Time running out for agriculture co-operative to purchase farm

The CCAC has less than two months to come up with the down payment for a 56-acre farm

The clock is ticking for the Community Created Agriculture Co-operative (CCAC) in its plans to create a large-scale food production co-op in the Comox Valley.

Proposed by engineer Eduardo Uranga, molecular soil biologist Thierry Vrain, and former UBC and McGill University researcher Dave Klassen, the CCAC aims to buy a local farm and convert it into an agriculture co-operative.

(An agriculture co-operative is a farm in which farmers pool their capital and their resources in certain areas of activity).

Read More: Comox Valley group plans large-scale agriculture co-operative

The CCAC’s goal is to produce, process, preserve, store and deliver organic and glyphosate-free food to 300 pre-paid subscribers in the Comox Valley. Uranga said the co-op would operate under community-supported agriculture principles, in which people pay in advance for a pre-specified amount of food. Their money in turn funds the production costs.

Last summer, the production group behind the CCAC — made up of about a dozen farmers, scientists, and other Comox Valley residents interested in the project — aimed to buy a 56-acre plot of land located behind the Wal-Mart in Courtenay for $1.35 million and convert it into an agriculture co-op.

The land currently houses a tree nursery and, according to Uranga, already has much of the infrastructure necessary to be converted into an organic food production hub.

But the down payment for the farm is due March 1, and the group is no closer to purchasing it than they were four months ago, despite securing a purchase agreement with the landowner in August.

Uranga said the group’s crowdfunding campaign to raise $300,000 for the down payment failed to garner much support last fall. The campaign sought to convince 300 people in the Comox Valley to contribute $1,000 to the initiative, for which they would receive $100/year of food from the co-operative, for life.

“It didn’t really go very well,” said Uranga of the crowdfunding campaign. “We only had 14 subscribers out of the 300 we needed.”

Furthermore, Uranga said none of the credit unions in the Comox Valley wanted to get on board with the initiative. The CCAC aimed to apply for a $3-million loan from the federal government through the Canadian Agricultural Loans Act program.

“…all the local credit unions — all of them — refused to participate. When I approached them, they said ‘we’re not interested in agriculture’,” said Uranga.

On a more positive note, the CCAC was able to become incorporated in December, meaning the group can now apply for funds from the B.C. government to prepare a business plan.

Despite the lack of progress thus far in financing the initiative, Uranga says he remains optimistic in his dream of establishing the Comox Valley’s first large-scale agriculture co-operative.

“We’re revamping the campaign now, upgrading it to a more aggressive promotion to raise the funds,” he said.

“We’re looking for an ‘Angel.’ Someone who will put up the money to do the down payment so we don’t need the backers. But we still think having backers not only helps the financing but also locks the consumers.”

Uranga said that refunds to any subscribers would be provided if the 56-acre farm is not purchased by June 30.

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