The launch of Thunder Bay's food strategy attracted quite a crowd, but some say attracting local farmers to the area won't be as easy.

Farmer Raili Roy has to work a second job to keep her small farm afloat.

"You need a lot of money behind you,” she said. “You either have to finance it through a bank, or you have to finance it over years through working — working two jobs at the same time, basically."

Building a farm from scratch is expensive, but that's just what nutritionist Catherine Schwartz-Mendez wants more people to do.

She said the region needs more farms because it's not healthy or safe to rely on food that's shipped in from China or Chile.

thunder bay food strategy launch

Dozens of people came out to attend the launch of Thunder Bay and District Health Unit's food strategy. (Melanie Ferrier/CBC)

"If the truck stopped tomorrow — because that's how most of our food comes here is by truck — how would we feed ourselves," she asked.

Schwartz-Mendez, who is a public health nutritionist with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit, said the new strategy will bring together food producers and policy makers . By working together, she hopes they'll be able to bring some much-needed support to entice more farmers to the area.

More young farmers needed

Local dairy farmer Bernie Kamphof said farmers are good at farming, but need help marketing their produce to local restaurants and grocery stores. 

The networks created through the Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy will make it easier to find buyers.

Food security is something the Health Unit has been working on since 1996.

Thora Cartlidge, a land use planner with the City of Thunder Bay says that, over the last eight years, the area has seen an increase in the number of small-scale farms. She said the problem is attracting young farmers.

"The average age of the farmer on those farms is probably early-50s. So, the challenge is, not so much land area ... [but] is to encourage more young people to take up farming."

Raili Roy added there are some great programs to support people who want to get into the farm business, but it's really hard to earn enough by selling produce to make a farm profitable.