Mustard Seed Cooperative Grocery announced Friday it will receive exactly $117, 603 in funding from the Ontario government.

The funding is through Ontario's Local Food Fund, aimed at investing in initiatives that help promote products made in Ontario. The not-for-profit downtown grocery store, which is owned  and controlled by 1,400 members, has a focus to sell locally produced food and products back into the Hamilton community.

"This funding is important because it connects the producers of the best tasting, most nutritious and safest food in the world with consumers," said Ted McMeekin, Minister of Community and Social Services and MPP for Ancaster Dundas, Flamborough and Westdale.

"It’s important we be engaged in connecting dots, educating consumers and standing in solidarity with the farm community and those that want to celebrate the good products that they produce," he said.

The Mustard Seed Co-op connects with small-scale producers from around the region — everyone from cheesemakers, produce farmers, bakery owners and and potato chip suppliers — and gives them the opportunity to sell their products in a retail environment.

Graham Cubitt, president of the board of directors, said the funding will be used to bring together producers who sell their products in the store with urban consumers to help start a conversation about the local food industry.

Mustard Seed plans 'teaching kitchen'

"It's helping them understand why their purchasing makes a difference for farmers. It's also helping our farmers and producers understand what consumers want."

Already every Saturday producers and farmers come into the store to showcase and teach about their products. The co-op will also be launching what they called a "teaching kitchen," in which they plan to hosts workshops about things like healthy eating and fruit canning.

Bill Orosz is a farmer who sells his produce at the co-op.  He bought his farm when he was in his early twenties, in 1979. His farm, called Simpler Thyme, is located in Hamilton. "This is a really nice thing. It's just up the road, so it will be great,” he said. “It’s a good start at keeping things local.”

The Ontario agri-food sector contributes about $34 billion to the province’s economy and supports more than 740,000 jobs in Ontario. If families spend $10 more a week on local product, said McMeeken, it would add $3 billion more to the province's GDP.  

"The money we spend on our groceries stays in our community. The more that we can purchase products from local suppliers the more the economy and our community is sustained and nurtured through those purchases," said Cubitt.