You Click, We Pick: Welcome to the Cow-op

An online farmer's provides a win-win model for boosting small farmers' income security

Derrick Pawlowski

photo (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by madame.furie (cropped from original)

An initiative of the Cowichan Valley Cooperative Marketplace, cow-op.ca is an online farmers’ market aimed at providing fresh, healthy, and sustainably produced food, while at the same time increasing the economic viability of the Cowichan region’s local agriculture. The Cowichan Valley Cooperative Marketplace is a not-for-profit community services co-operative of over 80 local farmers and food processors with the goal of supporting local farmers, and increasing food security and resiliency in the Cowichan Region.

Behind the scenes, Vancouver Island boasts a robust community of local farmers and food processors. From Sooke to Saanich, the Cowichan Valley, the Comox Valley and beyond: these diehard, passionate, and motivated individuals are doing the important work of growing and procuring healthy, delicious food for families, restaurants, grocery stores, and more. People need fresh local food – it is healthy, delicious, and exists outside of the unsustainable global industrial agriculture system. In addition, local farmers and food processors protect farmland from shortsighted development, regenerate soils, protect ecological biodiversity, and reduce carbon emissions and the use of plastics and pesticides. Local farmers even produce bio-regionally adapted and drought resistant seeds.

Local farmers need more than the feel-good buzz of the weekend farmers’ market to build long-term, viable businesses – they need sustained demand for their products.

However, ecologically responsible agriculture is difficult and demanding work. Managing diverse, continuously overlapping crop cycles is hectic. Added to the burden are busy days setting up and taking down market stalls, and selling wares for hours on end (sometimes in the rain!), all in hopes of returning to the farm with fewer vegetables and fair remuneration. Now imagine doing this multiple times a week. The work of growing and providing fresh products with an extremely short shelf life is taxing.

Local farmers need more than the feel-good buzz of the weekend farmers’ market to build long-term, viable businesses – they need sustained demand for their products. Farmers need to make a decent living to stay inspired, feel fulfilled, and maintain the desire to keep doing the dirty work of growing local food for us.

The Cow-op allows producers to come together and post their products on an online farmers market, directly connecting to local consumers. By taking on the work of marketing, aggregating and distributing products for local producers, the Cow-op lets farmers and food processors have more time to do what they do best – produce good food!

All the food available from the Cow-op is produced in the Cowichan region.

Here’s how it works:

  • Customers can place orders online every Friday at noon, to Tuesday at midnight. Producers receive orders Wednesday morning and prepare for delivery.
  • Fresh orders are delivered Thursday mornings to the Cowichan Green Community in Duncan (360 Duncan St.) for customer pickup from 3-6pm, and to Zero Waste Emporium in Victoria (1728 Douglas St.) for pickup from noon-6pm.

The cow-op is working to open additional pickup spots in Cowichan Bay and off Hwy 18 on Drinkwater Rd.

To sign up or learn more, visit www.cow-op.ca or email info@cow-op.ca.


Derrick Pawlowski is the general manager of the Cowichan Valley Co-operative Marketplace, co-owner of Coastal Rainforest Farm, and an advocate for community food resiliency.


This article appears in our February-March 2020 issue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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