Local food study shows Thunder Bay farmers, producers have room to grow

Thunder Bay, Ont. farmers, and food producers have some new information that they can take to the bank, when they're looking to expand.

Information will help local farmers and producers in forming expansion plans, seeking loans

Amy Bumbacco, food strategy coordinator for EcoSuperior in Thunder Bay, Ont., said a study of the local market indicated that the primary reason businesses and consumers buy local food, is a desire to support the local economy.

Thunder Bay, Ont. farmers, and food producers have some new information that they can take to the bank, when they're looking to expand. 

On Thursday, the Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy released the results of its Thunder Bay and Area Food and Agriculture Market Study. 

The report takes a close look at the demand for food that's grown or made in the area, and points to areas of potential growth. 

"So this information puts real numbers on paper, that farmers can actually, really use to grow more crops ... or process more products; and they can use this research to go to different areas for financial backing," said Amy Bumbacco, the food strategy coordinator with EcoSuperior, one of the partners is the study.

While there was previous anecdotal evidence that there was significant demand for local food, farmers and producers didn't have those hard numbers to back it up until now, she said. 

The study also provides information on the types and quantities of food that businesses and organizations are shipping in, that could potentially be grown locally. 

That list of potential growth opportunities includes everything from tonnes of potatoes to tens of thousands of eggs.

"We also looked at how organizations and businesses prefer their food to be processed and packaged," she said. For example, "restaurants, if they were to purchase local mozzarella, they would need it to be cubed and in 2 kg bags." 

Bumbacco said they also learned that the primary motivation reported for buying local food, was to support the local economy. 

The study drew on interviews with various stakeholders in the food sector, surveys of consumers at the Thunder Bay Country Market and a focus group with producers and vendors at the Thunder Bay Country Market.