The Slocan’s pristine valley is ripe with abundance of many forms. We enjoy an abundance of clean water, opportunities for community connections and access to the wilderness, to name a few. Arguably one of our greatest forms of abundance is the availability of nutrient dense, locally sourced, ethically raised and seasonally harvested food. This is how the West Kootenay Permaculture Co-op defines “good food” and supporting endeavors to bring more good food to the people in our region, is good for everyone!

We are living in a unique agricultural region ripe with opportunities and the times they are a ‘changin. As a result, there are several new and exciting food related projects that are popping up in the Slocan Valley ready to launch this fall and we wanted to share them with you all. Each of these projects is unique in their offerings and are sure to make our valley a more dynamic and resilient place for food! These additions to our region take us from New Denver to Slocan and Winlaw; creating a lovely little foody road trip should that interest you at all.

The Village Hearth Restaurant: NEW DENVER
First stop, New Denver! The Healthy Community Society of the North Slocan Valley (HCS), a registered not for profit society, is excited to launch their new project in the heart of New Denver this fall. HCS was founded on a broad community mandate. Through consultations with their community and identifying their region’s needs, food security has made its way to the top of their list. HCS has spearheaded many local projects related to food, including a partnership with the local school. HCS established a community garden and greenhouse at the local school and were able to hire staff to create a lunch and breakfast program for students, as well as develop curriculum around the garden and establish an afterschool program called ‘Green Thumbs’. With all of these accomplishments, the society started to look at how else they could bolster food security. Through their research they have determined that there is a real need for a stronger local market that farmers can sell to. As a result, they have decided to help create that market by launching their very own restaurant. The Village Hearth restaurant will purchase and plate up as much local delicious food as they are able to, all for our enjoyment.

The society has rented Rory’s restaurant on Main St. in New Denver starting this fall. They have already hired a restaurant manager and are actively searching for a cook. The restaurant will be aiming to serve dinner 2-4 nights a week initially and may look at expanding their hours in the future. Their target market is local folks who want to support their farmers and enjoy fresh, nutritious and seasonal meals. Their vision is all about supporting local farmers, creating a demand for local produce and enhancing food security in the region. They feel strongly that the demand for good food in our local restaurants has the power to influence real change and we agree with them! The society has dreams of one day developing this project into a food hub where community members can access food storage, food processing equipment, space rental and community composting. We are sure we are not alone when we say that we are excited to eat here!

The Kootenay Food Center: SLOCAN
Next we are off to Slocan and the Kootenay Food Centre. This project is a partnership between W.E. Graham Community Services, a registered charitable organization, and the West Kootenay Permaculture Coop, a not for profit co-operative. Our organization, WKPC, has four years of research and data around food security and economies in our region that has been gathered through events like Farm Food Fork and countless others. This research led us to develop and provide access to affordable, high quality, food and farming education for anyone who eats and engages in our local food economy; from homesteaders and farmers to consumers and organizations. After years of hosting our homesteading 101 education series and organizing events to help build a wide network and gather data about our regions food economy, we felt it was time to establish our own kitchen space where we can take our programming to the next level. We hit the pavement looking for opportunities; enter W.E. Graham Community Services.

These folks have over 20 years experience of feeding people in our communities (through food bank and food bank garden), among other countless community services, and were looking for opportunities to expand some of their existing programs. The amount of volunteers and staff that work tirelessly at W.E. Graham Community Services is staggering and with the addition of their own community garden and cob oven, they have been able to increase their good food offerings and are eager for more.  After several meetings between our two organizations, we all knew it was a match and have been charging forward so that we are able to launch programming out of Slocan this fall.

The Kootenay Food Centre will offer affordable, hands-on education that will increase our regions capacity regarding food security and economic viability. By operating out of the Kootenay Food Centre we will be able to purchase excess food from local gardeners and farmers, then value process and store it in our community pantry. This pantry will be accessed by the food bank as well as the wider community for social enterprise opportunities. One way we plan on sharing our local excess, is by hosting regularly occurring community meals in Slocan where we will use a ‘pay what you can model’ to ensure there are no economic barriers to good food.  The value processing and food aggregation will all be a part of our educational offerings. Our goal is to create a holistic and healthy little ecosystem of diverting waste, investing in our local growers, providing education & skill building, feeding community, and supporting right livelihoods in our community.

As we continue to develop the Kootenay Food Centre and all of our offerings, we will be gleaning ideas from proven models that we can adopt, such as the pay what you can cafe model, alternative currency systems and community food center Canada programming to ensure that our Centre truly is economically barrier free. The ultimate goal of the project is to find a model for supporting rural communities that can be duplicated in other areas. Food can become a huge economic driver and in areas like ours it is important to support people that are engaged in food production.
BE SOCIAL: facebook.com/kootenayfood

The Valley Kitchen : WINLAW
The Valley Kitchen is the last stop on our road trip to a good food induced coma. Here in the heart of Winlaw, owners Rob & Sally of Alpine Divine Food Services Ltd. are launching a brand new commercial kitchen. They bring a wealth of knowledge with them to this project as the pair formerly operated out of, and eventually ran, a large commercial kitchen in Calgary. They felt that the community needed access to an affordable commercial kitchen space to help bolster our local food economy. They noted that there are plenty of commercial kitchens in the area but that the majority were built for specific food businesses and so are not accessible for rent making it challenging for new food businesses to get started. This seemed to be a gap in the market that they felt they could fill and let’s be honest; their location isn’t bad either! Located right on the main highway in Winlaw they are sure to get plenty of folks stopping in to check them out.

Their facility will offer a large kitchen space equipped with ranges, burners, convection ovens, prep space, food storage, a large freezer and even space for equipment storage, to name a few. In the front of the building they will have a retail space available for their clients to utilize so that they can sell their products directly to the public. They will also be offering free consultation services to anyone thinking about accessing this space to ensure that the renter receives the optimal services for their needs. The Valley Kitchen feels strongly that their services should be affordable and accessible to anyone.

When asked where they see this project heading in the future they confessed that what is important right now is making sure that they get the kitchen running like a clock and are open to the organic evolution of their business. This commercial kitchen is sure to enrich our region and provide some wonderful opportunities for local residents to access. They are hoping to be up and running this fall so keep your eyes peeled.
BE SOCIAL: facebook.com/valleykitchen

Well we hope your are all full of good food at the end of our road trip and that you feel as inspired as we do by all of the incredible things happening in our region. A strong food economy is comprised of many moving parts and we believe that each of these projects will benefit one another and provide needed services adding to our already vast and growing network of good food minded people.
– Article by Jenna Hopper (Secretary WKPCo-op & one of the fine folks behind Kootenay Food)