Town residents soon will have increased access to naturally-grown food that is produced locally.
The Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op (CLFC) is excited to announce the opening of its new distribution centre in Fort Frances for March 27.
It has been working towards opening a hub here since 2016.
The not-for-profit co-operative is an online farmers' market, where residents across Northwestern Ontario can place orders online for pick up in Dryden, Sioux Lookout, Kenora, Ignace, Upsala, Emo, Lappe, Thunder Bay, and, now, Fort Frances as well as Red Lake.
CLFC is a year-round farmers' market, offering locally-raised and processed meats, freshly-picked in-season produce, wild harvested foods, artisanal products, teas, flavoured coffees, and more.
After joining the co-op, members here can shop online from 2 p.m. on Saturday until 10 a.m. on Monday during the third week of every month.
Customers then will be able to pick up their orders the following day (Tuesday) from 4-6 p.m. at the Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau (old CN station).
Anita Marcotte, the CLFC community co-ordinator for Rainy River District, described members of the co-op as “a group of people, as consumers, who prefer natural, locally-grown food as much as possible.”
CLFC producers are focused on providing sustainable and ethically-farmed products.
Cloverbelt originated out of Dryden in 2013, and at the time only had 85 members.
“We have quickly grown to having well over 1,400 members, now, in 2018,” noted Marcotte.
Meanwhile, the number of producers belonging to the co-op has grown exponentially, she added.
“Across Northwestern Ontario, we have over 140 producers and there are over 12 alone here in the Rainy River District,” Marcotte said.
She is passionate about expanding the capacity of Cloverbelt to serve Fort Frances and surrounding area.
“We're quite excited with the opening of the Fort Frances hub because it helps us to be able to reach consumers in Mine Centre and Atikokan, and very soon to link up to our distribution system,” she enthused.
There has been a great deal of interest in the area for a CLFC distribution hub since the loss of the local farmers' market.
“After losing the farmers' market, consumers didn't really have the quick and easy access they once had to local food,” Marcotte explained.
"Though a few local market gardeners have continued to meet that need.
“Now, following the creation of the Rainy Lake Square as a space for market gardeners, our distribution hub in Fort Frances will complement the supply of fresh, local food options available to Rainy River District residents,” she added.
After moving back to Rainy River District from Manitoba, Marcotte initially looked for a source of organic food.
Once she found Cloverbelt, she was impressed by how its producers place so much value on growing food naturally, without chemicals or hormones.
“After I came here and started buying from the local producers, I could not believe the difference in food and quality,” Marcotte recalled.
“Good food, grown or raised properly on good soil without the use of chemicals and fertilizer that depletes the soil, is going to taste better and you're going to notice that difference right away.”
Another aspect of Cloverbelt that sparked Marcotte's interest was the fact most fresh food sold through its website is picked within 24 hours of reaching the consumer, and isn't sprayed with any preservatives or chemicals.
After learning this, she decided it was important to not only further her access to locally-grown food through Cloverbelt, but that of other people, as well.
Marcotte that the Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau board for its help in opening the new distribution centre in town.
Cloverbelt looks forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with the Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau, she noted.
Marcotte also thanked the Rainy River Future Development Corp., and all Cloverbelt producers and members, for their continued commitment to the co-op.
Anyone with questions or concerns regarding Cloverbelt can contact Marcotte via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Come join us,” she urged.
“Joining up is simple and cheap," she noted. "It's $25 for a regular consumer.”
To sign up, visit the Cloverbelt website at www.cloverbeltlocalfoodcoop.com
All memberships last a lifetime and give members access to Cloverbelt's online system.
“Join us today because we are looking at increasing the volume of sales through the Fort Frances hub as quickly as possible,” Marcotte said.
An increased volume of sales means Cloverbelt can move more quickly from monthly to weekly ordering for its members, she added.