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Province sets up working group

Manitoba is creating a working group to help artisanal food producers get products to market without running afoul of inspectors.

In August, inspectors with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development raided Harborside Farms near Pilot Mound and charged operators Clint and Pam Cavers with selling "food unfit for human consumption."

Three months earlier, a different wing of the same government department lauded the prosciutto produced at Harborside as Manitoba's best new food product.

This prompted a provincewide petition to return the seized prosciutto, as well as a lobbying effort by artisanal producers, who want the province to retool food-processing regulations that were devised to govern large industrial processors.

After several months of diplomacy, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development has taken a small step toward harmonizing artisanal food production with provincial food-safety regimes.

The working group's goal is to ensure direct-farm marketers, small-scale food processors and artisanal producers communicate with provincial food-safety officials and the food-processing industry.

"We see the change of marketing locally grown food and we just felt we had to come together with a stakeholder group to see how we can all work together," Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development Minister Ron Kostyshyn said Tuesday.

"Just look at the popularity of farmers markets. The consumer wants to buy locally grown food and we in government don't have any issue with that, other than that we need to be diligent about safety."

The working group will include representatives from organizations representing Manitoba food processors, chefs, farmers markets, meat processors, agricultural producers, artisanal producers and food-security activists, Kostyshyn said.

At Harborside Farms, Clint Cavers welcomed the news.

"I think the government is recognizing that this local food scene is a lot bigger than people think. There's got to be some movement in regulations to allow for diversification and innovation," said Cavers.

"Somebody needs to recognize we are just as smart in our own right."

Charges against Harborside were dropped in February.

 

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca bill.redekop@freepress.mb.ca

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