin Food Security Plan

  • Need to help people feel safe about eating food, not a vector for virus
  • Partners with other food orgs in other regions
  • Don’t have large scale industrial production with long supply chains → opp to bolster food systems and sovereignty
  • Importance of Place-based food systems

Local Food Matters

  • Rolling out Garden Share program this week in Golden; low liability – matching gardens with gardeners
  • Work with Local Food Bank to enhance production and local seniors navigator to send info to seniors about space available, and local social services co-op
  • Food bank clients in Golden to access local food through beginner gardener packages with pots, seeds that have been purchased and donated

Community Connections Revelstoke Society 

  • Providing 300 meals per week distributed to community with support from Community Food Centres Canada
  • School food programs; how to navigate privacy issues when working with social services for food delivery to those who have self identified that they need support
  • Inter-agency collaboration to make sure covering families who really need it
  • Proactive reach out – relationships of trust that enable that to happen
  • Combined Food Bank with Food Recovery Program, which just has public pick-up (anyone can com M-F 11-12 each day), removing barriers to get more people accessing it and less of confidentiality piece there

Famers’ Markets

  • Nelson Farmers’ Market still negotiating with City – likely to operate at Cottonwood Falls
  • Revelstoke had first Farmers’ Market in Revelstoke at a different location; usually set up in Main Street and couldn’t spread out enough or control exits and entries enough
    • 2 hrs set up, 2 hrs take down by manager and volunteers – good sales and turnout given work involved – felt worthwhile, coming back – 600 ppl came through (1 person per household)

    Local farmer (Ravine Creek)

    • Promising new funds from CBT for farmers – staff, labour on farms
    • Increased interest in online ordering for pickup, CSA
    • Bottle necks with usual local suppliers; in the queue with hobby growers else
    • Seed supply backlogs

    Local grocer (Co-op)

    • Covid response team – goal to keep doors open and serve community in safe way
    • Some suppliers have had to shut temporarily to go on CERB program – creative about pre purchase product before they closed
    • No space for plant starts this season
    • May do formal survey at larger scale about covid impacts on suppliers at later date
    • Wholesale orders increasing from local suppliers
    • Closure of restaurants and postponement of markets has caused suppliers to lose portions of income; want to bring products through Coop to members whenever possible
    • Increased collaborations between suppliers; one supplier to expand CSA to include products from other suppliers – connects with TL producers for other commodities
    • Chicken supply shortage in consolidated industry – long supply chain danger 
    • What is most dangerous is consolidated supply chains – 40% of beef supply going through 1 plant in High River; working with farm in Creston for local sustainable option year round

    Value-added food producer

    • Chose to close due to supply chain issues – couldn’t get dairy or cleaning products to keep kitchen sanitized
    • With festival cancellations, core revenue stream vanished for 2020

    Columbia Valley Farm and Food

    • 120 meals a week delivered in the valley to First Nations, Food Bank and social service organizations
    • Lack of interest and support from school district in programs
    • Community garden managed by Groundswell is all rented out; District made it a priority
    • Initiated garden challenge ; can have free table at agripark market to sell produce
    • Looking at shared garden spaces
    • Local food and farm guide to include processed foods; as insert in CV Pioneer to help support the paper
    • RD facility for emergency response not available for public use
    • Nutrition support for vulnerable families – other districts that IH working with has support for vulnerable families – food box or grocery card

    May 14 2020 Insights & Observations

    Columbia Basin Food Security Plan 

    • Draft given to regional districts for review
    • Board meeting next week with RDCK to see if plan will be put in action
    • Proposal includes education component and ability to deliver at scale of need, as well as a focus on the food economy, working with farmers and food businesses to help them access local, reliable markets. Goal to enhance resiliency of local food to not lose any farms this year

    Local Food Matters – Golden

    • Golden Garden sharing program launched on May 13
    • Program received $500 through a neighbourhood small grants program as their first project
    • Garden share program utilizing email of Local Food Matters and YA tool
    • Few hours after Facebook launch, already had 10 inquiries for more info
    • Joyce as local point of contact to get people online
    • Link up with the Community Foundation for funding to buy tools to lend out, beginning of tool share
    • Covid protocols at hand for tool share
    • Manager of Golden Food Bank has provided mini garden set ups for clients of food bank with basic tools and seeds for a family of 4 
    • Donated tomatoes seedlings and each included pot and soil; immediate use by clients
    • Link to work in Kaslo on the equipment share program for kitchen and gardening equipment
    • Took Allison’s from Columbia Valley’s idea and shared with PAC of local elementary school and now putting together food challenge – “show us what you grow”
    • Kids to get seeds in Golden; only barrier to full access and got over that barrier

    Kootenay and Boundary Farm Advisors

    • Those Farmers Markets that have started are doing well 
    • Towns like Cranbrook, Kimberley and Nelson haven’t started
    • Creston Valley has a Communications campaign for the Town of Creston to communicate to residents that it’s okay to have agricultural workers
    • Have found that farmers and the agricultural community are generally open about visits
    • Impression that farmers want Field Days; IH has said in theory there’s no reason why small groups can’t meet outside; 6 field days scheduled in theory

    Event protocol suggestions

    • WorkSafe protocols for tourism businesses; if you can maintain social distancing with a plan, you can operate
    • Brown bag lunch to address any concerns about inter-community moving to attend events
    • Not over promote events, usually for Field Days people stay close

