Province hopes good things will be cooking in Swan River

The province expects entrepreneurs will be cooking up some innovation in Swan River’s new food-processing centre.

The government has spent $80,000 to outfit a former meeting room of the War Veterans Community Hall on 6th St. N. — part of a pilot project to provide entrepreneurs from northern communities with the opportunity to test and develop food products for commercial markets. The room is now a fully certified commercial kitchen with commercial-size mixers, kettles, a walk-in cooler and freezer, and a sheeter for rolling dough and pasta products.

“New food and beverage products are the seeds that launch new business opportunities and the development of this centre creates the perfect environment for these ideas to grow,” Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives Minister Ron Kostyshyn said at the ribbon-cutting.

MAFRI staff will offer marketing and business support to users, who can also seek help from staff of the Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie on a fee-for-service basis.

There are many opportunities in niche food markets, said Kostyshyn, the area’s MLA.

“It may not be a large income, but there is potential here,” he said.

The kitchen will be available for large-batch food production and is expected to get a good workout when 1,800 athletes descend on Swan River for the 2012 Manitoba Summer Games. Kostyshyn credited his predecessor, Rosann Wowchuk, for promoting the project.

“Portage la Prairie is a long way away,” she said. “I would like to see the many entrepreneurs in the area take advantage of this facility, and take the most wonderful products they produce in their homes and sell at farmers’ markets to commercialization.”

Other communities have expressed interest in having small processing facilities and MAFRI staff say they continued to hear interest expressed in the “rent-a-kitchen” concept, with the need sometimes being as simple as having a site to wash bulk volume vegetables for farmers’ market sales.

The Swan River centre has funding until September, as the province wants to assess demand and interest.

Some potential users attending the open house were enthusiastic, but non-committal.

“I’m thinking about it,” said Sylvia Burtnack, a retired Durban-area farmer who makes a dried fruit and nut bar she sells at craft shows and Christmas markets.

Her interest is in better packaging and having a nutrition label on her product.

“I sell quite a bit as it is, but that would help sales,” she said.

Caterer Verneece Eggie said the kitchen is ideal for feeding large groups.

“It’s just going to make it easier for us to put out a safe product and comply with all the rules and regulations,” she said.

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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