The value of a co-operative network such as the LOFC is that we can bring together our membership to work towards common goals to strengthen the co-operative food sector in Ontario.
Northern Ontario Co-op Field Schools
With the goal of providing and/or linking to a system of supports for food and farm co-operatives in Northern Ontario, the project will provide sector-specific business management training, mentoring, resources and advisory services for the farm, food processing, food distribution and food retail co-ops across Northern Ontario over a 3 year period. The training methods will include one on one sessions, sharing of customized management tools, virtual meetings, and be undertaken in partnership with existing Northern Ontario business service and resource organizations.
Trade Routes North Project
The Trade Routes North project is a community economic development project that will provide the assessment of supply, infrastructure and markets necessary to incubate, pilot and develop key local food infrastructure to link markets and supply. The project will identify and catalyze new opportunities and partnerships that arise from the rapid growth of the local food market and the growing number of regional production initiatives in Ontario’s north.The project will also facilitate research, partnerships and software applications that will increase trade in Northern Ontario products between northern co-ops as well as with those in Southern Ontario.
Both the Co-op Field Schools and the Trade Routes North Projects are supported by:
Strengthening Farm Viability and Cooperative Market Development for Ecological Farmers in Southwestern Ontario
The Local Organic Food Coop Network in partnership with the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario has received funding through Libro Credit Union’s Prosperity Fund. The project titled “Strengthening Farm Viability and Cooperative Market Development” aims to support the development of new and existing farm and food businesses. Food business development is a key component when supporting our local food system.
Focusing on Southwestern Ontario, the project hopes to bring together those working in the various areas of the supply chain; from farmers in various agricultural settings, food processors and distributors to others who work in food hubs or food coops.
Working together enables a system to become stronger, the cooperative business model through its principals can support businesses to become economically sustainable.
Through hosting workshops, events and tours the project looks at bringing people together. We can provide the knowledge, skills, support and materials required when investigating the development of a future farm or food coop business. Innovative development is possible with the support of the right resources and networks.
For more information on the project and upcoming events check out the events page or contact Karen Eatwell, Project Coordinator. firstname.lastname@example.org
Local Organic Food Co-ops Network Regional Food Hub Expansion Program
Supported by the Ontario Local Food Fund, the Local Organic Food Co-ops Network Regional Food Hub Expansion Program, brought together 4 key food co-operatives from across Ontario to conduct business planning in support of local food distribution throughout Ontario. The partners included Eat Local Sudbury, Ottawa Valley Food Co-op, On the Move Organics and True North Community Co-op.
In addition to the completion of four food hub business plans, that have enabled key local food businesses in four regions of the province to expand their markets, retain or create jobs, and identify and extend their marketing to their key clients, the Food Hub Project accomplished training, strategic planning and assessment of the value chain for local food in Ontario.
The LOFC Network in partnership with ONFC and the lead organizations in the project has developed and delivered numerous presentations focused on various aspects of local food systems and food hubs over the course of the project. The food hub forums brought consumers, municipal representatives, and program officers and staff from OMAFRA and other government ministries. They were open to the public, and included presentations on the long-term plans for the co-op food hub partner in the region, as well as presentations from other speakers on a range of topics related to local food. These have been key regional events to introduce producers to consumers, promote the regional food producers and markets, and engage more people in the local food system in their area. In addition, the team presented a half day training at the 2015 Bring Food Home conference in Sudbury, reaching food hub practitioners and supporters from across the province.
Presentations and workshops have included training for local producers to develop collaborative solutions to distribution, marketing, processing and other infrastructural challenges they face in marketing local product. Other workshops focused on “Scaling Up to Wholesale”, to support producer members or Local Food Fund Program suppliers to the food hubs as they work to identify marketing, costing, margins and pricing for working with wholesale distributors. The presentations and workshop designs, as well as partnerships, have established a curriculum and expertise which is continuing and expanding with programming in 2016.
In each case, the LOFC team has worked closely with local partners to deliver presentations and trainings that are relevant and responsive to regional needs. Evaluations have been enthusiastic. The Network has reached hundreds of people through these meetings and presentations, which will continue into the new year. Promotion and communications for these forums and workshops has expanded the LOFC network’s outreach, promoted local food at local markets, and reached food producers, food hubs, processors, consumers, etc., across the province.
The Food Hub Project has supported the business planning, outreach and promotion at local food hubs thatwill improve the aggregation, marketing and distribution of regional products to new and expanded markets. The process included technical assistance and support for the four lead co-ops in governance andbusiness development. Materials were created to be shared with members wherever possible. Online resources from the project will also be incorporated into the website relaunch. The project has included a value chain assessment of food hub activity and local food production levels in each region of the project, to identify the potential and the barriers to expanding regional food systems. Stakeholders were consulted during the assessment phase, including regional producers, ONFC staff (purchasing, private label and others), organization partners, and local co-ops in order to link availability to market demand.
This work supports the development of new food hubs, new distribution mechanisms, mid-scale processing, and market development in order to strengthen and increase the availability of and infrastructure for local food. The results were aggregated in a report for LOFC stakeholders and partners. Some of the most important work in the project has been to develop partnerships with producers and local food partners in northeast and northwestern Ontario, as well as eastern and southwestern partners. As the project’s next phase (the Trade Routes Project and Co-op Field Schools) develops, these partners will be essential to the delivery of future programming.
The LOFC Network has developed a significant partnership with the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO) to deliver workshops and trainings that are specific to local food producers. These address marketing, aggregation through food hubs, collaboration and farm co-op development, and working with wholesalers. ONFC’s senior buyer has attended many of these sessions to provide additional information on the wholesale market, and to meet and assess potential vendors for their distribution or private label. In addition, LOFC has been able to increase the understanding of potential and opportunities for local producers as part of the project. Individual and group meetings with producers during food hub forums and other events was coupled with the “Scaling Up to Wholesale” workshop to reach producers considering expanding to begin planning from an early stage with them, and to support their sustainable expansion with a good understanding of local markets and the needs of buyers and consumers. These trainings are continuing in 2016 with support from various funders and in partnership with a range of new and existing partners.
The Food Hub Project with the Local Food Fund support was also able to complete consultations with members, stakeholders, partners and funders to create a detailed business and strategic plan for LOFC the next three years. The plan will be presented during the 2016 annual Assembly, with around 100 members gathering from across the province for workshops, meetings, and consultations to provide additional input to action steps and programming by the LOFC Network over the next three years.