Peg City Partners: Fireweed Food Co-op

Introducing Fireweed, Winnipeg’s first co-operative Food Hub: an aggregator and wholesale distributor of locally produced vegetables, meats, honey, grains, and other food products. Featuring as many food puns as I can mustard.

If you carrot all about local food and are feeling cheesed about globalization and industrialized food. If you are ready to squash exploitative labour conditions and plant the seeds of a resilient food future for Manitoba?

Too many puns? Kale stop.

Still stewing over how to get local food to local people? Try a Food Hub (its delicious!)

Friendly tip: if you’re reading this post and wondering “is that how that word is spelt?” it may be a pun.

So what even is a Food Hub?

Conor with Camille Metcalfe of Norwest Co-op

Fireweed Food Hub is the wholesale food distributor of Fireweed Food Co-op, a non-profit, multi-stakeholder co-op with two types of members: producers and supporters of local food.

The Food Hub works by gathering (aggregating) products from its producer members to sell to buyers like community centers, restaurants, and grocery stores.

The Food Hub uses an online ordering system: co-op members can sell their produce through the website, while buyers place weekly orders. Fireweed then collects the food and makes weekly deliveries.

Dill-iveries are made using our fancy new ford 150 Transit. Right now this cargo van has enough space for a whole weeks orders. We hope it wont be long untill they’ll need 2 vans!

Carsharing has been particularity useful for the Food Hub as they kick off their pilot year! Due to fairly common grant funding restrictions, the Food hub is not able to purchase a delivery vehicle. However, they are able pay for metered travel expenses, which includes carshare rentals!

A Peg City membership can be soup-er helpful to smaller organizations looking to get in at the grass roots and scale slowly.

Get in touch with Peg City Car Co-op to find a plan that suits your small business, or non-profit!

Fireweed Food Hub in action

It may not feature the romance of a farmers market, but the folks at Fireweed Food Hub are doing tangible work within communities across Winnipeg.

Every week, wholesale buyers place orders from Friday to Monday, using the co-op’s online ordering system. Once orders close, they send order details to their local producers, who bring bulk orders to the warehouse on Tuesday. Early Wednesday morning, Fireweed staff load up the van and make their deliveries.

I was grateful to meat the Fireweed team and tag along for one of their weekly deliveries. Starting from their West End warehouse, we loaded up Peg City’s biggest cargo truck, the Ford 150 Transit, with local produce, meats and goodies.

These deliveries go to places like local grocery stores, community centres and local restaurants. The first stop was a produce delivery to to the community kitchen at Norwest Community Food Centre.

Food delivery to Norwest Community food centre
Delivery to Norwest Community Food Centre
norwest community food centre

Why is a Food Hub important?

By supporting small-medium size local producers, we can help grow a more resilient local food system! A Food Hub help buyers and cellers by reducing marketing expenses, minimizing risk, and removing economic barriers, like order volume requirements, to name a few.

A real thyme saver

As you might imagine, feeding people is busy work! The less time farmers have to spend trying to market and sell their products the more time they can spend growing food. On the other end, local restaurants looking to feature local produce, benefit from placing a single weekly order, rather than wrangling 7 different suppliers.

Risk: putting all your eggs in one basket.

What happens when the economy is hit by a global pandemic? If you are a farmer, selling everything you can to a single restaurant, and suddenly, people all start eating at home… you’re toast! If you are a restaurant depending on a single farmer, your kitchen may suffer serious melon-colly, if that same farmer decides moves to sell everything to a local grocery store. When we increase access to a bigger selection of buyers and sellers, we can increase access to local food!

When a market becomes more secure, more people can participate, and so the local economic pie gets bigger!

Greater access, fewer berry-ers

berries
 spray-free local raspberries from one of our coop producer members. 

Order volume requirements can be a serious hurdle for small producers trying to sell products through major grocery stores. Scaling up can be tricky when you go from selling by the box to by the pallet! For obvious reasons, this leaves many local producers in a serious pickle…

This is how a Food Hub helps to bridge is the gap between regional, sustainable producers and serious buyers like major grocery stores. Instead of buying a second farm, producers can sell collectively through the Hub and get their grub on display.

Lettuce all participate in local markets!

Support your local Food Hub

Fireweed warehouse

There are a few big ways that you can support the Fireweed Food Co-op.

1. Become a member: anyone can join the co-op as a supporter member.

2. Make a contribution: make a donation, pay-it-forward, or support the Waste-Not Food Box program!

Last but not least, buy local!

3. Sign up as a wholesale customer to make local food purchases for your organization or business.

Want to buy local food for your household? Visit the South Osborne Farmers market every Wednesday, 4-8 pm, from June to September.

Okay. I think that’s all I’ve got. I’m beet!

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