Now Hiring! Request for Proposals: Central Northern Regional Coordinator

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Position: Central Northern Regional Coordinator
Organization: Local Food and Farm Co-ops
Location: prefer Thunder Bay or nearby, Ontario

1. Summary and Background

The Local Food and Farm Co-ops is currently accepting proposals for a Central Northern Regional Coordinator based in Thunder Bay or nearby, for a short term contract from September to December with the possibility of renewal.


Project summary:

The CNRC will provide value chain coordination to develop opportunities in the Thunder Bay and First Nations communities that existing resources have not been able to meet. These include exciting new initiatives for infrastructure (food hub and online marketing through public health units and regional distributors, new aggregated buying through food co-ops or collectives, and educational opportunities to increase local food procuremenet and access in northern Ontario.


The Central Northern Regional Coordinator (CNRC) will work closely with the NWO Regional Coordinator and the NEO Regional Coordinator and will be supervised by the Project Manager. LFFC partners include the Rural Agri-Innovation Network in Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay Food Strategy, the Northern Food Distribution Network (coordinated by LFFC, including 16 organizations involved in food distribution, food security, and agriculture in northern Ontario), as well as our northern member co-ops such as Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op in Dryden, Black River Co-op in Matheson, Café Meteor in Temiskaming. Discussions have been undertaken about food hub initiatives with the Regional Distribution Centre leads, as well as Waubetek Business Development Corporation, KI, Red Lake and Sioux Lookout communities, Lac Seul community and NAN. The CNRC will work collaboratively with LFFC partners to help strengthen the regional food system in northern Ontario through these existing and new connections.



Eligibility and guidelines

This RFP is open to organizations or consultants with expertise in project development in their regional (northern Ontario) food and farming sector, and a network of contacts and partners in their region. Successful proposals will include access to a home or organization office for equipment and office costs. Knowledge of the food and farming sector is essential.


2. Organization description


The Local Food and Farm Co-operative (LFFC)

Mission:  Fostering vibrant, resilient, connected and sustainable food and farm co-operatives

LFFC is an incorporated non-profit co-operative that has provided organizing and development support for food and farming co-operatives and enterprises in Ontario since 2009. LFFC catalyzed or supported the recent growth of local farms and new collaborations in northern Ontario, including the Northwest Beef Co-op, Black River Co-op, Cafe Meteor co-op development, the Northern Food Distribution Network, Mill Market redevelopment, Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op and Muskoka North Good Food Co-op. Local food and farm co-ops in Ontario have a significant impact on Ontario's economy, and have been a key tool for community economic development in northern Ontario's local food and agriculture sector, as new farmers enter the area and new markets are established. Ontario's food and farm co-ops provide stable markets for hundreds of regional producers and processors, and support thousands of jobs directly and indirectly. With two and three times multipliers in the local economy, community development through food and farm co-ops has an impact well beyond the co-ops' own revenues.


LFFC grew rapidly, and incorporated as a non-profit co-operative in 2017. In 2014, with Ontario Ministry of Agriculture support, LFFC managed the Regional Food Hub Project with business and feasibility planning for four co-op food hubs, two in the north. In 2017, LFFC launched the Co-op Field Schools (training and development for sector co-ops and enterprises), the Peer2Peer Mentoring program and the Trade Routes North Project to develop regional infrastructure for the local food sector in northern Ontario. The programs generated hundreds of online resources and supported enterprises across northern Ontario. LFFC has engaged women leaders, indigenous and marginalized groups in the sector; an above average number of women and marginalized groups are the owners and operators of new forms of co-operative farming, processing and markets. As new entrepreneurs, the support that LFFC offers through training, mentorship and exchanges among co-ops at different stages is invaluable to their success.


Through mentorships, regional forums, workshops, one on one meetings and planning sessions, the LFFC has also connected with northern communities in the development of a Regional Distribution Centre, including Sioux Lookout and KI. Discussions have been undertaken with Waubetek, NAN, and Red Lake. In 2018, discussions for a food distribution hub in the Aroland area, involving 14 communities, began.


