The results for the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako’s (RDBN) food hub survey, conducted from Oct. 15 to Nov. 20, 2020, are now out and the project team is readying itself to go to phase 2 of the project.
The survey was launched to determine how the regional food economy currently is, to assess the need for a possible food hub in the region, to find ways to shift towards more food sales and investment back into the region and to launch initial phases of a food hub in 2021 to potentially forming a regional food hub network.
A total of 72 people responded to the survey and while food producers, raisers, harvesters, and makers responded to the survey from across the regional district participated, 40 per cent of the total responses came were from Vanderhoof. Telkwa, Topley, Smithers, Fort St. James, Burns Lake, Houston were some of the other regions from where participants had responded.
Nearly 49 per cent responses came from livestock farmers, 18 per cent from fruit and vegetable producers, 13 per cent from grass and grain producers and the remaining 10 per cent were made up of farmers markets, food processors and makers and community programs.
The survey showed that over 61 per cent respondents were looking to expand their business. Increasing meat production and processing, broadening their customer base geographically to include regional customers and beyond, improving marketing and product development, expanding processing and storage capacity and supporting businesses to conform to regulatory requirements were some of the responses received from those interested in expanding their business.
One of the most popular choices among the respondents was to have a local food store while some other popular choices ranged from online sales and storage, to having the options for commercial kitchens.
According to the survey results released during a recent RDBN meeting, “based on the responses from the “food hub ready” respondents, implementing a retail outlet in Vanderhoof with an online store, mainly for livestock and produce growers, could be a key recommendation.”
Respondents also showed a strong inclination to have smaller groups to discuss and explore the food hub as an opportunity, a suggestion that would soon be implemented by the RDBN food hub’s project team. According to their action plan, “About half of respondents (51 per cent) are interested in meeting as a small group to further discuss opportunities. The project team will be in contact to set these sessions up in 2021.”
Just before the survey was launched, Debbie Evans, the agriculture coordinator with RDBN had said that the intention behind having a food hub was not to increase competition “but would work in conjunction with the existing services and models to enhance access to locally grown and produced food.”
“If feasible, let’s give it the best possible chance for succeeding,” she had said at the time.