The Salmon Arm Economic Development Society (SAEDS) is working with local government and colleges to conduct a feasibility study which looks into the creation of a food hub in Salmon Arm.
The study is well underway, involving Okanagan College in its research along with representatives from the City of Salmon Arm, B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture and the Columbia Shuswap Regional District. Overseen by the ministry, the main body behind the study is SAEDS Chad Shipmaker spearheading the study.
“A food hub could mean all kinds of different things to all kinds of different people and a food hub could mean very different things in different communities,” Shipmaker said. “The purpose of the feasibility study is to look at what is feasible and what makes sense in your specific community.”
In June Salmon Arm received $35,000 from the province to conduct the study, but that is the only funding the project will receive from the province. Food hubs themselves are a part of the Feed BC initiative created by the Ministry of Agriculture. One of the requirements laid out by the ministry is the food hubs must be financially self-sustaining after one year.
SAEDS hopes to accomplish this by catering firstly to the region’s main agricultural resources. Though data obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture, Chad Shipmaker has found that a large portion of the agriculture industry in the Shuswap is dairy based. With this in mind, Shipmaker expects the food hub will address some needs of dairy processors.
“For the CSRD dairy accounts for over 40 per cent of all farm gate revenue and a similar percentage for the North Okanagan,” Shipmaker said. “Despite the fact that we have all this dairy in the area, the vast majority of it gets loaded up in a truck and drives the Coquihala to be processed in the Fraser Valley.”
Shipmaker hopes the study can create hybrid business plan that can accommodate those willing to pay for the food hub’s services but can also accept smaller businesses and processors paying for the services with grant money.
“Some of the community members and stakeholders that would benefit the most from this are also the ones that don’t have the ability to pay,” Shipmaker said.
Shipmaker says the study will also be seeking input from companies born out of SAEDS’ Launch-a-preneur competition. Companies like Cellar Candy and The Barley Tea Company are among those the study will be asking for suggestions.
“This is historically a strong agricultural area and there’s a lot of passion and interest in agriculture,” Shipmaker said. “We’re looking to create an enabling environment and potentially a processing facility that can help bridge the gap between passionate entrepreneur and successful food processing company.”
An open house and information session will be held at the Salmon Arm Innovation Centre at 4 p.m. on August 15 where residents can learn more about the study and the food hub itself.