    Columbia Valley Farm and Food

    • Snack Box for Kids program started
    • Groundswell greenhouse has had surge of volunteers and interest recently 
    • Successful plant sale held last weekend
    • School program “show us what you grow” campaign to valley PACs to get seeds to kids in area

    Cranbrook  Community Connections Society 

    • Meredith runs food recovery and running kitchen as well and running public produce garden (CFAC)
    • Recovery from grocery stores has dipped and changed in covid
    • Getting food to schools
    • $40k grant for food aid ‘covid effects funding stream’; liaising with program leads in Cranbrook for any community program that have clients that are experiencing covid related food insecurity
    • Delay in grocery card delivery – with such a roll out of funds, some demographics are flush with funding in emergency aid;  not a great time to be adding more to that
    • Grant money tied to deadline so need to get food out but market is now saturated but will disperse funds with other local food banks
    • Need to balance getting food out quickly but no strategy in place;  get money then figure out how to use it 
    • All community groups in Cranbrook are working well together
    • Public produce garden seed giveaway; guidelines for garden set up with City of Cranbrook
    • Community Food Centres Canada; need to ask if money can be banked “Good Food Organizations” had access to same funding pool – deadline was May 1 or 31 – delay in $ received
    • The local food bank has been disseminating a food resources guide and schedule meant for the public and anyone who’s in need – PDF that says “Mondays go here, Tuesdays go here…”
    • Cranbrook – Com Connections Society of SE BC- charitable org to CFCC – Good Food Orgs

    Economic Resilience Recovery

    • 76% of businesses have seen more than 50% drop in sales and more than 40% have fallen by 100% (shut down)
    • Longer, further, deeper impact on communities ; troubling by policy to spend money by deadline if no immediate need for it
    • Earth Matters – guides to community services
    • Worry about people that fall through cracks who are not affiliated with any social service agency; more than barriers are lowered to access service options (clothing, housing, food)

    Grocers – experiences from the Kootenay Co-op

    • Changing customer perceptions and attitudes related to Phase 2 in relation to safety precautions
    • 2 main groups of customers; 1 group is exhausted and subgroup of people that everyone thought pandemic response was overblown and 2nd large group that feel extremely nervous as people act less carefully; hard to please either group 
    • Challenging weeks from communication, staff management and PR view; staff have been verbally abused
    • How to re-educate membership about Phase 2 and what shopping at the Co-op entails at this time
    • Meat supply chain challenges – Co-op fortunate with local supply chains but sourcing organic chicken has been a challenge because it is coming from lower mainland; 3 plants affected by covid outbreaks

    Food Hub Forums – Community Consultations

    West Kootenay

    • Farm Food Drink running process with an advisory council driven by the West Kootenay Permaculture Coop in the Slocan Valley
    • Questions regarding timing of forum amongst covid concerns; decision to move ahead with survey and forum to assess interest in models
    • 40 or so surveys were filled out prior to the forum

    East Kootenay

    • Food Hub in Invermere 
    • Community voted unanimously to go ahead to business plan stage with a model that is a combination of models 1 and 2
    • Feasibility study involves looks at what kind of hub needs to be created and how that looks

    Kimberley Food Recovery

    • Funding concern; have accessed funding but have to spend it by end of June
    • Strategizing how to spend money and how to keep it going – rising need in Kimberley
    • Conversations with Food banks, school reps, IH; each week there is visible theme, whereby a few weeks involved everyone getting money through CERB, but what will happen in the summer, fall and with people not putting aside parts of CERB for taxes → more challenges in short and medium term
    • 1 hr open to public in Fridays; haven’t had public coming through doors since March due to doorstep delivery to maintain controlled environment
    • Not many local organizations normally distributing food to people, a lot is done through schools
    • Need of recarving distribution channels in Kimberley beyond the food bank
    • Starting branch of food preparation – 1 full day of big batch soup production of 80 frozen soup packages with funding to start another day, putting money into products that can be used in future when need is higher
      More food has been being recovered since covid – higher volume and more channels for recovery – (interesting contrast between Kimberley and Cranbrook)

    Community Covid Action Team in Slocan Valley

    • Everyone who asked for funding has got it with a deadline by end of September
    • Focus on helping farmers adapt with markets like the local garlic festival being cancelled
    • Other primary producer worried about surviving; community convinced them to grow as much or more but now wondering how to distribute it
    • How to help New Demver farmers survive as businesses while also helping the community access food
    • Potential project of building planter boxes and putting in people’s yards who don’t normally garden
    • Healthy Communities Society in Slocan gaps in processing equipment like canners and dryers to preserve food as community at end of season

    Basin Business Advisors

    • How to access primary producers and producers with loan and funding availability and how to spend wisely
    • Producers can be directed to Nyree for business support
    • How to address concerns about temporary foreign workers in communities
    • Covid rules regarding accommodation on farms with foreign workers

    New entrants, tools and land access – Young Agarians

    • A lot of new interest in finding land from land seekers (about 3:1 from this time last year)
    • Prototyping garden share program in Nelson Nest Lab
    • KLAS working tool upgrades for library

    2 thoughts on “COMMUNITY INSIGHTS: Columbia Basin Virtual Foodshed Gatherings

    1. Hi Hailey,
      Lynn Lashuk here — remember me? So nice to see your name in the Ag space. I will join your zoom meetings when I can — I work closely with the farmers in the Kootenays and it’s great to see the opportunity for collaboration and sharing in these challenging Covid times. “Unpredictability opens the door to possibility.” David Usher from “Let the Elephants Run”

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