Northumberland County's Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre hosts June 15 open house

Northumberland County is opening the doors to the public on Saturday (June 15) for a peek into the kitchens of Colborne's unique food processing facility.

Food entrepreneurs, farmers, and community members are invited to stop by the Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre (OAFVC) on Purdy Street from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Participants will be able to see "Ontario's leading shared-use consumer packaged goods (CPG) food processing facility" and discover how the OAFVC supports food entrepreneurs from Northumberland County and across Ontario.

The OAFVC is a small-batch food processing facility that helps food entrepreneurs and farmers bring "made in Ontario" products to market. Staff members provide business development support to help food entrepreneurs with launching or expanding their business.

Entrepreneurs get access to industry-leading food processing equipment, cold, dry, and frozen food-safe storage facilities. Local farmers can find sustainable solutions for excess fruits and vegetables.

Cobourg high school students recently experienced first-hand the process of small-batch food processing when they prepared and bottled their own salsa.

Nineteen Cobourg Collegiate Institute (CCI) students created their product and brand with the support of the Business and Entrepreneurship Centre Northumberland (BECN) and the OAFVC.

"This exercise offered the opportunity for high school students to experience the process of ideating and developing a product-based business from scratch," said Kailyn Coupland, county business development manager, in a media release.

"The project aimed to inspire the future generation of business owners and help them acquire the skills they need to be able to turn their entrepreneurial dreams into reality."

Throughout the school semester, Molly Klintworth's Grade 12 business class worked with BECN and OAFVC staff to plan, develop, produce and market their retail-ready salsa. The students took part in business training and development classes to create a business plan to promote their product. They learned a number of skills that included how to develop a logo, arrive at a slogan, and market their salsa effectively.

With the support of Dancing Bee Equipment, located in Port Hope, the students were able to bring their vision to life by producing print packaging with custom labels. Once their business plan and branding were finalized, the students produced 600 jars of salsa at the OAFVC.

"The OAFVC was pleased to be able to host students from CCI to help them transform their creative business idea into retail-ready consumer packaged goods," said OAFVC manager Trissia Mellor.

"While producing salsa at the OAFVC, the students gained skills in safe food handling practices, had the opportunity to learn how to use state of the art food production equipment, and were able to get a taste for the many agri-food entrepreneurship opportunities in Northumberland."

After developing their product, the students were able to implement their business and marketing plans to help support their school community, the release noted.

"We're very proud of how the students transformed their creative ideas into tangible products, which are now being sold within the school community to help raise funds for the girl's hockey team and the art club," Klintworth said.

The BECN co-ordinates activities to expose students in Northumberland to business mentorship and training. In addition to school collaborations, the BECN also offers free annual student business programs to support youth entrepreneurs and connect them with micro grants, training, and resources to help them launch their own business.

Meanwhile at the OAFVC, the June 15 open house is a free event. Community members will receive a tour, learn about the OAFVC, and have a chance to ask questions. The OAFVC is located at 216 Purdy Road in Colborne.

Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, KawarthaNOW