Overcoming Challenges in the Food Supply Chain Due to COVID-19
AN IMPACT STORY
Providing a one-stop digital shop for consumers and restaurants in the Fraser Valley – without warehousing, processing facilities, stores or other distributors.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused challenges to the food supply in many communities. The DirectFood.store – Securing the Food Supply Chain project was created to provide a one-stop shop for consumers and restaurants where the can source fresh food directly from local producers – all without warehousing, processing facilities, stores or other distributors. Local food producers have the ability to list their available goods on a common website, with orders ready for pick-up or delivery to consumers and restaurants the following day.
Led by Wisebox Solutions, the project brings together i-Open Technologies, Novex Delivery Solutions, the farms of Nutriva Group and Berryhill Growers, and two restaurants, Eat Fresh Pizza and Mission City Pizza in the Fraser Valley. The online marketplace leverages the precision agriculture platform Agrilyze (from i-Open Technologies), to address specific challenges like tracking food’s journey through the supply chain.
The DirectFood.store platform has given the chance for local farmers and producers, such as Ravens Brewing Company and the Bannock Queen, to digitally transform their business and sell based on freshness and convenience to new markets previously beyond their reach.
Big expansion plans brewing for Jocelyn Sweeting and Ravens Brewing Company
Jocelyn Sweeting celebrates her Indigenous heritage and promotes diversity and inclusiveness at Ravens Brewing Company, the Abbotsford business she started in 2014 with her husband Paul.
The busy mother and entrepreneur grew up in Toronto and Kitchener/Waterloo. Jocelyn and her younger sister spent their early years in foster homes before being adopted by a couple of Dutch descent. Her biological father is Jamaican and her biological mother is Ojibwe. Her adopted siblings are from Bangladesh.
“We grew up in a multicultural home with supportive parents who encouraged us to explore our roots,” Jocelyn says. “That’s how I came to better understand and appreciate my Indigenous background.”
Jocelyn moved west to study at Trinity Western University, met Paul and never looked back. When the duo started their business seven years ago, they were a small, family-operated brewery. Today, Jocelyn and Paul employ eight people in their tasting room, brewery and distillery. Last year, they produced 200,000 litres of beer – everything from a citrus pale ale to a dark stout.
This year, Jocelyn expects to increase production to 300,000 litres. Ravens Brewing is growing so fast they’re relocating this summer to the Stó:lō Nation on the east side of Abbotsford. They have also created an Indigenous Corporation and are partnering with Stó:lō Nation members to build a 12,000-square-foot facility, which will include a restaurant serving Indigenous recipes created and served by Indigenous community members.
Branching out into spirits
In addition to 20 varieties of beer, they have branched into distilling gin and vodka. They take pride in creating beverages that are sourced from local and regional ingredients, such as hops, fruits and herbs from Abbotsford and grains from Peace River.
You can find Ravens beer in most liquor stores in B.C. and many outlets in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick. Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland residents can also order their products online at DirectFood.store.
The Bannock Queen: a baking entrepreneur celebrates her Indigenous and Scottish roots
Five years ago, at the age of 62, Donna Lee contemplated retirement following successful careers in accounting and community healthcare. Rather than kick up her feet and retire fully, Donna opted to start a new venture that combines her passion for baking with her Indigenous and Scottish roots. The result is Bannock Queen.
Donna operates from her home in the Surrey neighbourhood of Cloverdale. Impressively, she singlehandedly bakes about 1,000 pieces of bannock every time she and her husband take part in a festival or market such as the Hastings Park Farmers’ Market in Vancouver.
“I start baking at about 11 p.m. and keep going until about 7 or 8 a.m., when my husband takes the bannock to the market and sells them from our Bannock Queen stall,” Donna says. “It’s important to me that our baked goods are as fresh as possible.”
Donna is proud of her original bannock recipe, which is free of sugar, dairy and yeast. In response to customer requests, the health-conscious baker has also come up with a gluten-free version and most of her creations are vegan. Her other tasty concoctions include bannock flat bread, strawberry jam and blueberry jam puffs.
Around the time she started her business, Donna explored her family history and discovered she had Irish, English and Scottish blood in addition to Indigenous ancestry dating back more than 200 years. Her Métis heritage began when a distant great-grandfather of Irish descent married a distant great-grandmother with Scottish and Cree roots. Together, they raised 15 children in Manitoba and learned to speak Cree and Ojibwe.
Donna and her husband share her family history with customers who want to learn more about the Bannock Queen and the story behind bannock. Scottish explorers and traders brought the bread to Canada in the 1700s, where Indigenous peoples in the west adopted and modified the recipe over the years.
While most of her sales are from markets, Donna is grateful for the online orders she receives regularly through DirectFood.store.Visit DirectFood.store