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Really Local Harvest Co-op part of local food movement in NB

Sunday, September 9 2012

THINK LOCAL

By Trudy Kelly Forsythe
The Atlantic Co-operator July / August 2012

In the 2008 document Local Food Initiatives in Canada: An Overview and Policy Recommendations, the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) defined local food initiatives as “food organizations, activities and businesses that support the creation of local food systems in which food is grown, processed and sold within the same geographical region.”

A year later, results of a study conducted for the CCA from September 2008 to January 2009 revealed over 2,300 local food in Canada. Three-hundred-and-fifty of them were in Atlantic Canada; 227 of them were organized as co-ops.

Formed in 1998, and established as a co-operative in 2000, Really Local Harvest Co-op in southeastern New Brunswick was one of them. This non-profit agricultural co-op’s main mandate was, and remains, to promote its members and their locally grown products. It also promotes sustainable agriculture and speaks as a unified voice for members when necessary.

Dieppe Market
In 2005, the co-op started, and still operates, the popular Dieppe Market and its 29 members produce greenhouse products, vegetables, fruit, cheese and livestock. In recent years, the co-op hired a full-time executive director, Mathieu D’Astous, and public relations person, Nicole Briand – important steps in moving the co-op forward, according to Really Local Harvest Co-op president Kent Coates.

Coates operates Natures Route Farm with his wife Ruth in Sackville. He is following in his parents’ footsteps both by farming for a living – they operated a strawberry U-Pick in the Sackville area – and as a member of Really Local Harvest. “My parents, now retired, grew strawberries and were members,” says Coates. “We bought a farm in the same area. I went to some meetings with my father and saw the potential in belonging to the co-op. The members are good people and there is not another horticulture association in New Brunswick.”

Good for farm
He felt being a member of the co-op would be good for the farm. The work with Nicole has been particularly good, with the creation of the co-op’s website and other promotion of members and their products. “We have gained from the advertising and from the networking with like-minded farmers,” says Coates, who has been growing vegetables and lamb on Natures Route Farm since 2007. They sell nost of their vegetables as weekly Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) vegetable boxes, one of those rapidly growing local food initiatives.

“The next few years are going to be challenging and exciting in agriculture,” says Coates. “With ever diminishing services for farmers having a network like Really Local Harvest helps producers share knowledge, resources and provides us with a network of friends to call when the going gets tough. Really Local has brought our members together and I think collectively we will be much more successful.”

10 Original Members
Roger Richard of Green Thumb Farm in Acadieville was one of 10 original members of the co-operative. He says creating that support network was the impetus behind organising the co-op in the first place. “it helped local farmers work together and that’s something farmers don’t do well,” says Richard. “They think other farmers are their competition and they aren’t. “We produce 20 per cent or less of the food eaten here; the rest of the produce is brought in. Forming the co-op was one of the best things to happen to local farmers.”

Really Local Harvest Co-op members must be registered as agriculture producers in the southeastern region of New Brunswick. Membership fees range between $250 and $650 and are dependent on a farm’s size and revenues.

For more information, including a list of producers involved in Really Local Harvest and a harvest calendar to see what is in season when, visit: http://recoltedecheznous.com.

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