In person interviews and site visit August 16, 2011, Lee-Ann Chevrette
* Two full-time and three part-time positions
* Share resources, including office and retail space, with another organization to control costs
* Direct links to farmers
Allison was one of the original members of the group that started Eat Local Sudbury in 2006. She had recently completed a Craft Farm apprenticeship and was very interested in the concept of the hundred mile diet. She wanted to eat local and began working to figure out where to source local food in the Sudbury area. Between September 2005 and March 2006 Allison and her partner did a 150 mile diet; the research they did in order for them to source local foods was the foundation for Eat Local Sudbury.
Initially, two farms came together to discuss doing a CSA. They applied for and received approximately $500 to print brochures for promotion of the CSA. Two farms did a CSA in 2006 and 2007. They received federal funding through the Cooperatives Development Initiative in 2007 to conduct a feasibility study and then from FedNor in 2008 to open a local food retail outlet. The main vision was to create a food hub, and to increase the accessibility and availability of local food.
Eat Local Sudbury was incorporated in November 2007. The first board consisted of five members. They conducted a feasibility study to explore the feasibility of having a stall at the farmers market and not an actual storefront location. Once the study was complete, they began with stalls at the farmers’ market and, based on that success, opened a storefront location in downtown Sudbury once the farmers’ market closed for the season. In 2008 Allison was the paid coordinator for Eat Local Sudbury (funding through FedNor). They also had two job creation partnership positions through Employment Ontario. At that time they had one outdoor booth and two indoor booths at the Sudbury farmers market.
They began wondering what to do once the market was finished and so, with funding through FEDNOR, they moved into a downtown location. They then received a Trillium grant for three years, which paid for a coordinator. There are several local producers that continue to sell their products through ELS. Approximately 20% of the produce that goes to the store is from Dalew Farms in Lavigne, Ontario; however, Dalew have supplied approximately 80% of the produce sold at the market.
Maureen was hired as the new coordinator in March 2011. She came from Nova Scotia with a background in community development, social enterprise, and business. She comes to the organization in the third year of a three-year Trillium grant; she describes her challenge as establishing the organization as independent from external funding, and creating a model of self-sufficiency.
Currently ELS receives an NOHFC-funded intern, who acts in the capacity of Institutional Purchasing Coordinator, a Canada summer job student, who acts as Market Produce Assistant, an ONFresh/GreenBelt Fund-funded part-time employee for deliveries, and a Wikwemiking First Nation-funded position to run the store. They essentially have five positions in the summer; this will drop down to three in the fall.
The organization is evolving; it is established as a co-op. It provides local food to consumers, acts as a business incubator for growth of existing and aspiring local producers, and provides consumer education.
ELS was the first food co-op in northern Ontario. At the time that it was started it was very unique to have a store that was selling strictly locally produced goods. Also, it was unique in that it was started by farmers and consumers collectively; originally 50% of the Board was made up of farmers.
ELS currently has five staff members: one full-time coordinator (Maureen), one full-time one year intern, one summer intern, one part-time delivery driver, and one summer student position. They source locally produced food products from numerous local producers.
Eat Local Sudbury has a storefront location; they share the building with ReThink Green at 176 Larsh Street in downtown Sudbury. They have a van which they have retrofitted for deliveries, several fridges and freezers, computers, and a point-of-sale system. They have only one phone line for five staff members, which is some times problematic. Maureen feels they need to invest in better communications and marketing. Maureen feels that in terms of long term sustainability, ELS should consider purchasing real estate.
They have received significant funding . Currently ELS has funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Greenbelt Fund, NOHFC for an internship and the Cooperative Development Initiative.
ELS has a partnership with ReThink Green. They share office space and other resources. They provide office space for the Food Charter Animator, and the Good Food Box Coordinator. ELS collaborated with the Social Planning Council of Sudbury and the Sudbury Food Connections Network on a Trillium grant. ELS is planning to build a walk-in cooler.
Co-op Boreal runs out of College Boreal, and they do institutional purchasing through ELS. ELS also sells to Science North, and Laurentian University. There are also members of Ontario Natural Food Co-Op.
Community resources/assets we would like to be connected to
ELS would like to explore more opportunities for institutional purchasing. For example, Co-op Boreal provides food to the francophone daycares in the area and ELS may be able to provide food for them. ELS would also like to tap into social enterprise and cooperative funding streams, and to explore opportunities to be a training ground for employability skills.
One of the key constraints is that there is inconsistency because a new intern is hired every year. They are relying on externally funded positions and so there is a lack of consistency. There is also too much work for the amount of staff that they currently have.
Allison feels that it is difficult to have a co-op that includes farmers/producers and consumers. Farmers are exceedingly busy during the summer months and they have little time to participate. She feels the organization is going through a natural evolution, and is focusing on developing more policy and procedures now. It is evolving from a grassroots group.
There is some difficulty in involving farmers in the operations of the co-op. They have significant time constraints and traditional meetings do not work well. Allison suggested that the farmers could perhaps form an advisory group or have one farmer representative that meets with the board.
Coordinating vegetable production with multiple producers is also a challenge, and it is difficult to keep things fresh in the store. What is required is better communication and coordination.
It is also difficult to keep things in stock because of irregular hours at the abattoir and irregular deliveries.
Currently, the bulk of revenue in the store comes from value-added products and meat, as opposed to the produce. If they didn’t have an NOHFC intern to manage and sell the produce, they could not cover the costs.
Maureen feels that one of the greatest barriers has been a lack of long term visioning, and a business plan to ensure the viability of the initiative beyond the term of its external funding.
Eat Local Sudbury appears to be very well-regarded; many other organizations and academic institutions have approached them to study their structure and their approach to building a local food co-op. They have managed to put local food in Sudbury on the map and get the community talking about supporting local producers. Eat Local Sudbury has also been instrumental in increasing traffic at the local farmers market.
In Sudbury, the producer community is very small, so this may be relevant to other small communities. Other cooperatives, such as the True North Community Co-op, have explored the model used by Eat Local Sudbury, and have used this information to inform some decisions in developing their own initiative.
Eat local Sudbury has a website (