November is a time for gatherings and learning in the world of food organizations and small scale and ecological farmers. The Local Organic Food Co-ops Network was knee deep in the rally around discovery and education. LOFC Staff members, Sally Miller and Joan Brady with the valuable participation of Ontario Natural Food Co-op’s Glenn Valliere participated in 5 workshops and 3 food hub forums. Partnering with the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario , Sustain Ontario , Greenbelt Foundation and others, the events were held in Eastern, Northern and Southwestern Ontario.
The Local Organic Food Co-ops Network was in Kingston on November 16 to participate in a great day of learning. The day was co-hosted by the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario, Kingston and Area Seed System Initiative , the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security and the LOFC. The day featured various seed sessions hosted by local and international experts. LOFC staff members Sally Miller and Joan Brady facilitated an afternoon workshop: "How to Start a Farm or Food Co-op". The 15 enthusiastic participants learned co-op basics and envisioned their own co-operatives.
November 18, Joan and Sally were joined by Glenn to facilitate a “Scaling up to Wholesale” workshop as part of the Ottawa Valley Food Forum in partnership with the Ottawa Valley Food Co-op . November 20-22 found the LOFC facilitators at the Bring Food Home Conference held in Sudbury. LOFC Network hosted an afternoon forum focusing on Food Hubs. Leading Food Hub Finance Expert Kathy Nyquist of New Venture Advisors LLC spoke about the various models which American Food Hubs have developed to serve both the supply and demand of local and/or organic food products. Peggy Baillie, Executive Director of Eat Local Sudbury , shared Eat Local’s story, which since 2012 has grown into a thriving social enterprise that improves access and education to local foods in the Northern Eastern Ontario region through their retail store, wholesale division and distribution services. The final panel speaker was Afua Asantewaa from Food Share Toronto's Good Food Market and Mobile Good Food Market. These projects, both seek to bring fresh healthy foods to disadvantaged neighborhoods in the Toronto area which have been designated as the city's foremost food deserts by Public Health.
The final event was “Our Living Soils - Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario 2nd Annual Convention - December 03 - 05, 2015. With over 250 attendees and amazing workshops and keynote speakers the successful Convention left participants much to consider including how they might incorporate Co-ops, food hubs and wholesale marketing in their respective operations. LOFC Network was pleased to be a partner in the event and in particular the presentation of the London Food Hub Forum as part of the Convention tour day.
Hosted by LOFC Network members, On the Move Organics and the Forest City Workers Co-op, the event featured a tour of the businesses and a meaningful conversation with community stakeholders and champions. The crowd made up of 50% Ontario farmers and 50% community members listened to a plenary presentation and participated in a round table discussion. A resounding YES answered the question "Is London Ready for a Food Hub". Forum attendees were invigorated by the possibilities and look forward to future conversations. The Convention also incorporated both the “Scaling up to Wholesale” and “Starting a Food or Farm” workshops. In the program and each was well attended and well received.