Financing Ontario’s agri-food growth

Non-profit fund launches to support local food sector

by Jim Algie

A new capital pool for Ontario’s local food producers and related businesses seeks to solve at least one financial challenge facing entrepreneurs in the sector, said Sally Miller, Local Food and Farm Co-ops project manager.

A series of four regional forums planned for October introduces the Fair Finance Fund, a new investment fund supported the Sudbury-based co-op and the Sault Ste. Marie-based Rural Agri-Innovation Network. Meetings are planned for Algoma, on Oct. 3, Puslinch on Oct. 18, Thunder Bay on Oct. 23 and Madoc on Oct. 30.

The non-profit fund will help small-scale, local food businesses access mid-range loans that are often hard to obtain through conventional sources, Miller said. The project will be financed mainly by community bonds and institutional investment.

processing plant
    jeffbergen/iStock/Getty Images Plus photo

A similar project in Nova Scotia, where community investments qualify for tax credits, began in 2011 through FarmWorks Investment Co operative Ltd. The co-op says it has invested $2.2 million so far in loans to over 85 businesses, its website says. .

“It’s become clear that if you really want to stimulate the local food systems in Ontario ... you need the kind of access to capital that these organizations don’t have,” said Miller, a veteran of co-operative research and management. .

“The kind of organizations that we’re talking about often want a kind of mid-scale financing between $20,000 and $100,000 which is hard to get,” she explained. Plans target the development of a $10-million pool for loan programs expected to begin by year end. .

We’re putting the finishing touches on the model,” Miller said. “The forums will be where we really roll it out and start to get feedback from people about this investment opportunity.” BF.

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