Manitoba announces support to bring farmers’ markets online
Manitoba joins other provinces in offering financial support to bring producers and farmers markets online.
By Stephanie Gordon
The governments of Canada and Manitoba will be supporting a project to help more local food producers and farmers’ markets sell their products online.
The governments will provide a total of $160,000 to Direct Farm Manitoba to purchase a software platform that will allow Manitobans to order food online from local producers and farmers’ markets. The funding will also go toward the development of a network of pickup and delivery options, and the development of COVID-19 safe handling and packaging practices for producers and processors.
“Increasing access to Manitoba’s diverse selection of foods grown or processed in the province will build resiliency in our food system and proactively address concerns about food insecurity,” said Blaine Pedersen, resource development minister, in a released statement. “Developing new marketing options at a time when important outlets such as restaurants, retail and farmers’ markets are disrupted will help strengthen distribution of local food to Manitoba customers.”
“It has never been more important for our food supply to be reliable and diverse,” said Phil Veldhuis, president of Direct Farm Manitoba, in a released statement. “We have been working hard to connect consumers directly to local farmers. We appreciate this investment to reinforce our local food system at this time of crisis.”
Direct Farm Manitoba is member-owned cooperative of direct marketing farmers and farmers’ markets, representing the small scale farm sector of the province. The cooperative works with markets and farmers across the province, many in rural areas. Their website provides a list of farms and farmers’ markets, much like other farmers’ market associations, and details operating hours, location and contact information.
“We are working to help our farmers and markets get online and making significant upgrades to our website and directory in order to facilitate a smooth process for customers to reach farmers and markets. Some of our markets have already transitioned online and are offering both online and in person sales, using the Local Line software (a Canadian company offering an online platform for farmers and markets),” wrote Kristie Beynon, general manager of Direct Farm Manitoba, in an email response when asked about the online transition.
Other provinces have also announced supportive measures to help producers move online.
In March, the B.C. government provided $55,000 to The B.C. Association of Farmers’ Markets (BCAFM) to cover fees for individual farmers markets to set up their online stores. British Columbians can find a farmers’ market near them and see which markets have launched online operations in the weeks and months ahead at: bcfarmersmarkettrail.com. Some markets that have moved online also use Local Line, the same software Beynon mentioned some Manitoba producers are using.
The software platform allows producers to set up virtual storefronts, manage inventory and plan deliveries. Farmers and the markets handle the delivery logistics. In some cases, markets are offering pick-up at their location or delivering directly. Other software platforms include Mrs. Grocery, Open Food Network, Shopify, among other potential platforms. At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, some markets were accepting orders through delivery forms over email.
Earlier this week, Ontario invested $2.5 million to help its provincial agri-food sector expand online. It developed two funding streams that producers could apply for: one that provided a grant of up to $5,000 and another stream that provided cost-share funding of up to $75,000 for larger projects. The funding can help with costs such as the development (or expansion) of an online marketing/sales platform, website design, marketing, minor facility modifications, among other costs associated with transitioning to a new market channel.
The funding for Manitoba and Ontario is provided through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. In B.C. the government funding is part of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Buy BC program.