When I first started my food processing company, Local Pulse, in Kamloops in 2018, I immediately struggled with the lack of commercial kitchens available to rent and the lack of business mentorship that focused on the unique needs of food entrepreneurs.
I was able to rent a local church kitchen to start out, but the growth of my business was limited. I had to bring my ingredients, equipment and final product back and forth each time and store everything at home. These conditions were fine for selling at the farmers market, but would not permit me to sell in retail or online. Starting my own facility was too much risk to take on at such an early stage in my business journey, I needed some kind of in-between option.
The Kamloops Food Policy Council approached me in 2019 to participate in their Food Hub Pilot Project. I received group and one-on-one food-focused business coaching in a cohort of local food entrepreneurs that were at a similar stage in their business development as me. By the end of the 3-month course, I had a network of like-minded business owners to rely on and had gotten my products on the shelves of my first retail stores in Kamloops! I instantly knew that a food hub was what our community needed to support our small-scale food businesses and encourage more to start.
Food hubs can take on different models in different places. The core goal is to provide shared-use facilities for food and beverage processing, storage and distribution as well as services and resources to support business development and growth.
In spring of 2021, the Kamloops Food Policy Council was one of 12 BC communities to be awarded $800,000 by the BC Ministry of Agriculture to expand our Kamloops Food Hub and build our own shared processing facility as part of the BC Food Hub Network. It was a no-brainer for me to apply for the Food Hub Coordinator position to help the cause.
The Kamloops Food Hub project is unique in that our decentralized food hub network is more than just a building. In our first phase we helped fund the new Gardengate Training Centre with a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen to be shared between food hub members and Gardengate’s horticultural therapy program, as well as the Kweseltken Kitchen, a mobile food processing trailer that services rural indigenous communities.
Our next phase of the project is the implementation of our own food processing and innovation centre, called The Stir. We leased a 4,500 square foot building on Kamloops’ North Shore at 185 Royal Avenue and hired Acres Enterprises, who built the Gardengate Training Centre, to take on the renovations.
Using our market research from our pilot project, we determined that the demand was highest in our region for canning and dehydration equipment. The Stir kitchen will focus on these food preservation methods and house a 40 gallon steam kettle, semi-automatic filling line and commercial dehydrators with over 170 square feet of drying space.
This gluten-free, HACCP-eligible facility will be ideal for processors making sauces, pickles, jams, jellies, jerky, dried fruit and dried vegetable products. A small-scale sauce producer will be able to scale-up their business from a few dozen jars per day to over 1000 jars per day, giving them more time to work on their business, rather than in it. Also available for Food Hub Members at The Stir will be a convection oven, tilting skillet, walk-in cooler, dry storage and warehouse storage.
Located right off the bustling Tranquille Market Corridor, The Stir will provide a consumer retail experience in our “Stirfront”. The community will be able to purchase locally made food products, pick up CSA boxes and meat orders from local farms, peruse our organic seed library and participate in workshops. Out back, our riverfront parking lot will be home to outdoor food truck dining and live events to help bring our community together over the sharing of good food.
Our Gardengate kitchen is currently available to rent and The Stir will be opening in January, 2022. If you are interested in becoming a Food Hub Member, please contact me at: email@example.com or call 778.870.9867.