The team at the South Island FarmHub warehouse in Esquimalt is ready to assemble orders for fresh local produce for pickup or delivery. (Courtesy CR FAIR)

The team at the South Island FarmHub warehouse in Esquimalt is ready to assemble orders for fresh local produce for pickup or delivery. (Courtesy CR FAIR)

Fresh regional produce available for Christmas in Victoria

South Island FarmHub helps maintain connection between local farmers and consumers

Imagine serving up farm-fresh vegetables and fruit with Christmas dinner that were grown right here in Greater Victoria.

While December, with its short days and limited sunshine, isn’t the typical bounty time for local farmers, consumers might be surprised at what items are still available, says Susan Tychie, lead developer for the South Island FarmHub.

On FarmHub’s online store, one can choose from boxed combinations containing such versatile veg as purple top turnips, German butter potatoes, leeks, beets, parsnips and more. These products and many others can also be purchased individually, as can locally grown apples, kiwis, berries and a variety of processed items.

“We are still producing a box every week and are expecting to do that through January,” Tychie says. “If you’re looking to support your CRD farms and enjoy seeing what’s available in season, and learning to cook with seasonal things, this can be an educational experience.”

Connecting local farms to people seeking fresh, regionally grown produce is what drives FarmHub.

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CRFAIR (Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable) and the Victoria Community Food Hub Society developed the idea during the first wave of COVID-19. With restaurants and farm markets restricted under public health orders, many local farmers who had planned and planted their crops for the season were in trouble.

Financial help to get the FarmHub up and running came from the Victoria Foundation’s Rapid Relief Fund. Local farmers have found new markets for their products, including the non-profit service sector.

Mary Alice Johnson, owner of ALM Organic Farm in Sooke, says not only did FarmHub help save her business, it connected her to the local food bank.

“[In March] I was so stressed … we had big markets with the restaurants. [FarmHub] was a real lifesaver for our farm,” she says, adding that delivery time is also gratifying. “I go down to the food bank and they are so happy to see me.”

The Farmbucks program allows donors to purchase fresh local produce for any of nearly two dozen Greater Victoria organizations feeding families and individuals in need.

Our Place Society food services manager Brian Cox has appreciated being able to use locally grown ingredients to prepare three meals a day for roughly 250 guests, as well as to support regional farmers.

“The Farmbucks program has enabled us to access more fresh, local produce,” he says. “Helping local farmers is exciting and we love participating in local food security initiatives. [Our guests] value and enjoy fresher and healthier foods.”

Not only has the Hub helped a number of smaller farms continue to operate, Tychie says, it has created new connections between Greater Victoria residents and farmers.

With the lifestyle changes brought about by the pandemic expected to continue, Tychie foresees an ongoing trend toward online shopping, even for fresh produce. For the person committed to finding and consuming locally grown produce rather than vegetables and fruits transported hundreds or thousands of kilometres to reach local store shelves, the South Island FarmHub offers that option.

For produce availability, delivery is every Wednesday and pickup options and other information, visit sifarmhub.ca.

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