Requests from new communities (remote, indigenous and Francophone) guided the current planning to expand the demographic and geographic reach of LFFC's successful programs. Since LFFC's work began, there has been increasing need for these activities in the north, sometimes stretching LFFC's current resources beyond capacity or forcing opportunities to be missed. In 2018, LFFC completed a "Keys to Success" report to help retail food co-ops manage increasing pressure in an intensely competitive environment, as transnationals compete for grocery share from Canadian grocery corporations, driving prices down, and online sales entice retail customers to armchair shopping. In 2018-2019, LFFC undertook research to track trends and challenges in the current food system, aggregating this material in a report and presentations at the winter Assembly entitled "The State of the Local Food System". 


The research showed challenges across the industry as well as important innovations in a rapidly changing Canadian foodscape. LFFC's mandate provides the infrastructure to support local food and farm enterprises in preparing for and benefiting from these changes and opportunities. In addition, the need for specific collaborative solutions such as the Northern Food Distribution Network, support for new northern farm groups and co-ops, and flexible food hubs or depots for distribution outside urban centres was identified as a significant need, and an important collaborative solution to the various changes underway in the industry.


3. Project Activities

The activities involved are:

  1. Development of existing and new contacts for a food hub network in northern Ontario as part of LFFC’s three year infrastructure development project

  2. Specifically participation by invitation in meetings and initiatives of regional First Nations

  3. Regular reporting, planning and discussion with LFFC team

  4. Support for events in which LFFC is a partner

  5. Promotion of LFFC and associated programs (such as the Fair Finance Fund)



4. Deliverables

  1. Completed report describing opportunities, challenges and contacts for strong regional food distribution networks and providing recommendations for next steps. Includes discussion of foodways in relation to strong regional food systems, traditional food procurement strategies and solutions to build access to culturally appropriate foods sourced regionally

  2. Regular attendance at team meetings (every second week)

  3. Cost and product assessment matching local availability with local demand and identifying products that are difficult to find or unavailable locally that cannot be substituted.


Please note that further outcomes may be requested or some changes may be necessary as the project develops. 


5. Project Budget 


Budget for this contract is in a range of $8000-10,000, allocated commensurate with experience. The There is potential for extension in 2020 depending on funding.


6. Bidder Qualifications

The candidate will have:

  • Ability to work well with others with patience, tolerance and a willingness to consider others’ opinions

  • Ability to work with a supervisor as well as independently

  • Knowledge of the local food and farm sector 

  • Willingness to travel

  • Experience with non-profits and social enterprises

  • Experience with indigenous communities


  1. Content of proposal


Submissions should provide the following items as part of their proposal for consideration:


  • Description of experience in the local food and farm sector (any and all experience from farm to fork, co-operative business, social enterprise or business development experience). 

  • Description of experience working with a team and a supervisor

  • Examples of other contracts or projects related to the local food and farm sector (specific to financing preferably) 

  • List of any other project related experience.

  • Description of general plan of approach to project

  • References (two)


7. Proposal Evaluation Criteria

LFFC will evaluate all proposals based on the following criteria. To ensure consideration for this Request for Proposal, your proposal should be complete and include all of the following criteria:


  • Overall proposal suitability: proposed concepts must meet the scope and needs included herein and be presented in a clear and organized manner

  • Organizational Experience: proposals will be evaluated on the organization’s or individual’s experience as it pertains to the scope of this project

  • Previous work: applicants will be evaluated on examples of their work pertaining to the requirements of the project.

  • Results of reference checks


Each proposal must be submitted to info@localfoodandfarm.coop by 5:00 pm on August 15, 2019.


Annual Report 2018

We've had quite a year with LFFC.  From having offered nearly 100 workshops, presentations and webinars across the province to reaching over 1500 people with our forums and consultations and increasing our budget by over 100%, this first full year as an incorporated co-op has truly been a success.  Click on the button below to download our Annual Report 2018 to see what we’ve been up to.

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Reflections on our 10th Assembly

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As I’m trying to figure out how to put our 10th Assembly event into words, there are some things that come to mind.

The feeling of solidarity when you are in a room with folks who are experiencing the same challenges and sentiments as you, while working together to brainstorm solutions to problems.

The validation of being frustrated with the state of the local food system and competition from corporate food retail/farm production/distribution coupled with the fatigue of the staff, managers, and board members who have been putting in the work for such a long time. It’s really hard to be in that place, and recognition that it takes strength to persevere is important.

The mutual inspiration that comes from hearing from those who have kept their co-ops going over decades, while hearing from energetic new start-ups that are just gaining ground.

We are all in this together.

