Chatting in Tusket after the Feb. 19 FarmWorks event (from left): Virginia Smith, Linda Best, Barrie MacGregor and Carmen Comeau. Smith and Comeau are farmers who were among the presenters. Best is the FarmWorks secretary. MacGregor was one of the event’s “gentle dragons.”ERIC BOURQUE PHOTO
By Eric Bourque
More Nova Scotians seem to appreciate the importance of producing more food here, says an official with FarmWorks, a community economic development investment fund (CEDIF) that raises money to invest in farmers and food producers.
Linda Best, secretary with Wolfville-based FarmWorks, says they’re “really happy” with the response they have been getting across the province.
Best was in the Yarmouth area for a FarmWorks event Feb. 19 in Tusket. Billed as All Hands in the Dirt, the event gave local farmers and food producers a chance to speak about their operations, then have a three-person panel ask them questions along the lines of Dragon’s Den, only in this case the panelists are called “gentle” dragons.
“Not the nasty dragons who give you a hard time,” said Best, “but gentle dragons who understand that the people who are putting themselves out there are doing that in order to grow their farm businesses. They want to promote what they’re doing. They’re proud of what they’re doing.”
There were six presentations at the Tusket event, the presenters talking about what they do, their hopes or plans for the future, the challenges they face.
Held in the Maurice LeBlanc theatre at the Par-en-Bas school, the event was to have been held a month earlier but was postponed because of a snowstorm. The evening included a pitch by Best to potential investors to get on board.
“We are now in the middle of our third offer,” she said in an interview. “Probably by the end of this offer we’ll have 170 or 180, maybe more, shareholders from across the province and we have directors and advisers from across the province.”
FarmWorks was established in 2011 and has loaned money to 21 enterprises.
Increasingly, Best said, people are starting to understand the importance of producing more food here in Nova Scotia. Given that most of the food we buy – “probably 90 per cent” – comes from outside the province, there is the issue of security of supply, she said, but health is another big reason to support Nova Scotia farmers and food producers.
“We need better food,” she said. “We need to stop eating all that processed stuff and start eating good, wholesome food that’s picked at the peak of freshness so that it has all the nutritional qualities it should have.”
Growing more food also would help bolster the rural economy, she said.
Gary Kent, who produces Vincent dressings and was one of the presenters for the Tusket event, had good things to say about FarmWorks and offered a few thoughts on entrepreneurship.
“It’s challenging, it’s fun,” he said. “You’ve got to really believe in what you’re doing. It’s an interesting journey (running) your own business.”
When it comes to food, Best says there is “tremendous potential” in Nova Scotia, including the Yarmouth area.
When people get off the new ferry, she said, the food they eat should be so good that it makes them want to come back and to get their friends to visit too.
Yes, Nova Scotia has great people and nice scenery, she said, “but it’s also about what we eat … We can do it well. Let’s do it.”