Pan Cape Breton Food Hub expecting to expand
Started as a two-year pilot project in 2015 with a limited number of consumers
Since the seeds of the Pan Cape Breton Food Hub were planted three years ago, it has grown into a popular online grocery system that connects local consumers with Cape Breton-grown food.
The hub started as a two-year pilot project in 2015 with a limited number of consumers and has since taken root as a model praised by producers and those who consume their products.
As 2017 preparations ramp up, its organizers expect its interest base to continue to expand.
“We’ve proven that the model is something that is needed by both consumers and producers and is viable,” said Alicia Lake, the food hub co-ordinator. “We are ready to expand and take in lots more members.”
When the food hub began it had just 50 consumers during its first year before adding 75 more in 2016. Expectations are that as many as 200 will be intrigued by the notion of getting much of their food from some 30 Cape Breton producers in 2017.
“They are not just vegetable producers but we also have people selling meats and there are two bakeries involved,” Lake said.
Fisheries products, honey, maple syrup, jams and jellies are part of the local shopping experience, too.
“The consumer gets a really wide variety of goods and foods from across the island.”
Though much work has gone into the process, Lake said they’ve made getting local food from local producers as easy as possible.
The hub has an online store platform where producers list items for sale each week. A consumer can then order their items of choice online, and pay for it by credit card.
“They are only harvesting what is sold. If they put up 200 pounds of carrots and only 100 sold, they can leave the others in the ground, which is a huge advantage for them.”
Once ordered, producers then leave their goods at one of seven Cape Breton locations, where they delivered to a distribution centre, sorted by volunteers and made ready for customers.
“They order directly from each producer so that the consumer knows exactly what farm it is coming from,” Lake said.
“Most things would be harvested on Wednesday morning, picked up that afternoon and delivered on Thursday.”
She said customers surveyed have said they are learning more about Cape Breton products through this process. Producers have profited from the idea, too.
“One concern was that they would just stop going to a local farm but our consumers also said they are buying more local food than they did prior to the food hub,” said Lake.
“It’s not spreading out sales between different areas, it’s adding on additional revenues.”
The food hub’s work in 2017 will really kick into high gear as crops are ready for harvest beginning sometime in June.
In the meantime, off-season goals are to expand its customer base and continue to build partnerships like that with the Breton Ability Centre, which has become a second distribution centre.
To learn more email@example.com, go online to capebreton.localfoodmarketplace.com/, or find them on Facebook.
Rory Douglas is shown displaying some fresh vegetables. She is one of the volunteers and consumers who use the Pan Cape Breton Food Hub.