Pan Cape Bre­ton Food Hub ex­pect­ing to ex­pand

Started as a two-year pi­lot pro­ject in 2015 with a lim­ited num­ber of con­sumers

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY CAPE BRE­TON POST STAFF

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 cblo­cal­food­hub@gmail.com, go on­line to cape­bre­ton.lo­cal­food­mar­ket­place.com/, or find them on Face­book.

PHOTO SUB­MIT­TED BY KATIE GRIST

Rory Dou­glas is shown dis­play­ing some fresh veg­eta­bles. She is one of the vol­un­teers and con­sumers who use the Pan Cape Bre­ton Food Hub.

-BLF

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