Flanked by Cowichan Neighbourhood House Association president Moe Vesey, and MP Alistair MacGregor on the left and Jan MacKirdy, program manager Nate Harben and Dennis Jess on the right, B.C. agriculture minister Lana Popham stopped by Cowichan Green Community’s commercial kitchen in February 2018 to announce $84,000 in provincial funding for the Cowichan Food Recovery Project. Funding for other projects may also be on the way. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen file)

Cowichan Green Community eyes funding for value added food processing

The folks at Cowichan Green Community are licking their chops after the recent Island Coastal Economic Trust announcement that more funds are up for grabs to support value-added food processing in the region.

There’s money to be had, and they want it.

CGC executive director Judy Stafford and her crew have submitted a proposal and have their fingers crossed.

As one of the Island’s top food-producing regions, the Cowichan Valley has been proactive in looking into new and innovative strategies to support and grow the agri-food sector, including a 2014 ICET-supported sectoral strategy that yielded recommendations to advance food processing and food security in the region.

“We’re excited to see this additional financial investment, working toward the establishment of a food processing centre. Previous studies have indicated strong support to provide agriculture services, expanding the work that CGC has already been doing in our commercial processing kitchen,” Stafford explained. “Since 2015, over 40 farmers and processors have utilized our space to prepare and process a variety of foods and we’re at capacity. According to the Ministry of Agriculture there are over 135 processors in Cowichan — a significant increase from 2014 when there were 50.”

The current project will include consultation amongst regional food processors, education and health institutions, beverage-sector producers and others to quantify demand for local food inputs and new production opportunities. The second phase of the project will then outline the infrastructure needed to support increased shared food processing partnerships.

“CGC has submitted a bid to complete this study and looking forward to seeing this proceed. We’ve also submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Agriculture in response to their Request for Qualifications to set up a ‘Food Innovation and Processing Hub’ for Cowichan which would see the development of a larger commercial kitchen, packaging centre, cold and dry storage facilities, testing lab station, and training facility,” Stafford explained. “This Food Hub directly aligns with the CVRD’s and North Cowichan’s Agriculture Plans and North Cowichan’s Climate Action and Energy Plan, which specifically outlines the need for an Agriculture Development Centre.”

This type of work is right up CGC’s alley and Stafford and her crew are chomping at the bit to keep things moving ahead.

“We’re grateful as well to Island Coastal Economic Trust for providing funding for the Cowichan Incubator Seed Farm and we see all this investment into local agriculture, along with the latest announcement of a Federal Food Policy by Minister [Marie-Claude] Bideau, as significant steps forward in not only increasing the viability of local farms but for helping to increase food security for our community members facing significant barriers to healthy, nutritious food,” she said.

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