The Thunder Bay and Area Food and Agriculture Market Study

By Sarah Kerton

For years, many people and organizations have been collectively engaged in creating a healthy, equitable, and sustainable food system locally. The last decade has seen steady progress, from the adoption of the Thunder Bay Food Charter in 2008 to the creation and adoption of the Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy in 2014. The Strategy identified seven “pillars” of a sustainable food system for our area: food access, forest and freshwater foods, food infrastructure, food procurement, food production, school food environments, and urban agriculture.

Getting a comprehensive picture of local food demand was one of the major priority projects identified in the Food Strategy’s 2015 Implementation Plan. With the support of 13 local agricultural associations and economic development organizations, and funded in part by Growing Forward 2, (a federal-provincial-territorial initiative), the Thunder Bay and Area Food and Agriculture Market Study (FAMS) has recently been awarded to a consultant. Previous studies have demonstrated the importance of the agricultural sector for our regional economy, but there is a lack of information that would assist in the growth of agricultural businesses. FAMS will fill this gap by producing a more detailed analysis.

“FAMS will discover the demand for locally grown and processed food by sector. Research will be conducted on the size of the existing market as well as the types and volumes of locally grown food being processed and purchased,” according to Amy Bumbacco, food strategy coordinator. “It will determine critical price points, general purchasing habits and preferences, and overall patterns of consumption, and try to determine the interest in and capacity for procuring more locally grown and processed foods.”

It is hoped that the results will enable farmers and entrepreneurs to develop new businesses to fill gaps in the market, leading to new job creation and retention. The information will also help to better target related funding and programming of banks, government officials, farmers themselves, and economic development organizations. The consultant will have staff out interviewing people over the next few months. If you happen to run into one, engage in an interview and take part in the market study research.

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