Local producers and markets celebrated in Richmond and B.C.

The provincial government’s Buy Local Program provided more than $88,000 of funding for Richmond-based companies, assisting them with marketing campaigns to reach a larger audience and, in turn, hopefully increase sales.

“The help from government is good, but it would be nice to get more because we are hoping to expand into other markets, especially in eastern North America,” said Moon Chan, controller of Organika Health Products Inc., one of the local companies the province put the spotlight on last week.

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Chan said Organika, which has been producing health supplements from its east Richmond premises since 1990 and currently employs more than 100 workers in its 30,000-square-foot plant, is looking to open a 10,000-square-foot logistics warehouse in Ontario to serve customers in the eastern seaboard area.

“We are really appreciative of the help we do get because we’re at a lot of trade shows around the world, promoting our products that are made from ingredients grown in B.C.,” Chan said. “We got to L.A., Shanghai, Hong Kong and Japan, just to name a few. But our biggest market is in Ontario. That’s where we want to focus and establish a warehouse.”

While Organika uses ingredients from around the globe, such as the potent antioxidant macca root from Peru and bee propolis from Brazil — a material that is a mixture of tree resin and honey, which bees use to seal small cracks and gaps in the hive — it also uses B.C.-grown spirulina (blue-green algae) in a supplement designed to reduce joint inflammation.

“We like to think we take the best of B.C. and sell it to the rest of the world,” Chan said.

Another local firm using locally grown produce is Von Albrecht & Associates, a group of food and beverage specialists known for its XFour blueberry vodka that uses half a pound of fruit in each bottle that is raised and harvested from Bremner’s Farm in nearby Ladner.

“It’s wonderful to see British Columbia’s craft spirits recognized internationally for their quality ingredients and taste. With the Buy Local funding helping us showcase our products and support from all of our partners, our business continues to grow and we look forward to expanding our market further,” said Marcus Von Albrecht, who founded the company in 2005.

Much of the assistance Richmond-headquartered BG Health Group derived from the Buy Local program went into marketing.

“The variety and diversity of locally grown, produced and processed products in Richmond is outstanding. It’s great to see a community that is working together to create jobs, help the local economy while offering a great product,” said Dennis Gunn, vice-president of operations for BG Health Group, which is about to expand on its flaxseed cooking oil business by bringing its new line of hummus dips to store shelves across Canada in the coming weeks.

While BG Health Group’s head office is located in Richmond, actual production, mostly using B.C. ingredients for its hummus, is done in a 10,000-square-foot facility in Surrey.

While it’s the grocery store shelves Gunn and other producers hope customers flock to, a steady number of people around the province are visiting farmers markets in their own communities, such as the Steveston Farmers & Artisans Market, which is operated by the Richmond Agricultural & Industrial Society.

This year, the market moved to a new location in the parking lot of the Steveston Community Centre. The switch from the Gulf of Georgia Cannery grounds for the spring and summer season meant a decrease in overall space for vendors to set up, but it hasn’t dampened the public’s enthusiasm to get out on every other Sunday this summer to see and buy local produce and goods, said Johanna Stewart, the market committee’s chair.

Vendor interest has also remained strong with bookings stretching through the season, she added.

This Sunday, to help celebrate Farmers Appreciation Week there will be a host of activities in the Kids’ Zone on the community centre grounds that will include photo opportunities and colouring.

The market runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., rain or shine. Parking is available at the Steveston Community Centre parking lot at 4111 Moncton Street.

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