Eaters and producers are joining the Kettle Valley Food Co-operative around the Boundary region over the next few weeks. With funding support from the Co-operative Development Initiative, a granting program of the federal government delivered by the Canadian Co-operative Association, the newly formed Co-op is recruiting members and developing their initiatives for 2010. Information sessions being hosted as outreach by the Co-op, are assisting them to reach their goal of signing up 60 members by the end of March.
“The biggest piece that we all have to understand, co-ops are a shift in thinking, a shift in the way of doing business,” explained Project Co-ordinator Sheila Dobie. “Members are all owners of the enterprise, we are all at the driving wheel of the enterprise, and we all have a say – one member, one vote.”
At the session on Thursday, Feb. 25 at Selkirk College, 14 attendees heard about an overview of co-ops, some examples of other food co-operatives across Canada, and what the next steps for Kettle Valley Food will be. The development of Kettle Valley Food was based on a project started in 2008 by the Grand Forks and Boundary Regional Agricultural Society (GFBRAS) to address the needs of meat producers in the Grand Forks area.
As that project proceeded it became clear that there was a need to create a marketing and distribution system for all local food producers. The business plan developed into a full blown food co-operative plan for the Boundary. The co-op has since incorporated with their own board of directors, although they remain involved with GFBRAS.
Dobie provided examples of different types of food co-operatives operating in Canada as ideas of the direction the co-op might take in the next year. At this point the group’s vision is to develop two distribution centres (east and west Boundary) and create an on-line ordering system for customers to receive products from local farmers. An example of this type of system is the Ottawa Valley Food Co-operative (www.ottawavalleyfood.org), and other examples include: www.foodroots.ca and Co-op La Mauve in Quebec.
At the end of the information sessions, co-op members will be invited to participate in workshops funded through the project to educate the membership on ways to develop the organization. Throughout April these sessions will take place and the group will start to decide on how the next few years will develop.
“How we look for the 2010 year will really be influenced strongly by the members – who are the producers and the consumers,” said Dobie. “We’ve got small producers, we’ve got folks who are talking about surpluses in their backyard garden. We’re going to have to talk about how that’s going to work. I’m sure there’s a way that will work for everyone.”
Members are invited to join the co-operative for a one-time fee of $50 and also to purchase investment shares which provide capital for the co-op to develop. Investment shares, said Dobie, will grow over time as determined by the board of directors.
Two sessions have already been held, one in Rock Creek and one in Grand Forks, and two more are slated for later in March. Upcoming question and answer sessions are: Thursday, Mar. 11, 5:30 p.m., and Thursday, Mar. 25, 7:00 p.m. Room 2 at Selkirk College in Grand Forks.
“The hopes are that with a co-op like this, that is slowly evolving and growing incrementally over the years, various producers that have capacity will be encouraged to expand to meet the demand that they’re seeing within this co-op membership and beyond,” said Dobie. “We hope to encourage more production in our valley.”