After years of promises, the agriculture ministry has finally announced that local food producers and associations will have $2 million from the province for a new ‘buy local’ campaign, to promote local food in a variety of ways.
The announcement is welcome news for B.C. farmers, says Rhonda Driediger, chair of the B.C. Agriculture Council—but also for consumers.
She envisions the funding helping consumers to identify local products and where to find them when they’re in season, as well as helping growers get the word out when products are available and where.
It will also be helpful for educating people about why it’s important that they buy local products: because that supports local farmers and keeps that money in the local economy; in the community, she noted.
Unlike the Buy B.C. program which was cancelled in 2001, this campaign will be industry-led rather than government-administered, which Driediger was confident would ensure the money goes further.
Using new media to get the word out will also help to stretch dollars, she noted.
“People are paying more attention to where their food is coming from and how it’s produced, so this ties in well with that. They’re also showing much more interest in local farmer’s markets,” she added.
The funding would be available for such projects as in-store promotions, social media or web campaigns, smartphone apps, traditional advertising, on-product labelling and food-tourism maps, on a matching basis.
B.C. Fruit Growers Association general manager Glen Lucas said the announcement is welcome, even though not many details about the program are available yet.
“The concept of promoting local food is so important to every farm organization and packing plant that everyone will support it,” he commented.
Miles Prodan, executive-director of the B.C. Wine Institute, was enthusiastic about the possibilities for the money, since wine pairs well with most B.C. farm products, from shellfish and seafood to poultry and beef.
He envisions lots of opportunities for cooperative promotion of local wines with local food.
The funds will be administered by two provincial farm organizations: the Investment Agriculture Foundation will administer $1.5 million, while the BCAC will administer $500,000, with applications to be reviewed first by an industry advisory committee with diverse representation.
Final approval will come from a three-person panel from the ministry, the BCAC and IAF.
The fund is intended to provide promotion money for projects until May, 2014.
Details and application forms for the funding should be available on the ministry website in the coming weeks.