A new food processing facility has officially launched in the Creston Valley, offering farmers the chance to craft new products in a more affordable way.
The Kootenay Farms Regional Food Hub and Innovation Centre is a project that was initiated by Fields Forward Society, a group working to build a vibrant agri-food system locally.
The project was jointly funded with $800,000 from the provincial government and an additional $150,000 from Columbia Basin Trust to purchase commercial scale equipment.
“The Columbia Basin Trust has provided Fields Forward with tremendous support over the last three years,” said Elizabeth Quinn, executive director of Fields Forward Society.
“We couldn’t have succeeded with this Food Hub initiative without their ongoing interest and support in food security and farming.”
The Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Lana Popham was in attendance for the grand opening at 401 Payne Street on Oct. 15, as her first visit to Creston since she took her position in 2017.
“The Kootenay Farms Regional Food Hub is bringing new opportunities to local businesses and strengthening food security, allowing more people to enjoy made-in-B.C. food and beverage products,” said Popham.
“The food hub network is growing all over the province creating jobs, supporting farming and skills training, and building up communities. I can’t wait to see the innovation and flavours that come out of the Kootenay region.”
The processing facility, which has been talked about for over a decade, provides the opportunity to diversify and create products with a longer shelf life, such as fruit juices, jams, jerky, and salsas.
The facility is available to rent by farmers and producers at an affordable price. Some of the equipment on hand includes dehydrators, blenders, mills for dry foods, and kettles and pasteurizers for wet foods. Fields Forward staff will also be available on a fee-for-service basis to provide support in aggregation, distribution service, and sales support.
Currently, the Food Hub has one producer utilizing the equipment to package juice and another farmer has an acre of pumpkins ready to make into soup.
In the early winter, peach and plum jam will be made in the commercial kitchen and then bottled, coded, and labeled on site.
Not only will the Food Hub increase the locally-made food and beverage options available in the region, it will also create job opportunities and encourage collaboration between producers to expand their offerings.
Farmers and food processors from across the Columbia Basin region will have access to the food processing facility starting this week.
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