Farmers and small processors tapped for local food council

The group has a year to find ways government can assist burgeoning local food sector

There’s no shortage of hands-on experience on a new advisory group charged with coming up with ways to boost Alberta’s local food sector.

Creating a Local Food Council — and ensuring it had a healthy number of producers and processors of local food — was part of a bill titled Supporting Alberta’s Local Food Sector Act that was passed earlier this year.

The council, which had its first meeting last month, is co-chaired by Susan Schafers, vice-chair of Egg Farmers of Alberta, and Jeff Senger, an accountant who helped revive a small abattoir in the hamlet of Sangudo (a hour’s drive northwest of Edmonton).

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Among the council’s 13 other members are Jason Andersen (owner and operator of Kathy’s Greenhouse near Kitscoty and president of the Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association); Cherie Andrews (co-owner of Chinook Honey Company near Okotoks); Eric Doef (a partner in Doef’s Greenhouses near Lacombe); Nicola Irving (co-owner of Irvings Farm Fresh of Round Hill, which produces a line of sausages and other products as well as raising Berkshire pigs); Lisa Kitt (who operates a certified organic small-scale mixed farm); Kye Kocher (owner of Grand Trunk Veggies, which farms urban land, mostly backyards, in Calgary); and Nancy Nolan (co-owner of Lambtastic Farms near Vulcan, which has sheep, crops, and cattle; and direct markets to restaurants and stores across the province).

The council will provide recommendations on provincial policies, programs, pilot pro-jects, and initiatives to support the continued growth of the local food sector. It will also look at “specific challenges” faced by small producers and processors such as distribution, certification, and increasing both access to, and awareness of, local foods.

Those sorts of issues can be critical to small enterprises, Senger said in a government video promoting the council.

“Little businesses like ours can use all the help they can get and we really appreciate the fact the government sort of stepped up to say, ‘What can we do to better support local farmers?’” said Senger, co-owner of Sangudo Custom Meats, an eight-year-old business that now employs several people and sells to both restaurants and direct to consumers.

The council has a year to finish its work and report to government. It will then be disbanded. It can be contacted at [email protected].

The province says that local food is now “a $1-billion market that is growing rapidly and represents a key part of Alberta’s economy.”

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