April 29, 2010- Grower's co-operative to be explored

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“A wonderful starting point for the potential of a vibrant new industry in our community,” is how Carmen Rockwell-Hoover describes a recently announced Co-operative Development Initiative program grant.
Rockwell-Hoover is co-ordinating a study conducted by Greenheart Herbal Society to determine the viability of a herb growers’ co-operative in the Creston Valley.
“There are many people in our area who love to grow things and there is a huge demand for organic culinary and medicinal herbs in the market place,” she said. “So it seems like a natural fit. Whether a person has acres of land or just a large backyard the possibility of generating income exists.”
The study aims to identify all potential growers in the Creston Valley. It will undertake to learn what types of professional expertise and support are needed, the market potential for producers (for herbs as well as value-added and agri-tourism aspects) and if a co-operative model is actually the best way to organize growers.
“We are extremely fortunate to have received funding through the federally funded Cooperative Development Initiative program,” said Greenheart president Rachel Beck. “They recognize the potential for our valley and have been very supportive of our efforts to date.”
Greenheart Herbal Society formed in 2008 with a mandate “to promote the knowledge, uses and pleasure of herbs and indigenous plants through education, programs and displays, research and sharing the experience of its members with the community.”
“A herb producers co-operative will help us to meet that mandate on a very tangible level,” Beck said. “By the creation of the co-op we can promote greener, more sustainable agricultural practices in our valley, generate employment, create dollars in our community and promote the use of herbs in general”.
“The government of Canada is proud to support co-operatives,” Kootenay-Columbia MP Jim Abbott said in making the funding announcement. “They encourage healthier and stronger communities by bringing people together to address community needs.”
The Greenheart Herb Producers Co-operative is one of many projects funded under CDI, a four-year, $19.1 million program that helps Canadians develop new co-operatives and experiment innovative ways of using the co-operative model. This initiative, which has been successful in making the co-operative option readily available to Canadians by improving access to advisory services, helping co-operatives gather funding and advancing research and knowledge development, is co-managed by the Canadian Co-operative Association and the Conseil canadien de la coopération et de la mutualité in partnership with the Government of Canada.
Since it was established in 2003, CDI has supported over 1,500 co-op projects and helped to create over 200 new co-operatives. The program has also allowed for testing new kinds of co-operatives and undertaking research projects to understand how co-operatives can contribute to regional economic development. The agriculture component of CDI, put in place in 2006, was responsible for the creation of over 60 value-added agricultural co-operatives.
On May 5, Greenheart Herbal Society will be hosting an information meeting for those who would be interested in learning more about this exciting opportunity. The evening starts at 6 p.m. with a light meal and will feature a presentation by co-operative development consultant Robert Agnew. There is no charge to attend but those interested must pre-register by calling the College of the Rockies at 250-428-5332. For more information, contact Carmen Rockwell-Hoover at 250-866-6856 or greenheartherbalsociety@yahoo.ca.