With a $66,000 boost from the provincial government, Joanne Turnell of Ojo Eat Local hopes to establish a year-round food hub at the Wilson Street Farmers Market.
The grant money will be used to help Ojo move its mobile kitchen to a permanent location at 1632 Wilson St. W., Unit 3. Turnell said the kitchen will help more consumers buy local food year-round by giving farmers a place to sell their products, preserving excess produce and providing storage. It will also have the potential to become an agri-food hub that hosts educational events focusing on food preservation and local food, said Turnell.
“It’s a certified commissary kitchen, so we hope to facilitate and act as an incubator for start-up vendors who need a kitchen but might not have the capital,” she said.
MPP Ted McMeekin, who announced the grant money last week, said buying local food and supporting Ontario farmers helps stimulate growth in all areas of the agri-food industry.
“Helping to make Ontario’s agri-food sector stronger is part of our government’s economic plan to invest in people, build modern infrastructure and support a dynamic and innovative business climate,” said McMeekin.
Last year the Liberal government passed the new Local Food Act for Ontario, which established the Local Food Fund to support innovative projects like the new Ancaster venture, said McMeekin.
Turnell said the government grant was essential in making her dream become a reality.
“We couldn’t have done this without the support of the provincial government,” said Turnell. “(The act) is one of the best pieces of legislation to hit us in a long time.”
Along with funding, the Local Food Act sets goals to increase food awareness and boost sales, provides a tax credit to farmers who donate food to community organizations and sets out a Local Food Week during the first week of June.
Turnell said Ojo is looking for local sustainable companies to join its efforts to establish a food hub at the Wilson Street Farmers Market. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Wilson Street Farmers Market farmers market at 1632 Wilson St. W., Unit 3, is open year-round from 9 a.m to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.