In 2020, Economic Development Cowichan completed a Food Processing Feasibility Study in partnership with Small Scale Food Processor Association. The feasibility study contributes to the growing body of research supporting the food sector in Cowichan and assesses the opportunities for more local foods to be purchased by Cowichan food processors and institutional markets.
Since the study was published, the Cowichan community has made significant progress in implementing many of the recommendations from the report. Funding was announced in early 2021 for the Cowichan Food Hub, led by Cowichan Green Community. The Hub will increase the region’s capacity for food processing and distribution, and provide space for innovation and business support. Shortly after this announcement, the Cowichan Food Innovation Program was launched. The program helped 26 food and beverage entrepreneurs advance their goals to launch, pivot or grow their businesses. All along, the region continues to support the Island Good brand program, with new 2021 memberships sponsored by Economic Development Cowichan. There are now 37 Cowichan-based Island Good members, making it easier for consumers to choose local.
Most recently, Cow-op Online Farmers’ Market, which facilitates online ordering of local food with delivery or pickup throughout the region, has launched a wholesale platform on their website, cow-op.ca. Chefs, caterers, retailers, and other wholesale buyers can now access fresh, local products at bulk prices.
Cow-op is a non-profit cooperatively-run food hub that provides convenient online access to the highest quality local products. They have over 60 local farm and food processor members selling products through the online farmers’ market. Buyers can choose from a range of premium salad greens, vegetables, fruits, eggs and meat, dairy, herbs, sauces, preserves, beverages, seeds, plants, soaps and more, all grown or made in the agriculture-rich Cowichan Valley and closely neighbouring regions. New items are always being added.
With the expansion into wholesale, the organization aims to secure a predictable and viable market solution for their members (all local farms and food processors), while getting more fresh, BC-made, mindfully produced ingredients on diner’s plates and on retailer’s shelves. This is the next step in the Cow-op’s journey of becoming the regional leader in creating a vibrant, circular local food economy.
Wholesale buyers are invited to create a free account here: https://shop.cow-op.ca/Account/Register. When asked to select what kind of customer you are, choose, “A restaurant, grocery store &/or other institution that is interested in shopping wholesale.” Wholesale manager Rachel Horton reviews and approves all new wholesale accounts. Once approved, you will see larger sizes and wholesale prices in the online order system. Net 15 payment terms are also available.
Horton urges anyone interested to send her an email directly at [email protected]. “It’s about starting new relationships,” she says. “We are real people – so much better than dealing with a faceless corporation!”
With innovation on the rise and local food becoming more accessible than ever, Cowichan is poised to become a leader in food sustainability on Vancouver Island.