As summer approaches, many farmers are preparing to fill their stalls at markets in Lake Cowichan, Honeymoon Bay and across the Cowichan Valley. Meanwhile, Cowichan Green Communities (CGC) is hoping the Valley’s farmers will be on board with their new market, which aims to take Cowichan’s produce, meat and other foodstuffs to a fresh new place – online.
Cow-op, which is set to launch June 1, provides an online hub through which local farmers can sell their goods. Consumers can order from multiple producers in one visit, with items being shipped to and bundled at the Cowichan Green Communities facility once a week for pick-up.
Coordinator Heather Kaye said the goal of Cow-op is to provide a “time-saving way to shop” for young families, as orders can be made anytime and from home.
“The Cowichan Valley is a big region,” Kaye said. “Someone could want to buy sausages from Cedar and vegetables from Shawnigan Lake, but not have enough time to drag their kids to farmers’ markets.”
Kaye also said that Cow-op could provide some added convenience for farmers as well, specifically through the website’s pre-pay system.
“[Farmers] won’t have to stand at a stall for seven hours, wondering how much they’ll sell,” she said.
Though it has yet to be seen in Lake Cowichan, similar programs have met with success across North America. During the design stages, CGC emulated the online farmers’ market in Hooser, Indiana, feeling that the similar size and population of the region would translate well to the Cowichan Valley. Another nearby success story is Vancouver’s SPUD, which has even expanded to include home delivery, something Kaye said Cow-op aspires to provide as well, if successful.
CGC will be hosting an event at Vancouver Island University’s Cowichan campus on May 5, geared towards farmers, in hopes that more local producers will come on board with Cow-op.