The John Di Poce South Georgian Bay Campus of Georgian College was simmering with advice and ideas around food production on Feb. 24 as the campus hosted a community seminar for food entrepreneurs.
More than 150 farmers, food artisans and other prospective entrepreneurs packed the halls and classrooms of the campus in Collingwood to learn more about how to start or expand a food-based business. Tables were heaped with dozens of tempting local food products and delicious samples in a food entrepreneur showcase that filled hallways on two floors.
Participants learned about the processes and preparation required for starting a food business. They discovered lessons learned from successful local food entrepreneurs and discussed important food trends. They also had time to connect and network with other entrepreneurs, producers and suppliers.
Georgian College President and CEO Mary-Lynn West Moynes told participants that Georgian was thrilled to host the event, particularly because of the college’s expertise and commitment to entrepreneurship education.
“At Georgian, we recognize how important your success is to the local economy. We believe that product development and business incubation across the counties of Grey, Simcoe and Bruce is imperative for economic growth – for generating wealth, employment and training opportunities, and attracting new businesses and residents,” she said.
West-Moynes also encouraged participants to talk about the conference on twitter using #localfoodentrepreneur, and all day long smartphones were buzzing with tweets.
Six local food entrepreneurs shared their experiences of starting and operating successful food-based businesses. They included two dairy farmers – John Miller of Miller’s Dairy, a Creemore-area dairy farm that processes and sells its own Jersey milk, and Ino Huesing of Saugeen Country Dairy in Grey County, a bionynamic dairy farm processing its own milk into yogurt and kefir.
Steven Epstein explained how he and his wife Kelly have nurtured their Dags and Willow Fine Cheese and Gourmet Shop in Collingwood into a thriving retail store. Gerbe Botden of Global Fruit Orchards has applied innovative technology in the apple orchard business. Global Fruit is also producer of the popular new Red Prince apple.
Robert Ketchin explained some of the secrets behind the success of Georgian Hills Vineyards, a burgeoning new wine producer in the Blue Mountains. Julie Carter described how she used her background in event management to carry her husband’s catering business, Men With Knives, to a new level of success that now includes more than 30 casual employees. Expert advice also came from such panelists as Loblaws product developer Amy Bracco, Michael Donohue of the Toronto Business Development Centre and Foodland Ontario’s Samantha Miller-Quinlan.
The event was presented by Georgian College in partnership with Foodland Ontario, local municipalities (including Clearview Township, the Town of Collingwood, the City of Owen Sound, the Town of Wasaga Beach), economic development partners in Grey County and the County of Simcoe, and the South Georgian Bay Small Business Enterprise Centre.
Eager Culinary students from Georgian’s Owen Sound Campus spent the morning preparing and presenting a lunch made from mostly local ingredients, including local meats, fish, and even homemade ice cream made on the spot.
Georgian College Food Entrepreneurs Community Seminar