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     

David Thompson
Rural Agri-Innovation Network/ Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre


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.



  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


  • 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

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. 



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!


NWO Beef Branding in the news!

Our Northwest Coordinator, Jen Springett, was in the news on CBC Thunder Bay speaking about the Beef Branding initiative LFFC is spearheading in partnership with Beef Farmers Ontario and Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op. 

Listen to what Jen had to say, CLICK HERE to listen.

And please visit our NWO Beef Branding info page for more details, including surveys for Northwest Ontarians to see what direction you'd like to see our project take.

If you're in the Dryden, Emo, or Thunder Bay areas, check out our workshops happening in April.  Click on the link below for more info and to reserve your tickets.

9th Annual Assembly Registration now online!

Our 9th Annual Assembly will be on March 20th-21st in Schomberg, ON.

Check out our Assembly Page for more info and Early Bird Registration!


Our 9th Assembly Partners

Learn more about some of our 9th Assembly Sponsors in the following Profiles:

Ontario Co-operative Association


The Ontario Co-operative Association (formerly On Co-op) is the only organization to bring together ALL of Ontario’s English-speaking co-operatives and credit unions for education, support, development, information-sharing and celebration. By fostering cross-sector networking, On Co-op promotes co-operation amongst co-operatives.


The Big Carrot


One of the oldest natural food grocery stores in Toronto, the Big Carrot was founded on co-operative principles though it officially does not operate as a workers' co-op.  This enormous natural and organic food grocery store on Danforth Avenue in Toronto's Riverdale east end neighbourhood includes a cafe, a dispensary, and also a fresh juice bar.


Ag Energy Co-operative


Ag Energy Co-operative Ltd. was founded over 28 years ago by growers to help pool their natural gas purchasing power.  Since then, Ag Energy has expanded its offerings to include electricity and evolved into an experienced energy management team.