GULF ISLANDS CO-OP to support Food Producers and Island Sustainability!

Heartwood Folk School was grateful to receive a previous Vancity grant, for initial exploration of a Gulf Islands CO-OP and CALENDAR that began with producers of educational, artistic, and other events.

Now we’ve had further consultation with key stakeholders and CO-OP experts, and also confirmed a new CRD Community Works grant!  This grant is for Heartwood to assist with collaborative planning of the best possible GULF ISLANDS CO-OP that will prioritize: (A) the Southern Gulf Islands (SGI) Electoral Area (Pender, Mayne, Galiano, Saturna); (B) primary support for farmers and food producers, as in the new SGI Food and Agriculture Strategy; and (C) additional cooperation for community, economic, and environmental sustainability, as in the new SGI 2020 Strategic Plan.

However, the GULF ISLANDS CO-OP conversation is just starting!  We begin by honouring and inviting participation with the Coast Salish peoples whose traditional territories are the Gulf Islands.  Secondly, supporting NEW farmers and island residents are key.  Thirdly, where the primary goal of supporting Southern Gulf Islands food producers is best served by the new CO-OP including additional Gulf Islands and other types of producers (e.g. Craft, Arts, Education), then this will definitely be explored.

We’re already having related discussions with representatives of the Southern Gulf Islands (SGI) Community Economic Sustainability Commission, its Food & Agriculture Steering Committee, and other key stakeholders, because they agree that…

GULF ISLANDS CO-OP has great potential to support food producers and island sustainability!

1st step:  We invite all interested food producers, other producers, and other supporters to REGISTER your interest in hearing more about this CO-OP initiative (see who’s registered so far).

2nd step:  Anyone registered can also ADD A FREE LISTING to the Gulf Islands Calendar.  FOOD GROWERS – we invite you to post an OPEN HOUSE DAY as an event!

3rd step:  The GULF ISLANDS CO-OP Project Coordinator and Outreach Coordinator (funded by the CRD grant) will make it easy for food producers and other key stakeholders to give feedback and discuss which of the needs already identified by the Southern Gulf Islands Food & Agriculture Strategy can and should be prioritized for potential CO-OP actions.  These supportive actions could vary between islands.  Some of the needs identified thus far include greater access to agricultural land and other infrastructure, capacity building re: food storage, transportation, marketing, and sustainable selling (i.e. reflecting true costs to the farmer), advocacy on behalf of farmers, and education about food growing and island sustainability.

4th step:  Then the Project Coordinator and Outreach Coordinator will also facilitate interested food producers and key stakeholders giving feedback and discussing which particular CO-OP structure is supported by them, e.g. non-profit vs. for-profit co-op, producer co-op with supporting consumers vs. producer + consumer members, whether/how to include additional producers for the greater benefit of Southern Gulf Islands food producers, and more.  This kind of collaborative planning is needed before a CO-OP can be incorporated.

5th step:  As Southern Gulf Islands food growing capacity continues to develop, the GULF ISLANDS CO-OP could in future follow the model of the successful Oklahoma Food CO-OPOttawa Valley Food Co-op (both including artisans for cross-promotion) and the Cowichan Valley Cow-op, all of which make use of online multi-vendor ecommerce.  This could be to connect our amazing island food growers with additional food consumers, in ways that sustain our islands and all of us!

REGISTER NOW to receive email updates and to help shape what happens next.  There will be upcoming meetings on each of the Southern Gulf Islands, and other opportunities to make it easy for you to be heard.  In the interim, we invite your questions and feedback to  Let us know how this new CO-OP can best help you!