Daily Dose — Basin Food and Buyers Expo (FABx) Connects Food Producers, Buyers and Consumers
Since 2018, Shauna Fidler has been tasked with organizing a yearly Expo that brings together area producers and buyers.
Fidler owns DESIGN FARM, a Slocan-based company that creates design solutions for producers building delicious and bio-diverse legacies of good food and community.
Fidler explains how she got involved initially.
“In 2018 the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) hosted an agriculture forum in Cranbrook and invited anybody who worked in agriculture from around the region. A few hundred people got together for facilitated dialogue about the needs of Basin people in agriculture.”
One thing was clear: food producers/makers wanted a food industry event just for them.
“One of the most agreed upon needs was determined to be a food industry event for Basin producers. There is something unique about the producers in this region in that the geography, logistics, and transportation challenges from remoteness is something they all share in common,” says Fidler.
Fidler, who owned bakeries in Calgary previously, was contracted to produce this food industry event. She recognized the importance of food expos in building a business.
“The idea was that food producers could exhibit their products to an audience primarily of food buyers. We did that in 2018 in Nelson, which was pretty great. We had a few hundred people participate in the first well-received event. There was a lot of enthusiasm about continuing the event.”
The event has run successfully for four years in person and one year online due to COVID-19.
Fidler is planning the next two-day event in Creston on November 3rd and 4th.
“The event is open to people who work with food. If you’re a food or beverage buyer, chef, caterer, grocery store owner, or food maker. Last year, at our event in Invermere, we hosted a public marketplace. This was something that people loved, and the feedback was great, so we will do that this year in Creston,” says Fidler.
Fidler articulates the primary goal of the event.
“The guiding messaging behind what we’re doing is celebrating and connecting producers from this region. We bring in experts to amplify and support business development needs, have a lot of networking time, and then do the Expo and the public market.”
Food is at the centre of the entire weekend.
“The whole event is laced with an entirely local splattering of delicious food. It’s one delicious meal after another—all local. You’re sitting at a table and eating potatoes from a farmer and drinking apple juice from a producer down the road. It’s all about celebrating and enjoying locally grown food,” says Fidler.
Fidler’s company is contracted by CBT every year to run the event. In the three years previous, it was fully funded by CBT. CBT is funding 60% this year, and registration fees will generate the remaining 40%.
Fidler hopes the community will come to partake in the event.
“Last year, with the success of bringing the shoppers and the foodies and the eaters to the market, it has become evident that we need to amplify the message so that the public and people who love supporting local are there with their dollars and their shopping bags to support the biggest selection of local foods that you would see at any local market period.”
A steering committee guides the event planning, says Fidler.
“It is made of people from across the Basin who work in emergency food, business development, Community Futures, the colleges, farmers markets, and farmers. The diversity of the board is amazing. We have our finger on the pulse of what is happening.”
Fidler says some incredible things have come out of the Expo.
“People launch projects and get inspired at our events. We listen and respond. There are a lot of people who say, ‘This is the highlight of the year for us, coming together with all of our farming friends.’ That feels really important.”
Residents can sign up at the event website as a food buyer, producer, or member of the public.
The other exciting thing about this year’s event is FABx is partnering with the Creston Farmer’s Market to run a full indoor market alongside the Expo.
“This will be exciting for people to come to that market. It will be all different producers than people who normally go to the Nelson market are used to,” Fidler explains.
The other unique aspect of this year’s event is that in collaboration with the West Kootenay Regional Arts Council, FABx is putting out a call to artists, who are invited to submit their original creations made of food packaging, explore the theme of food packaging, or offer food packaging designs.
Food packaging is a contentious subject relevant to food producers, who need to navigate the world of food safety and freshness balanced with sustainability and impact. Exploring this theme through art will add creative context and a thought-provoking exhibition to this event.
A cash prize of $1,000 (or more) will be awarded to the people’s choice in two categories. Basin residents using any medium can register by September 15 through this brief form. (Final artwork is due October 30).
See further details on how to participate here.