Park Area Farmers Sought For Direct-Marketing Initiative

Aplan to link farmers offering local food products for sale and people who live in or visit the communities around Riding Mountain National Park aims to bring more dollars to those communities.

Earlier this month staff with the Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve, made up of 15 municipalities that surround the park, put out the call for local area farmers to list the meats, vegetables and other foods they may have to direct-market, to be published on an “At the Farm Gate” local food website the RMBR is setting up.

Valerie Pankratz, executive director of the RMBR, said this is a new venture aimed at helping circulate more cash through local economies.

Most of its initiatives deal with environmental issues surrounding wildlife and ecosystems and biodiversity, but more recently they’ve been looking at tourism and ways to draw more dollars into communities around the park, she said.

The biosphere reserve encompasses 3,000 square kilometres of forested areas and natural prairie, plus what’s called a “zone of cooperation” including the 15 municipalities, for an additional 12,000 square km.

Much of this land is used for farming and many in local communities express interest in buying more food from farmers who have something to direct-market, such as locally raised meats or vegetables, breads or jams.

But right now these farmers are found strictly by word of mouth, Pankratz said.

“They’re certainly not well known. You have to know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody to get in touch with the right people for something that you’re looking for.”

Riding Mountain Park also sees upwards of 250,000 visitors each summer. That traffic, combined with year-round residents, is a virtually untapped market for local food, Pankratz said.

Ultimately, the RMBR wants to create a network that links a market with local food producers and makes these farmers more visible, she said.

The initiative kicked off last week with workshops held in Rossburn and McCreary.

Anyone looking for more information about the Biosphere Reserve’s “At the Farm Gate” initiative can contact Pankratz at Box 232, Onanole, MB, R0J 1N0, email [email protected]or call 204-636-2085.

[email protected]

About the author

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Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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