Cowichan Green Community is again moving forward with plans to increase food security in the region.
In a presentation to North Cowichan’s council on Dec. 2, CGC’s Sandy Munns and Judy Stafford asked that the municipality extend its five-year licence of occupation, which is set to expire in July 2021, to 10 years on the more than three acres of municipally owned land at 2431 Beverly St. where it has established farming initiatives and other programs, including the incubator seed farm and the agricultural equipment library.
Munns said CGC is now looking at integrating food production and processing into its existing food programs, and has applied to various agencies for more than $1 million in funding for the various projects that it would involve.
He said CGC is looking to set up a commercial kitchen and processing areas, a food crop greenhouse, cold storage and a distribution space for the local Cow-op, the region’s first online farmers’ marketplace of locally grown and processed food.
“We’re also developing school programs for farming and environmental education,” Munns said.
“We’re hoping North Cowichan will extend our licence of occupation to 10 years which would give us a longer window to look forward to for our plans, and for guidance from staff with permitting and application processes as we just don’t have the expertise to do it ourselves.”
CGC began in 2001 as an environmental-based community outreach project delivered under the auspices of the Green Door Society.
Since then, the non-profit organization has grown to become an important hub for sustainability in the Cowichan Valley, with a strong focus on food security.
CGC has applied to the Ministry of Agriculture for a $750,000 grant, the federal food infrastructure fund for $220,000, the Investment Agricultural Foundation for $120,000, the Moss Foundation for $40,000, and the Island Coastal Economic Trust for $30,000 to fund its expansion plans.
So far, the funding from ICET and the Moss Foundation have been secured, and Stafford said she’s confident that CGC will be successful in acquiring grants from Ottawa.
“I was speaking at the House of Commons last week and [federal representatives] are interested in what is happening here,” she said.
“We were very impressed with our conversations at the federal level about the commitment to local food and local production. We feel encouraged that higher levels of government are in line with what we’re trying to do.”
Stafford said CGC appreciates that North Cowichan has eyes on the sector and has supported CGC in the past with land and some funding.
Count. Tek Manhas asked about the planned commercial kitchen at the site and Stafford said CGC currently has a commercial kitchen at its site on Duncan Street that is rented out to more than 50 local farmers and small businesses.
“We rent the space and provide the groups with the equipment they need,” she said.
“Another commercial kitchen would be used by those who want to process and export food. Also, Vancouver Island University has moved its culinary program from Providence Farm to the campus and that facility is smaller so VIU has been looking for an additional commercial kitchen to rent. It would be a multi-use purpose kitchen that will be available to the community.”
Count. Kate Marsh thanked CGC for its good work in the community.
“It’s incredible what you have accomplished within five years,” she said.
Mayor Al Siebring told the delegation that council doesn’t make decisions immediately after a delegation, and council will decide on CGC’s request in due course.