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From the difficult conversations that ask us to look inward and put in the work to include equity within our co-operative structures to big-picture brainstorming about how to continue with the work we are doing within the framework we’ve been given. And how to break free from that framework, in small day-to-day tasks all the way up to policy engagement and lobbying. We’re feeling the rejuvenation and inspiration from the conversations and workshops we've been part of.

We have a shared responsibility to continue. To keep going when things get difficult, and to lean on others for support where needed.

LFFC hopes to continue lending our support where it’s needed.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Keep up to date with LFFC, with our e-newsletter, on social media, check out website and event pages.

  • We want to hear from you, so keep in touch! Send us an email, a message over Facebook or Instagram, tag us in your posts so that we can know what’s happening with you and your co-op and if there’s something you want us to share. Are you fundraising or hosting an event? Let us help you get the word out. Have a milestone coming up? Let us know!

  • Are you interested in the support the LFFC offers? Consider signing up for our $300 lifetime membership to access all of the perks. For example, check out our Mentorship Program which connects novice and experienced co-operators or our online Toolbox of co-op policies, trainings, webinars and other documents.

  • We also now offer our Services: Communications Service as well as our Bookkeeping Service to both non-members and members (though members receive a discounted rate). Get in touch for more details.

  • Looking for a loan to get your co-operative business, farm or social enterprise off the ground? Perhaps you’re established but want to expand? Check out our Fair Finance Fund Project.

  • Spread the word about LFFC. We know there are tons of co-ops and co-operators out there struggling who could use our support. Connect us to someone who you think may benefit from LFFC’s help.

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We’re looking towards a great year for 2019, and are excited to share our progress and your stories with everyone.

In solidarity,

LFFC Team

The State of the Local Food System - Excerpt from LFFC's Strategic Plan

Our 10th Annual Assembly's theme is the State of the Local Food System, where we are exploring the changes we've witnessed and experienced as retailers, farmers, co-operators and consumers in the local food sector.  These dramatic changes have led to a need for such opportunities as our Fair Finance Fund, to support local food entrepreneurs and farm businesses.  Check out the excerpt below from our Strategic Plan, where we outline this background and need for deeper discussion and collective action.

Fair Finance Fund - Update Sept 2018

We heard from over 450 food and farm businesses in response to the Fair Finance Fund survey; thank you to all of you who responded. If you missed the survey, we are holding regional forums and would love to see you there.

Local Food and Farm Co-ops has launched a collaborative project that mobilizes capital to support the local food and farm sector. The Fair Finance Fund will be a social finance investment fund that supports local food and farm enterprises that have values in enhancing local food systems, local economies, and the planet. 

We heard from almost every corner of the province. 35% of respondents are family farms, 28% are sole proprietorships. We heard from 55 non-profits, and businesses that were starting, scaling up to a new stage, or expanding. Our respondents came from across the supply chain: 20% were stores, 41% were in primary production, 18% came from distribution. There was also a good spread of business size, with around 18% over $500,000 gross revenues, and 21% under $10,000, with representation across the spectrum in between.
 
We have heard that getting loans from traditional sources has been a challenge for a range of reasons, including that the business was too new, the amount needed was too small, there was no collateral, or the interest rate offered was too high. The need for the Fair Finance Fund has been resoundingly confirmed in this survey; the business acumen, vision and viability of the local food and farm businesses are confirmed, and make the sector a prime candidate for the Fund’s flexible loan terms and support networks.
 
In many cases, especially as small or start businesses, businesses report relying on credit cards. The loans food and farm businesses would need from the Fair Finance Fund are visionary (a farm to table restaurant), practical (deer fencing, hoop houses) and socially motivated (youth organic garden). Respondents were asked how they would use funding form the Fair Finance Fund. Responses should give us hope for the future of the local food and farm sector; participant needs are both concrete and innovative, providing leadership that offers social, community and environmental benefits as part of doing business well.
 
The graphic below shows the positive impacts that will result from financing for these businesses:

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The Fair Finance Fund will be officially launched in late 2018; the Fund will be designed to be supported by community investment to match the seed capital. The development team includes consultants from the impact investing arena and loan program management, as well as program managers from RAIN/ SSMIC and LFFC. We’ve interviewed approximately 100 stakeholders representing the local food and farm sector, community investors, finance specialists and others. The material will be assembled into a business plan that will provide the basis for the activities, goals and values of the first three years of activity. The Fund is designed to continue as a self-sustaining revolving loan fund.

