News

Website will foster new business opportunities

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

The South-Central Ontario Region (SCOR) handed out awards for outstanding achievement during Local Food Recognition Day in Tillsonburg Friday. Recognized in the category of food literacy and education were Brian Reichheld of Jarvis and Dan Barker of Simcoe, better known as Two Fairly Fat Guys. In recent years, Reichheld and Barker have spread the word about locally grown food from the Norfolk County Fair in Simcoe to the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. Accepting on behalf of the Fairly Fat duo was Reichheld, at right, while presenting the award was Norfolk County Coun. Jim Oliver. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER

The South-Central Ontario Region (SCOR) handed out awards for outstanding achievement during Local Food Recognition Day in Tillsonburg Friday. Recognized in the category of food literacy and education were Brian Reichheld of Jarvis and Dan Barker of Simcoe, better known as Two Fairly Fat Guys. In recent years, Reichheld and Barker have spread the word about locally grown food from the Norfolk County Fair in Simcoe to the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. Accepting on behalf of the Fairly Fat duo was Reichheld, at right, while presenting the award was Norfolk County Coun. Jim Oliver. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER

TILLSONBURG - 

Producers and retailers of niche food products in south-central Ontario are getting serious about increasing their market share.

The smart ones have already figured out it is better to team up with rivals and non-rivals alike where there is potential to enlarge the pie for everyone. Today, the South-Central Ontario Region (SCOR) wants to write this concept large across Norfolk, Elgin, Oxford, Middlesex and Brant counties.

SCOR has hired the Pickering consulting firm Ecoethonomics to gather a data base of niche, specialty and artisanal food players in the SCOR area and showcase them on an open-access website.

The idea is to keep specialty players connected in case opportunities for mutually-beneficial partnerships arise.

Bryan Gilvesy of Tillsonburg, owner of the YU Ranch longhorn cattle farm, has been operating along these lines for some time now. At SCOR’s Local Food Recognition Day in Tillsonburg Friday, Gilvesy said this practice has paid dividends for him for many years.

“We were doing ‘local food’ before local food was a thing,” Gilvesy told the crowd at the head office of the Long Point Region Conservation Authority. “And we’re not the only ones in the room.

“Change is our friend in this business. We’re just scratching the surface of the potential in this space.”

Trevor Benson of Ecoethonomics agreed. Benson is working with SCOR to make the “Who’s Doing What?” website a reality. Benson and company will spend the next year collecting detailed information on local food players who want to take part.

“It’s an amazing project and we feel fortunate to be involved,” Benson said. “It’s so important to understand who’s doing what across the province. It’s important that we try not to re-invent the wheel and waste time and energy duplicating others.”

YU Ranch has a working relationship with VG Packers and Townsend Butchers in Simcoe. Gilvesy said the meat packers are potential rivals but all three have benefitted from working together to increase market share for all.

The “Who’s Doing What?” website will be a match-maker for similar relationships. SCOR became enthusiastic about the idea earlier this year after economic development officials in Middlesex County embarked on a similar initiative of their own.

The meeting room at the LPRCA office was filled with local food players from across the SCOR area. Gilvesy shared other tips that have helped make his business and others successful. Highlights include:

• Small businesses leave a lot to chance if they rely on others to distribute their product. This is a potential “choke point” in a business plan. Instead, businesses should develop an in-house delivery component. This builds relationships, ensures on-time delivery, and keeps management abreast of client concerns before they cost market share.

• Business owners should be proud of their product and be prepared to throw their doors open to customers and potential customers so they can have confidence in what they are buying.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com