Strengthening Local Food Hubs – Dryden ON

11:00 a.m. November 28, 2012
Best Western Plus, Dryden, Ontario

Participants – Linday Desaulniers, Tim and Carolle Eady, Mel Fisher, Charmon MacDonald – NTAB, Marcel Potter, Anita and Henry Rasmussen, Dave Rhyner, Ron Rhyner, Del Schmucker, Wilma Scott, Martin and Danielle Sherwood, Julie Slack, Jen Springett, Sonja Wainio – NTAB, Bob and Tim Wall, Beth Zurbrigg

Facilitators: Mirella Stroink, Connie Nelson, Phil Mount, Junlin Li, Cheryl Reid


PART 1: Strengths of the local food system


  • Natural resources provide favourable growing conditions: lots of sun, long days during the growing season, adequate rainfall, abundant non-polluted water supply, more heat units for growing corn and soybeans than Thunder Bay
    • Abundant and in-depth local knowledge of farming in the prehistoric Lake Agassi rich clay lakebed
    • Existing regional farming, abundance of cheap land available

Natural resources



  • Diversity of crops that can be grown in the Dryden area: wheat, oats, barley, carrots, potatoes and other diverse vegetables, sugar beets, and forest foods such as mushrooms sold fresh (including morels) and blueberries; fish with license as food source, wild rice with license and wild crafting of specialized native plant species
  • Diversity of meat sources that thrive in the Dryden area: cattle, pigs and chickens (also sheep and elk) buffalo, lamb.
  • Greenhouses: Provide local bedding plants (flowers and vegetables) and extend the growing season for fresh produce (mid-March without heating)
  • Community Gardens



  • Wabigoon First Nation processing  of wild rice
  • Shoal Lake – a privately owned wild rice processor:
  • Egg Grading station
  • Ground organic wheat flour  – wheat grown in Manitoba and milled in Kenora
  • Maple syrup
  • Number of young people who are getting into home baking and canning
  • Abundant and in-depth knowledge of value added canned and baked local produce
  • Meat share in local food boxes
  • Infrastructure: Have abattoirs Dryden and Fort Frances areas (but NO poultry either place) and butcher facilities
  • Variety of meat processes – elk including jerky, buffalo and lamb, sausages
  • Honey (bees/pollination)



  • Farmer’s Markets: They occur in Kenora every Wednesday, Sioux Lookout every other week on Friday, Dryden every other week on Thursday, Oxdrift every Saturday, (4-20 people are signed up – processors, producers, bakers crafts etc.).
    • Currently an owner-seller system
    • Distance to nearby communities where there are farmer’s markets
      • Dryden to Kenora – 110 km one way – held last Wednesday @ month June-September
      • Emo to Kenora – 150 km then Kenora to Dryden 110 km = total of 260 km one way.
      • Dryden to Sioux Lookout – every other Saturday market
      • Vermillion Bay
      • Dryden to Manitoba markets – 260 km (4 vendors/sellers currently come from Manitoba)
      • Number of FM vendors [food – total]: Oxdrift 4-20, Dryden 6-8, Sioux Lookout 5-6, Kenora 12-20 over 100 vendors in total,
        Ear Falls, Red Lake
  • Local Food Box program
    • It is run like a CSA only farmers do not get the money up front of the growing season.
  • Private sales from farm gate


Marketing and Community support

Close knit community where new local food initiatives are rapidly communicated throughout the community by word of mouth

  • Community interest in local food
  • Local media promotes local food inexpensively
  • Northwest Health Unit Support
    • Through messaging that local food is healthy
    • Have a web page that supports local food
    • Supports local logistics of promoting local food
    • Supports community gardening
    • Supports local food maps
    • Nutritious food basket costing
  • Cloverbelt market comes to Kenora, Dryden and Sioux Lookout
  • Various websites and facebook pages
  • Community posters
  • Home Hardware produces a ‘local food’ map



PART 2: Strengthening the local food system 

All participants engaged in a World Café exercise where ideas were developed for how to take the strengths of the local food system generated in Part 1 and create a forward looking vision for the Dryden local food system.

Notable quotes:

Greenhouses – sky’s the limit. 

Our climate is incredibly well-suited for something; we just haven’t decided what. 

Banks won’t even talk to us versus hunters. 

Not soil, not climate, not people – it is the bigger picture.  We have a bureaucratic policy entanglement.  

Marketing boards and supply management may not be helpful in the Dryden local farm area.

A reflection on history of the area: In 20s and 30s lots of viable productive farms in the area.  Local provincially supported agriculture representatives had lots of freedom to act on place-based strengths.  Farming was handled until the 1940’s through Northern Development and then Land and Forestry and then OMAFRA.  In early 1940’s, the Conservatives produced a policy that agriculture in the north was not viable.



