More than fifty years ago, Vancouver Island produced about 90% of the food it consumed. Today, the Island only supplies 10% of its food needs.
As one of the Island’s top food-producing regions, the Cowichan Valley has been proactive in looking into new and innovative strategies to support and grow the agri-food sector. In 2014, an ICET supported strategy provided recommendations to advance food processing and food security in the region. This led to initiatives such as an Incubator Seed Farm, Food Recovery Program and Land Match Program.
Led by Economic Development Cowichan, in partnership with the Small Scale Food Processors Association, this project takes the next step by consulting with regional food processors, beverage-sector producers, education and health institutions to quantify demand for local food inputs and identify production and processing that could be provided locally. Consultations will also inform infrastructure needs required to expand local food processing — such as future development of a quality assurance facility or shared processing centre.
Completed in April 2020, the Food Processing Action Plan will help producers and processors identify opportunities for value-added processing, and stimulate new production partnerships within the Cowichan Valley. The project will also determine the supports required for small producers to access larger markets, such as the institutional sector or large grocery chains, maximizing regional opportunities for food production, processing and distribution.