Please contact us to learn more through the website or by e-mail. You can also attend one of our upcoming forums in October. You can click here to register for the forums.

For Immediate Release: Fair Finance Transforms Local Food in Ontario

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May 16, 2018

Food co-ops, new farmers, and community-scale processors all consistently identify lack of access to capital as a key barrier to their development.

The Local Food and Farm Co-ops (LFFC) is proud to announce a new initiative, the Fair Finance Fund for the local food and farm sector, and to work with the Rural Agri-Innovation NetworkSSMIC and other partners to realize the vision. 

Our press release can be downloaded via the button below, and interviews can be arranged to give you more information about our program. 


For more information contact:

Sally Miller  
Local Food and Farm Co-ops     
sally<at>localfoodandfarm.coop


David Thompson
Rural Agri-Innovation Network/ Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre
dthompson<at>ssmic.com

 

Peer-2-Peer Mentorship Program

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The Peer-2-Peer (P2P) Mentorship Program is an opportunity for experienced sector leaders to share their knowledge with others within the local food and farm co-op sector.

This is a great opportunity for anyone emerging in the sector that may be faced with a challenge within their work. By connecting with an experienced peer, the mentee can ask specific questions, get advice related to their specific situation and build relationships with other in the sector. LFFC will host and facilitate the initial conversation (scheduling a time and proving video conference platform for the meeting). The partners can decide on next steps at the end of the intitial meeting.

The P2P Program has a list of pre-registered mentors who have agreed to be part of the P2P program. Mentees can also identify someone they want to work with who is not on the pre-registered list. Mentors and mentees are asked to complete a simple form to ensure mutual understanding of the terms of the agreement, and for the mentor to receive an honorarium from LFFC.

 

Process

  1. Mentor and mentee identify willingness to work together

  2. They complete and sign the form identifying the topic (which can be specific or a general need for input)

  3. LFFC will schedule a time to meet by video/ teleconference and facilitate the conversation if needed

  4. Partners will decide on next steps:

    1. Not to proceed further

    2. To continue discussions based on an agreed contract

    3. For the mentor to provide occasional phone/ e-mail access to trouble-shoot

    4. send evaluation to participants

Mentee Responsibilities

  • To respect the time, needs and experience being shared by the mentor

  • Adhere to the mentorship agreement

  • To communicate with LFFC staff in the case of any changes, challenges or problems with the mentorship

 

Mentor Responsibilities

  • To be available to support the mentor as agreed in the mentorship agreement

  • To adhere to the mentorship agreement

  • To communicate with LFFC staff in the case of any changes, challenges or problems with the mentorship

  • Submit invoices in a timely manner.

Cost of the Program

Members

  • The cost of the program for the initial phone meeting is free for members of the LFFC.

  • If funding is no longer available, the terms may change

For non- members

  • The fees are as follows for each hour with the mentor

    • Telephone/ Video Meetings: $45/hr

    • In Person Meetings: $100/ hr

Payment of Services (funding permitted)

Mentors are eligible for compensation for their time and travel expenses based on the following terms:

  • $40/ hour for telephone or in person mentorship time

  • Travel Expense (when required) Kilometers - $0.45/ km, Travel time - $15/hr

Let us know if you have any questions about the program!  Send us an email at info@localfoodandfarm.coop

Keys to Success Project Report for Carrot Cache

The Keys to Success project is intended to identify and analyze the most common stumbling blocks for developing co-ops, as well as the overall landscape in which they currently operate. The project conducted in-depth interviews with co-operators of successful and closed co-ops to identify keys to success that have been successfully implemented or that are needed to help co-ops continue to thrive in a competitive environment. 

 

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The report reviews the challenges identified in the research, assesses the occurrence of these challenges in the larger context of all co-ops, and then explores solutions from the interviews and other research. The recommendations provide new guidelines for LFFC’s ongoing work to convene the leaders and developers of local food and farm co-ops and provide the training and support that they need. Each section provides indicators that should be monitored to avoid the problems identified in each section.

Click the button below to download the PDF of our report.

9th Annual Assembly - that's a wrap!

Thank you to everyone who came out to our 9th Annual Assembly! 

From our supporters and sponsors to our presenters and attendees, the feedback we've gotten has been really positive, and we're glad that everyone had such a great time.

Thanks to Glenn Valliere for the majority of these photos.  Looking forward to connecting throughout the rest of the year, and planning for our 10th year Assembly next year in 2019!