BRAS D’OR – A new store is hoping to make it easier for you to fill your plate with local produce.
The Pan Cape Breton Food Hub Co-operative, which has been operating as an online marketplace for about six years now, has now opened a retail store in Bras d’Or.
âWe really aim to make it easier for anyone who wants to be able to source local food,â said Alicia Lake, Executive Director of the Food Hub, at the store’s opening on Saturday.
âI think (the online market) is really good for a bunch of people, but we’ve always realized there’s also a need for a physical retail store for people who want to come in and actually watch their own. vegetables and choose things like that. “
YEARS OF MANUFACTURING
The Food Hub works with more than 50 local farms and food producers to provide a distribution link between producers and consumers with the goal of creating a more sustainable community food system.
Customers can purchase children’s meals as well as individual products from local producers online and in-store. The Food Hub now also offers a full-size kitchen for rent behind the store.
âWhen we talk about eating locally, we are talking about immediately reducing the carbon footprint of shipping food here, which is huge,â Lake said. âBut we also support small farmers who use more environmentally sustainable practices. “
She said many of the Food Hub growers use organic and chemical-free practices as well as compostable containers for microgreens.
Lake said planning for the Food Hub’s physical store has been going on for as long as the operation is underway.
âSo it’s really nice to see this dream come true and to see so many people interested in buying local produce in so many different ways,â said Lake.
A NEW LOCAL STOP
âI think it’s a value-added product for the community,â said Shaun O’Neill of Ben Eoin, who was visiting the store on the day it opened. “I think it will be good for the community to be able to have a place where farmers can come and store their produce, and then we can come and shop as we please.”
O’Neill said he believed the pandemic caused people to miss local stores like the Food Hub.
âI honestly think people want to go out more and want to come back toâ¦ fresh produce, instead of shipping and buying it. I think that’s the only thing, during the pandemic, that we learned. We have learned to slow down and take advantage of what we have.
Joel Inglis, from Sydney, was also in the store on the day it opened and said he appreciated having the opportunity to purchase individual products locally.
âOh, that’s awesome,â Inglis said. âWe’re members of the Food Hub, so we’ve been buying Food Hub products online for years, and it’s really interesting to see it all in person. “
Inglis said he believes the pandemic has increased interest in sourcing food locally and regional food independence because of the many unique supply chain issues it has created.
âIf it’s really hard to ship things from afarâ¦ well, being a little more resilient with local foods is going to help us in the long run, and it’s really great to be able to support local businesses. “
CROSSING THE PANDEMIC
Katie MacLeod, who is on the Food Hub board of directors, said she noticed a slight increase in purchases from the Food Hub during the pandemic.
âWe saw a lot of adoption, locally, and an interest in local food because people saw there were like beef shortages due to COVID outbreaks at processing plants in Alberta, for example. MacLeod said.
âSo we saw people buying more local meat because they saw that these supply chains could be disrupted. So it’s really exciting that we’ve been able to get through the pandemic, even though we’ve had a lot of delays, and that we have this grand opening today. ”
MacLeod said it was a “multi-year” process to find a building that would work for the Food Hub and the funding to support its opening.
âPeople started coming before we opened today, so they were just pouring in here,â Lake said. âWe were really overwhelmed and so excited and really grateful to the community for supporting us, for supporting the farmers, for supporting all the food producers who make this possible.
âI think it really shows that the people of Cape Breton really care about supporting the local economy, by supporting other people who are doing really good things like growing food for people. So it’s really nice to see this local support.
The Pan Cape Breton Food Hub retail store is open Thursday through Sunday and is located at 1415 Hwy. 105 at Bras d’Or.
Jessica Smith is an environment, climate change and natural resources reporter for the Cape Breton Post.