Container farming strengthening food security in the North

If there is a silver lining to be found in the past two pandemic years, Erin Rowe, co-owner of Truly Northern Farms in Sudbury, says it’s the feeling of community that’s developed among local farmers.

Truly Northern, a hydroponic farm specializing in leafy greens like kale, basil, and arugula, has become one of Northern Ontario’s premier suppliers of local food from their container operation in Chelmsford, and a larger 23,000-square-foot indoor farm in Opasatika, near Kapuskasing. But aside from growing the greens, Rowe said the biggest change to their operation comes from how they’ve learned to market their product. That’s where the region’s other farmers and food producers come in. 

“What we're realizing, and I think the pandemic really shone a really strong light on this, is that we're stronger together,” Rowe said. “There shouldn't be competition; like, I shouldn't feel threatened by another farmer coming up. I should look at them and say, ‘What can I do to help you? Is there any way that we can band together to make our businesses better?’”

One of their strategies to assist others has been to cross-market. Truly Northern’s Chelmsford storefront — a converted storage container Rowe dubbed “The Shed” — includes offerings from the Ugly Barn Farm, Maple Acres, and the Dukes of Blezard, all Northern Ontario producers. “That's what happened with the pandemic. A lot of us partnered up and started thinking out of the box, and how can we reach more people?” Rowe said. “And then a lot of the grocery stores started showing up for us, too.”

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