  • Get underutilized cleared land back into production.
  • We need a process for transferring our existing knowledge of production and raising animals.
  • We need to improve our access to capital.
    • This includes modifications to access credit support for buying land by Farm Credit Canada
    • More accessible banks who currently won’t even support farm land loans but will support land loans for hunting purposes
  • We need to enhance availability of skilled labour that is affordable by farmers.
    • Make use of local high school co-op programs and high school community volunteer hours
    • Train Community Living and John Howard participants as farm assistants
    • Brokerage firm or process for matching available labour to farming activities including processing like canning and baking.
    • Enhanced Greenhouse production.  More greenhouses in the North is a key asset expansion as longer days in March means the sun provides most of the energy for heating the greenhouses.    For example, there are 6 greenhouses @ 100’ x 30’ where June market potatoes come from mid-March planting of seed potatoes in mostly unheated greenhouses.
      • Wabigoon First Nation also has a 100’ x100’ greenhouse but mostly trees not vegetables.
  • Need another way to track production.  Provincial farm registration costs $250.00 and only eligible to register if produce $7,000 or more.  Therefore, statistics on northern farming may not be capturing lots of the activity.
  • No incentive to register a farm because land is so cheap in the north that there is no incentive such as in southern Ontario or even in the Thunder Bay farming area to register one’s land to receive a tax break.
  • The local food system can be strengthened through finding ways to enhance income for farmers.  Farmers receive equal to amount that they received fifty years ago, whereas costs of supplies, equipment and fueled have risen steeply.


  • Marketing is key and the diversity of marketing channels needs to be expanded.
  • If one has a niche market, more income can be made from staying away from chain store marketing channels.
  • Red Lake has the potential to be a stepping off point for huge volumes of local food being distributed to the north
  • Road signs for local farms/farm gates and markets
  • We need to develop a more localized approach to access farming supplies, animal feeds, and fencing supplies.  The key is to develop locally a good manager.
  • Need to enhance consumers’ knowledge of local products.  Enhance our reputation.
  • Community place-based advertising can reinforce the connections between what we eat and healthy living.  Cost of local food may not be perceived as high if prevents future staggeringly expensive health care costs.
  • Through advertising campaigns assist families in taking control of what their children eat.
  • Develop new channels of marketing besides farmer’s markets.
  • Develop markets on farms.
  • Need a coop for sharing knowledge, sharing labour, selling and producing together for the greater group.



  • It was highlighted that a CSA model (community service agriculture) would be beneficial where the farmers are paid up front to reduce the risk to the farmer instead of the current Localvore scenario where the farmer is only paid upon production incurring all the risk –increase community faith/support in localism.
  • Extend the season by having adequate vegetable storage facilities especially root cellar type crops which grow well in the Dryden area – potatoes, carrots, turnips
  • Develop a multipurpose co-op type multimarket venue re art, processors like bakers.
    • One idea was the CAS multi-purpose building???
    • Kenora Community Living has an arts hub that could be used as a model
    • School bus conversion
  • Make an arrangement with a local store to sell excess surplus from Saturday Farmer’s Markets. There are currently no retail sales.  This contrasts to past practices before major chain stores came to the north and do their ordering through outside centralized facilities.
  • Suggestion that municipal law could develop a by-law that states that major grocery chains have to buy local food during the growing season.  Apparently, this is a provincial practice in Alberta.
  • Develop a van system for going to communities like Red Lake, Sioux Lookout, Kenora etc.  Currently individual producers and sellers are doing too much traveling.   Need a Food Express (like Fed Ex) system for the North. Another option is to apply to those hauling trailers travelling empty – offer to take products for a nominal fee (food/barter in kind).
  • Strengthen existing initiatives by Wabigoon First Nation so as to distribute local produce to the fly-in northern communities



  • Need infrastructure support between production and distribution including processing facilities and related storage.  We need placed based policies.  To obtain a local egg grading station costs $30,000 (province gave a $5,000 reduction) and it costs $40.00/month even if the egg grading station is not used.  Volume of business is limited by current quotas on number of egg layers a local farmer can have (currently 299).
  • Need mobile poultry abattoir for the North.  Currently, the only way one can sell a chicken is one that walks off the farm.
  • Strengthen local processing by drying foods such as local mushroom delicacies and blueberries.
  • Strengthen local processing by opening channels of export to northern communities and Northern Ontario region.
  • Need for cold storage.



  • Cooperative Model for producing, marketing, processing and distribution appeared to be a favourable next step for strengthening the local food system in the Dryden area.  There was lots of consensus for developing a network or system for pooling marketing, processing and distribution.  This cooperative could also handle management of local farming and processing supplies, as well as cold storage for vegetables.  Desired a good manager.
  • Policies often stemming from the provincial and even federal levels seem to be a major deterrent to local food system development in the North.  List of major policies impacting on local food systems –on the Northern Food Net website– may be helpful and point to areas for policy change advocacy.
  • Mirella shared our emerging Northern Food Net, described its major features and suggested that this on-line system may be of benefit as a knowledge mobilization tool for sharing and further building production, marketing, distribution and processing activities in the Dryden area.
  • There is a vast knowledge base that has developed around farming production (vegetables and animals) in the Dryden area.  There is a critical need for the emergence of an approach to capture and share this knowledge to strengthen future local food system development.