Small Alberta farmers are struggling to get their vegetables into the hands of potential consumers, as they contend with a short growing season and competition from outside of the province. "We are going extinct because people want cheap food from Costco and Walmart," said Mandy Melnyk, who owns Meadow Creek Farms northeast of Edmonton. "We can't compete with all the types of imported foods that are coming into Canada."
Supplying stores with local food is challenging because they require large quantities and regular deliveries, Melnyk said. "We can't produce enough for what they want," she told CBC. "We need to move our product quickly because it has a short lifespan."
Selling her produce in farmers markets is not a viable option for Melnyk because of the long distances between her farm and urban centres. She relies on The Organic Box to take care of the distribution piece for her. "The Organic Box is truly the only distribution method that we have that buys local with integrity, and pays us properly for the cost of production."
Danny Turner founded The Organic Box in 2009 to deal with his own distribution issues, as a small fruit farmer in the British Columbia Interior.The company acts as a local food aggregator, purchasing produce from farmers from Alberta and B.C., processing and sorting it, then selling the food to consumers through a weekly delivery system.
Farmers don't have time for distribution when they are focused on maximizing the short growing season, Turner said. "We'd rather focus on the farming, get the farming done, 'cause you got to go as fast as you possibly can when we're in season."