Coming soon to the North Cariboo Region, Sprout Kitchen will be a small-scale food processing and innovation hub based in Quesnel and serving the area from Vanderhoof to One Hundred Mile House.
As a regional food hub and business incubator, this initiative of the City of Quesnel with generous support from the Ministry of Agriculture and Northern Development, will support emerging and existing food entrepreneurs to get their ideas off the ground or scale their business for new markets.
Designed to support food businesses, there could be many direct and indirect benefits to local producers. “As food businesses grow, they in turn can purchase ingredients from local farmers” explains Amy Quarry, project coordinator. Along with equipment and services for food processing and packing, access to food testing services and equipment could mean more value added products, and access to larger markets for farmers and food businesses. “We want to establish networks with groceries willing to purchase local food and help businesses market their products to these stores collectively” says Amy. Workshops and knowledge transfer opportunities will also be incorporated to help producers and food businesses navigate the requirements for selling to larger grocers and food distributors.
In developing the vision of Sprout Kitchen, coordinators Amy Quarry and Diandra Oliver have been gathering feedback from food enthusiasts across the region. With this information, they have been negotiating locations, sourcing equipment and suppliers, and making the vision of Sprout Kitchen a reality that will soon be ready to support food businesses, and in turn, producers in the region. While Covid-19 has put a hard pause on some of the planning and ordering over the past few months, potential locations are being scouted in the city of Quesnel, as the project moves confidently ahead. Know of a great location? Let the organizers know!
Some of the equipment, resources, and ideas being explored and sourced thus far include:
- Processing: steam oven for sterilizing jars, weigh fill machines, hot packing equipment, food packing supplies, honey extractors, oil press, grain harvesters;
- Cold storage: space available for rent for long term cold storage, a refridgerated truck for temporary cold storage;
- Lab: recipe and allergen testing, food safety;
- Transportation: refrigerated truck for moving product in the region, or from farms to the hub, or to direct to retailers;
- Services: co-packing, product development, analytics, product delivery from farms to food hub or grocery stores, training/workshops, applied research opportunities.
As the project continues to develop and zone in on a location, the organizers still welcome feedback from food businesses and farmers. “For now the confirmed equipment is food processing but there is room to expand that at some point – I would love to hear from farmers what would be helpful as far as harvesting equipment or supplies (bins etc)”. If you have ideas or information to share about the upcoming food hub, the Sprout Kitchen Research Survey is still open for feedback.
It is exciting to watch the Food Hub evolve and see the possibilities to strengthen local food resiliency in the region. While this is the first hub in the north, several communities across BC received funding from the Ministry of Agriculture last season to complete food hub feasibility studies, including one by Upper Skeena Development in the Hazeltons of Northwest BC. Up in the Northeast, the Northern Environmental Action Team has been gathering feedback for a Peace Community Food Hub.
As the first formal Food Hub in the north, Sprout Kitchen will be a model of what is possible in other Central and Northern B.C. Communities, we can’t wait to see it in action!