According to the business plan, leasing the space for events will be the most profitable aspects of New City Market, earning 72 per cent of the anticipated $90,340 that the NCM will earn in its first year of operation, 2014. (As a corporate non-profit, in years where revenues are higher than expenses, New City Market profit would be used to maintain a short-term reserve fund and a long-term endowment fund for various food security initiatives.)
The facility will also include a 4,000 square foot commercial kitchen, which can be leased to small businesses or other interested parties that want to do food preparation or processing; a 3,000 square foot eatery, which will be expected to be leased to a yet-undetermined restaurant partner; 27,000 square feet of office and meeting space to be leased out; and an 8,000 square foot warehouse (including 5,000 square foot cooler and 1,500 square foot freezer) space.
This warehousing part of the market will serve as an aggregation and distribution hub; a way for small and medium farmers to combine produce and fill large wholesale orders.
Stott calls this part of the market a "really exciting development." He says having a third-party distributor is key -- New City Market doesn't want to be in the business of trucking boxes -- and points to Gordon Food Services, for example, as a potential customer that could pick up pallets of apples, carrots, lettuce and other produce in one spot, without having to deal with the logistics of invoicing three different farmers.
Chris Bodnar is co-operator of Glen Valley Organic Farms in Abbotsford. Glen Valley does direct sales through a CSA, retail sales at farmers' markets in Vancouver, and wholesales to Discovery Organics.
He points to Discovery, as well as Biovia and Pro Organics, as wholesale distributors that are dealing exclusively in wholesale organic already. Vancouver has an even greater number of distributors outside of organic. Bodnar thinks having another player in the Lower Mainland doing something similar "runs the risk of watering down everyone else's sales."
"The aggregated sales seems to have become a real selling feature for New City Market," says Bodnar. "This is coming out of what this group [local food first] has identified as a need in the local food market. I haven't seen a lot of outreach to farmers to explain the concept or get them on board."
That said, Bodnar says he has faith in the plan for a food hub in Vancouver and can see aggregate sales being successful if done in a way that make sense for farmers -- he suggests an auction model, similar to the Elmira Produce Auction in Ontario, where buyers come in looking for case lots of specific items.
Another farmer from Mission who vends at Vancouver markets (and asked not to be identified) said he would "absolutely not" use an aggregation service. He grows primarily for restaurant clients, sells whatever is leftover at farmers' markets, and if there is a major surplus of something, sells it wholesale to Discovery Organics. While the farmers' market is good public relations, he says, he makes very little of his overall profit there.
He says he doesn't need help distributing -- demand for his product is outstripping supply. His biggest problem is finding skilled labour on the farm to help meet that demand.
Market in progress
One thing all the farmers this reporter spoke to were enthusiastic about was a permanent home for the market. "That's one of the big things we would like to see," says Bodnar. "Right now the unfocused nature of farmers' markets, in terms of lack of long-term assurance of location is, I think, a problem.
But it remains to be seen whether other aspects of the food hub will work for farmers, a group of people, admits Bodnar, that can be difficult to organize ("herding cats" is how he described it.)
Stott and McDonald emphasize that the preliminary business plan is just that: preliminary. If the aggregation service, for example, doesn't seem like it will work the way it's laid out now, they can rework it, or scrap it altogether, says Stott.
In the coming weeks, they intend to roll out the plan (online, and through workshops) and gather feedback from farmers, the public and other interested stakeholders.
"That's the next stage, to give the opportunity to show this to people who are interested, to have those in-depth conversations," says Stott. "With this preliminary business plan, we're trying to give them something to get a hold of."
See more Tyee stories like this in: Food.]