A Helping Hand In The Kitchen
Food How the Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre is supporting entrepreneurial dreams.
There’s something new brewing in the hills of Northumberland County, and wow does it smell good. About an hour east of Toronto, off Highway 401’s Big Apple exit 497, you’ll find the Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre (OAFVC). Some clients like to call it the Food Adventure Centre for all the ways the staff work with clients to bring their new food ideas to life.
Built in a rural eastern Ontario county that is quickly becoming known as a small business and entrepreneurial power-house, the OAFVC is just one of the tools the community has to support residents running small businesses or starting their own independent ventures. The County offers business coaching, mentoring, incubation, and can even help locals access some funding. But, what really sets the OAFVC apart from other local resources is that this ultramodern facility offers its services to non-Northumberland residents — thanks to some provincial and federal funding.
This fall we’re looking forward to working with Ontario hops growers to pelletize and package hops.
Fully operational since December 2015, the Centre’s value-adding fresh fruit and vegetable processing room is very popular. The OAFVC processed my sweet potatoes and squash into heat and eat marketable products,” explains Larry, a Peterborough Farmers’ Market vendor. His soup is so popular that a local grocery store has started selling it.
The facility’s fully-equipped commercial kitchen is used by artisan food-makers and chefs alike. Award winning Haute Goat has successfully worked with the Centre to make their Goat Butter Caramel corn in larger quantities, while maintaining that premium quality.
Dotty has been making a sauce at home for family and friends since the 1960s, with dreams of selling it commercially. The OAFVC team helped with business start-up advice, recipe scaling, branding, and bringing the product to market. When asked what surprised her most about working with the OAFVC, she said she was excited about how quickly it all came together. It took just a few weeks of trials before Dotty’s Sauce — perfect on wings or anything off the grill — was being sold at Sharpe’s Food Market in Campbellford.
When asked what harvest he’s looking forward to most this year, OAFVC Operations Manager Joe Mullin pauses to reflect. “There’s so much we can do here: processing, packaging, freezing, cold storage — it’s hard to choose one thing. This fall we’re looking forward to working with Ontario hops growers to pelletize and package hops. Yesterday we processed 600lbs of rhubarb. Who knows what we’ll be working on next week!”