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Food co-op gauging interest locally

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With the Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op expected to expand into Rainy River District next year, co-ordinators are pushing to get area residents on board.

“It would be great if we could start to get people purchasing memberships because it would really help to gauge the interest,” said Andrea Habinski, agricultural co-ordinator for the co-op.

“We know there is interest, but if would help determine the scope,” she added during a consumer information session at the Rainy River Future Development Corp. office here last Thursday.

With a similar session held in Emo last Wednesday, and one for producers offered the previous day, the lunch-time event was a way to begin engaging area consumers.

Habinski brought many samples of local foods and products for consumers to check out.

And while the co-op is out of produce season, it still sells meats, cheeses, baking, and other foods online at www.cloverbeltlocalfoodcoop.com

Habinski also wanted to share with district residents what the co-op is, how it works, how you can join, and what your membership benefits are.

“People have lots of questions about how it works,” she conceded.

Although the co-op isn’t expected to start up here until January, it already has been running successfully in Dryden, Sioux Lookout, Ignace, Upsala, and Kenora.

“It’s like a farmers’ market but online,” Habinski noted.

She said producers list the products they have available to purchase while members can log in to choose from what’s in stock—filling their basket with whatever they want.

The order cycle is open from 2 p.m. every Saturday until 10 a.m. on Monday.

“There isn’t a check-out process,” Habinski said. “Whatever items are in your basket at 10 a.m. [on] Monday morning, you have purchased.”

Habinski said the producers then get to work preparing and packaging what has been purchased.

They transport the items to the central hub in Dryden, where the orders are sorted, combined, and then shipped to the regional food hubs in the surrounding communities for pick-up.

Payment for orders is made by cheque or Interac e-Transfer.

Delivery in Rainy River District likely will be on Wednesdays.

Habinski also demonstrated how the website works, with information provided on the producer, how much they have available, the price, ingredients, and even if it is fresh or frozen.

But in order to shop, you must be a member of the Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op, which costs $25 for a lifetime membership.

Fill out the online order form and submit payment via e-Transfer, cheque, or money order.

Local producers—farmers, gardeners, cooks, bakers, crafters, etc.—can purchase a lifetime producer membership for $50.

Habinski said despite not currently having a food hub here in Rainy River District, a few area producers already are taking part in the co-op.

But she expects once the hub starts up here, more local producers will be involved.

“We had a really good turnout for our producer session,” Habinski enthused. “Lots of producer interest is exactly what we want to see.

“As the producers gain interest, the consumers will come.”

She urged people to check out the products available on the website—you don’t have to have a membership to browse.

“We really do have everything under the sun,” Habinski remarked, noting the priority is that it is a local product.

“I think people will be amazed by the selection.”

The Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op aims to strengthen food security by encouraging diverse local food production, thereby enhancing overall rural sustainability.

It strives to foster a thriving local food community by:

  • cultivating and facilitating farmer-consumer relationships;
  • promoting the enjoyment of naturally-grown, fairly-priced healthy food; and
  • providing education and resources regarding environmentally-sensitive agriculture.

For more information, visit www.cloverbeltlocalfoodcoop.com

You also can join “Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op—Fort Frances/Emo members” on Facebook.

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