Sudbury·Audio

College Boreal research project looks to grow local food connections

Two post-secondary schools are researching how they can better help local farmers and producers keep up with demand following the pandemic. Many farmers and producers are seeing a spike in demand for locally sourced food.

Researchers have already created an interactive map of local producers and contact information

A northern Ontario research project aims to develop marketing strategies for agri-food businesses to ensure continued economic durability and food security in the post-pandemic period. (Budimir Jevtic/Shutterstock)

Two post-secondary schools are researching how they can better help local farmers and producers keep up with demand following the pandemic. Many farmers and producers are seeing a spike in demand for locally sourced food.

College Boreal has partnered with the University of Guelph, and several agri-food sector organizations to research the strategies food producers use to reach consumers during the pandemic.

Robin Craig is the director of research and innovation at College Boreal in Sudbury. She says researchers are compiling the strategies, but are also looking for ways to keep the momentum going.

"[We want] to really identify the specific needs and challenges that have been faced collectively by these agri-businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak ... to look at some of the strategies they're using to meet current consumer demand [and to] to measure the effectiveness of these strategies."

Craig says the researchers have already created an interactive map which lists local producers and how consumers can connect with them.

"It will allow consumers to see how they can connect with the different farms and the different producers," she said.

"So really we're just trying to look to certain heightened connectivity within the food system and between the businesses and consumers."

Craig says the research will compile the strategies in a resource of best practices and look for ways to keep the momentum going.

"People really looking to support local businesses ... especially local farms and producers. Because of social distancing requirements at the time ... we couldn't have markets that can connect community gardens. So I think consumers are really interested in trying to support the farms and businesses that they had supported previously."

Initially, the partners will work with producers to understand the issues brought about by the COVID crisis and apply new practices to provide adequate support to production, distribution and marketing activities, while also preventing the risk of shortages in future pandemics.

In the second phase, the longer term focus will be to develop recommendations and marketing strategies for agri-food businesses to ensure continued economic durability and food security in the post-pandemic period.

College Boreal, the University of Guelph and some agri-food sector organizations are collaborating to conduct research into how farmers and producers in northern Ontario had to change strategies during the pandemic to reach consumers. Robin Craig is the director of research and innovation at College Boreal. She joined us to talk about the research and how will help farmers in the future. 7:50

With files from Angela Gemmill

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