Iqaluit food market promises freshly harvested produce
Quebec and Ontario-grown food will fly from farms to the Arctic
Iqaluit is more than 2,000 kilometres away from farmers’ markets in southern Canada, but that won’t be an issue on Aug. 30, when a fresh food market comes to the city.
Iqalummiut will have a chance to buy fresh fruits, vegetables and cheeses from Quebec and Ontario that day, thanks to a pilot project by a group of residents.
“We’re mostly trying to get better quality produce, organic produce at reasonable prices,” said Michel Potvin.
The longtime Iqaluit resident teamed up with five fellow food market enthusiasts who want to offer freshly harvested produce.
The group’s ultimate goal — if the market proves successful — is to create a food market co-operative.
“Our intent is not necessarily to create a ‘farm to fork’ concept, but as close to that as possible,” Potvin told Nunatisaq News.
“Basically to buy from local producers in western Quebec and eastern Ontario, and get what’s in season, what’s fresh — and bring it up here and sell it at a reasonable cost,” he said.
Potvin’s six-member “citizen’s committee” has the support of Carrefour Nunavut, an Iqaluit-based francophone economic development agency, to help build the new co-operative.
“We’re still finding our feet, and looking at the various options open to us,” he said.
That includes gauging public interest, and figuring out what kind of co-op would work best for residents of Iqaluit.
Carrefour Nunavut brings added expertise and some financial backing to the project.
The agency also promises to help the co-op initiative reach a longer-term vision “to increase the level of food security in Iqaluit, to provide low-income families with opportunity to enjoy fresh, healthy and good quality food products, and increase product selection,” Carrefour Nunavut stated in an Aug. 15 news release.
Until it can reach that lofty goal, the first step is to “grab the interest of the community,” said Amélie Morel, manager of entrepreneurship at Carrefour.
The co-op project needs the community’s interest to make it work, starting with an inaugural food market, she said.
“There’s a few things we’ll try to bring up that you probably can’t find in town, just a few curiosity items to get people talking,” Potvin said. “Black garlic is one that foodies will recognize.
“Corn is hitting its peak season, so we’re going to try to bring in some fresh corn, and try to sell that at a reasonable price. We’re also going to be bringing in some Quebec cheeses, which you will not find in town.”
Organizers will also ask residents what they would like for a second food market, he said, which could add specialized products such as maple syrup, pasteurized honey, organic and gluten-free foods.
The co-op committee has a partnership with the Northern Shopper, which will fly up the produce directly from producers in areas of western Quebec and eastern Ontario, not far from Ottawa.
Potvin said prices on several products should be lower than rates found at Iqaluit’s two grocery stores, NorthMart and Arctic Ventures, particularly fruits and vegetables that are in season, such as lettuce and cucumbers.
Not all prices will be lower, he added, because the co-op committee can’t buy food in large bulk amounts like supermarkets.
“Our goal is not to make a lot of money, it’s basically to break even,” Potvin said. “Our intent is to make it as affordable as possible, and bring in fresher and better-quality ingredients.”
Any profits made will go into the next market the group can put on, he added, which is in keeping with co-op principles.
The project also has the support of two other francophone associations — Réseau de santé en français du Nunavut, and the Francophone Association, which will host the market at the Francophone Centre.
The six-member co-op committee hopes to rally the Iqalummiut to join in and help the project take root, “to do something positive for the community,” Potvin said.
“We hope it will find legs and grow, and that it will become a permanent fixture in the community.”
The Iqaluit food market opens at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 30 ,at the Iqaluit francophone centre, and will run all afternoon.