Nothing tastes like a fresh carrot plucked right from the ground that same week or peas shelled straight from the pod. That’s why Co-op sources flavourful, locally grown produce from growers all over the Prairies.
At Co-op, we hold food products from Western Canada in high regard. Our involvement at multiple stages of the food-production cycle is unique and continues to develop and grow. The cycle moves from supplying growers with fuel and crop inputs to working directly with food manufacturers and stocking those products in CO-OP® Food Stores.
Over the course of the last year, Co-op sourced over 16 million kilograms of fresh fruits and vegetables from Western Canadian farmers. Supporting local producers and their communities is important to Co-op — that’s why we continue to work with Prairie Fresh Food Corporation, an amazing partner in our endeavour to source food locally.
Who is Prairie Fresh Food Corporation?
The Prairie Fresh Food Corporation (PFFC) incorporated in 2013 with 16 Saskatchewan vegetable and fruit producers becoming shareholders. One of the initial goals of the corporation was to solidify a relationship between Co-op and its producers. The first PFFC planting took place that same year, with harvest bringing crops of carrots and radishes to market. As the years passed, the corporation grew to become one of the largest vegetable- and fruit-growing corporations in Western Canada. Today, PFFC represents 23 vegetable producers from across Alberta and Saskatchewan. Since the inception of the PFFC, its growers have been providing select Co-op stores with many local vegetables and fruits.
Bryan Kosteroski, Operations Director of PFFC, explained, “When Co-op works with and promotes local producers, it drives industry growth and investment in the Prairie provinces. Without their involvement, you wouldn’t see a continual supply of Western Canadian-grown vegetables in stores — you’d see mostly American produce.”
Vegetable and fruit production on the Canadian prairies is a diverse industry, with operations ranging from small market gardens growing a variety of vegetables and fruits to larger commercial farms that focus their energy on a few specific crops. Because PFFC works with operations of all sizes, the variety of crops it can provide is as varied as the farms that produce them. In turn, this enables Co-op to buy a wider array of produce to provide to its retail customers at Co-op Food Stores.
“These relationships are creating a whole new sector in agriculture. The growth of the vegetable sector in Western Canada has been enormous as of late, and it’s going to keep growing in a sustainable way,” according to Kosteroski.
The importance of partnerships
In fact, the partnership between Co-op and PFFC enabled a significant increase in the volume of locally grown fruits and vegetables sold in our stores. Between 2013, when the partnership began, and 2018, our annual purchases from PFFC grew from 154,000 kilograms to more than 1.7 million kilograms. It has been a win-win situation, giving PFFC producers access to a large, stable customer base and offering Co-op customers access to more locally grown produce.
Co-op sources more than just fruits and vegetables from PFFC; we’ve partnered on a range of Co-op brand food products.
“Because of the stability of our partnerships, producers can invest and expand their operations, providing Co-op shoppers with an increasing supply of local, in-season fruits and vegetables grown at home,” said Lindsay Young, Procurement and Category Development Manager at Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL).
Co-op is proud to support local growers, whether we’re supplying them with products and services such as fuel, fertilizer or other crop inputs, or directly purchasing their products for our retail stores. Our ability to support producers and make the connection between farms and tables is unmatched and something we look forward to continuing to grow and evolve.