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City farmers hoping to expand business

Sole Food Farms is hoping to raise money to help grow business
Seann Dory
Seann Dory is hoping to raise $100,000 on Indiegogo; it would enable him and his partner to hire staff for Sole Food’s retail locations.

An urban farming organization hopes that Vancouverites will support their plans to expand production and set up two year-round retail locations in the city.

Seann Dory and Michael Ableman founded Sole Food Street Farms in 2009 in a parking lot beside the Astoria Hotel. They started with a team of six staff and produced 10,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables in their first year. They now operate 4.5 acres in four sites in the city and grew 20 tonnes of produce last year.

Sole Food sells their produce at farmers’ markets and operates a share program where individuals can pay upfront and receive produce for 20 weeks in return.

Dory and Ableman want to set up two year-round retail locations, one in Granville Island’s public market and another on the corner of Main and Terminal. In order to raise money for this project, Sole Food is starting a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo that will run May 14 to June 1. They aim to raise at least $100,000.

“We liked the idea of engaging the broader Vancouver community so that they can participate,” said Dory.

The two retail locations would allow Sole Food to grow their farm business because there’ll be more opportunity to sell produce, according to Dory. Having year-round outlets would also allow the organization to employ people all year instead of seasonally.

Dory estimates that with $100,000, he will be able to hire five or six new staff to support the two new retail locations.

Sole Food Farms hires people who normally experience barriers to employment due to mental illness, drug addiction, or poverty. Alain Guy has worked for Sole Food since 2009. “Working year round would get me off welfare. I come off of seasonal work and I’m back on welfare,” he said. He works five to six months per year.

The new retail locations would also provide opportunities for a greater range of people. “Some people can’t do the physical labour and we need places for people like that,” said Guy.

Sole Food Farms has received grants to fund upgrades or expansions to the organization’s orchard and farms. Sixty per cent of Sole Food’s costs are covered by produce sales, which essentially takes care of day-to-day operational costs. However, Sole Food would need additional funds to set up retail locations. Dory’s optimistic about the crowdfunding campaign and hopes it will “engage the community around an idea.”

– Courtesy Vancouver Courier