Opportunities to Grow the Local Food Chain

0

The Rural Agri-Innovation Network (RAIN) and its partners are proud to release the North-Central Food & Agriculture Market Study (NFAMS). Initiated in June 2018, this Study was designed to examine the local food economy, with the purpose to gain a better understanding of the regional market (Algoma, Manitoulin & Sudbury), focusing on four areas of food demand; food processing, food retail, food services and food programs.

The Study indicated that there is a high level of interest in sourcing locally grown food. Businesses and organizations were motivated to source locally grown, as they found locally grown food supports’ the local economy, is of higher quality and is being requested from a growing number of customers.

Examining the amount of food being purchased by 184 businesses and organizations, identified a gap between the amount of food sourced locally and the amount being sourced outside of the Algoma, Manitoulin and Sudbury areas. Some key opportunities for potential growth to meet market demand included sweet corn, carrots, cucumbers, pork and wheat flour.

The results of the Study provided an understanding of the food needs and preferences of businesses and organizations within the local community. The recommendations identified other opportunities that emerged to help increase regional food production, processing and purchasing. Some examples included:

  • Developing and implementing delivery systems and managing the ordering and delivering of locally produced food between sellers and buyers
  • Providing support to producers in obtaining and maintaining food safety certification standards

Businesses and organizations were discouraged from sourcing locally grown food as they experienced higher prices, limited volume and inconsistency with local food availability. The growing season in the region results in limited availability of some products (e.g. fresh produce). Another challenge is smaller scale farm operations in the region cannot satisfy entire food volume demands of major retailers (e.g. grocers, convenience, food wholesalers and distributors) and food service businesses and organizations.

Producers acknowledge that if there was a greater willingness on the part of businesses and organizations to adjust their procurement practices for certain periods of the year, local producers could supplement a portion of their food needs with locally grown products.

Jessica Cherry has recently joined RAIN’s team to address these challenges faced by both producers and local businesses/organizations. With the results of the Study combined with the recommendations RAIN is developing an action plan to expand the market for producers and agricultural goods to support local job creation and economic activity within the agri-food sector. A special focus will be on developing a cohesive brand for Algoma to support agri-food development.

For the detailed recommendations and Study, visit RAIN’s website at
www.rainalgoma.ca/en/marketstudy.