New facility to serve as public space for expanding food processing, storing and training opportunities
COURTENAY, 1 April 2021 – The Cowichan Green Community has received funding through the Island Coastal Economic Trust’s (ICET) Economic Infrastructure and Innovation Program (EIIP) to develop a shared-use food processing facility and distribution centre, allowing value-added transformation for small agri-businesses.
The project is part of the recently announced trio of provincially funded food hubs on Vancouver Island (Cowichan Valley, Bowser and Victoria), which are now included in the province-wide network of training and processing facilities. The Cowichan Community Commercial Kitchen will target small scale famers, food processors and other organizations requiring access to a certified commercial kitchen to help scale their products to market.
“Supporting the agri-food sector through value-added processing and innovation are key strategic priorities for the Trust and a main contributor to rural economic development,” says ICET Board Chair Aaron Stone. “This new kitchen will reduce barriers to access, encourage the consumption of BC products and ensure food security, while also helping build sector resiliency in the region.”
The project builds on two previous feasibility studies, including a 2017 ICET-funded report on “Creating Climate Change Resilience”, that outline the need to increase access to certified commercial kitchen facilities, as well as cold and dry storage for food processing in the region. Project funding will be used for construction of the commercial kitchen, as well as acquisition of the required specialty equipment such as the specialty food processing equipment.
“Value-added food transformation is an area with tremendous growth potential in the Cowichan region,” says Judy Stafford, Executive Director of the Cowichan Green Community. “This project is filling a need for small scale farmers and food processors who often don’t have the financial means and equipment to set up individual commercial kitchens or to purchase specialty equipment to develop new food processing products.”
The Cowichan Green Community has supported several successful social enterprises, over the years, dedicated to support agriculture, education and value-added processing in the region. The current project builds on the synergy created by their Garden Education Centre.
ICET is contributing $30,000 towards the project’s overall budget of $698,900. Work is expected to get underway shortly.