Finding truly local food just got easier!

When the Co-op began, as a buying club almost 40 years ago, the purpose was to provide it’s members with healthy, affordable foods that were not available locally. They would order from the coast, send a member down to pick up their bulk purchases and divide it amongst themselves. In many ways, this still describes much of the Co-op’s operations!

There is one very significant development since that time; the Co-op’s role as a key player in nurturing a healthy local economy. For decades we have been fulfilling this commitment by encouraging local farmers and natural food suppliers to retail their produce and products at the Co-op. But it’s not just about putting local products on the shelf. We’ve taken to heart the need to nurture local farms and businesses in a variety of ways, including:

  • mentoring new local food processors
  • providing subsidized or free advertising for local suppliers
  • celebrating and appreciating local suppliers

Starting in June 2013, we took this commitment to fostering new and existing local suppliers to the next level, when we created our True Local Program.

In May 2013, the Canadian Food Inspection Agencies announced a new interim definition of the word “Local.”  http://inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/other-requirements/claims-and-statements/local-food-claims/eng/1368135927256/1368136146333

The CFIA’s new ‘interim definition’ of local includes anything sourced anywhere in the Province and extends 50km across Provincial borders.

This definition allows marketers and retailers to brand products as local that were grown in markets that in some circumstances can be as far away as 3000kms.  This new definition is a radical departure from the old official definition which was limited to a 50 km radius around the retailer (with some very minor exceptions.)

The True Local Program

The Kootenay Co-op decided not to accept the CFIA definition of local. In response, we launched our “True Local” campaign, defined by the concepts of Bioregionalism. We now label foods and products purchased from our Bioregion as “True Local.”

 What’s a bioregion?

Bioregionalism is a political, cultural, and ecological system or set of views based on naturally defined areas called bioregions, similar to ecoregions.  Bioregions are defined through physical and environmental features, including watershed boundaries and soil and terrain characteristics. Bioregionalism stresses that the determination of a bioregion is also a cultural phenomenon, and emphasizes local populations, knowledge, and solutions.

Bioregional Purchasing Statement

Purchasing from our Bioregion is an investment in the future of our food security and the economy of the area that immediately surrounds us.  Every effort will be made to support agricultural and food processing initiatives in our bioregion that are in line with our Buying Guidelines and values.

 True Local Boundaries

  •  West to Grand Forks and Midway

  • East to the Creston Valley and the East Kootenays to Invermere and Fernie

  • North West to Nakusp including Arrow Lakes region

  • North East including Kaslo, Meadow Creek, Trout Lake, Argenta and Johnson’s Landing

  • South to the US border

As we grow, so does our potential to have a positive impact on local food systems, in line with our mission to provide high quality foods while investing in the social, environmental and economic sustainability of the community in which we operate.

True Local Coordinator

True Local Kootenay Co-op grew by leaps and bounds in 2015/2016 with the addition of Nadine Harris BenRabha, formerly of Kootenay Meadows Farm in Creston, as our True Local Coordinator. This is position intended to support our local farmers and suppliers, boost our Co-op’s sales of True Local products, and in turn boost the local economy. Nadine works across departments in areas of procurement, marketing and market development for True Local Products.

Member Support for True Local

Our members have voiced strong support for the True Local Program since its inception in 2012. The Co-op currently supports 138 True Local growers and suppliers with payments of more than $2 million annually. We are recruiting and developing more True Local suppliers all the time, in order to help us reach our goal of tripling our sales of True Local products by 2020

Why buy True Local?

Here are just a few reasons to buy food from small farms and local suppliers:

1. A recent study showed that fresh produce loses nutrients quickly. Food grown in our own community was likely picked within the past day or two. It’s crisp, sweet and loaded with flavour!

2. Our local farmer-suppliers are actively preserving plant genetic diversity. These heritage varieties may someday provide the genes needed to create varieties that will thrive in a changing climate.

3. Local food supports local farm families. Farmers supplying industrial food systems now get less than 10 cents of a retail food dollar. When food is grown, sold and consumed locally, the farmer is better able to earn a living wage.

4. Well-managed local farms preserve open space, fertile soil and clean water. The lush fields of crops and the picturesque red barns will survive only as long as farms are financially viable. When you buy locally grown food, you are doing something proactive about preserving the agricultural landscape.

5. Local food is about the future. By supporting local farmers today, you can help ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow, and that future generations will have access to nourishing, flavourful, and abundant food. We invite you to spend a little time getting to know your local farmers and suppliers and finding about about our True Local products. You can also learn a  lot about the issues affecting local agriculture and food security and how you can actively participate in their solutions!

Want to find out more about our True Local farmers and suppliers? Meet Farmers & Suppliers profiles.

Interested in becoming a True Local supplier? Find out more about retailing your product at your community-owned grocery store!