Cowichan Valley Cooperative Marketplace will hire two people to create a contactless home delivery system
Customers of the Cowichan Valley Cooperative Marketplace (Cow-op) in Duncan, B.C. will soon have an improved, contactless home delivery system thanks to $100,000 in recent funding from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.
When COVID-19 hit in March, the Cow-op wanted to keep producers, workers and customers safe. So, organizers changed how products got to customers.
Representatives from the Cow-op decided to start a home delivery service for the short term, said Derrick Pawlowski, executive director of the organization.
The closure of in-person farmer markets and restaurants changed how people could get local food.
“We realized that Cow-op was kind of this last lifeline that acted as a place where people could still buy directly from farms,” Pawlowski told Farms.com.
Cow-op’s home delivery system started with volunteers, said Pawlowski.
“We started to have 15 to 20 volunteers show up every week to deliver our orders, which was amazing, though it wasn't necessarily a system built to last,” he said. “A handful of folks who volunteered were producers and members in the cooperatives and they needed to get back onto their farms.”
The Cow-op representatives realized the home delivery system needed to stay. Organizers always wanted to create such a system but hadn’t planned to tackle it this soon, said Pawlowski.
“In an interesting way, the pandemic really allowed the Cow-op to become the dependable sales avenue that it always wanted to be,” said Pawlowski.
So, the Cow-op representatives applied for a job creation partnership grant through the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction’s stream of WorkBC’s Community and Employer Partnerships. Cow-op organizers wanted to have two employees to create and run the home delivery system, said Pawlowski.
“I thought that this was a really great opportunity. Part is something as simple as delivery driving but another part is researching, reporting and designing the systems, and then putting (the plan) into action,” he said.
The Cow-op organizers also used the grant to hire a project manager, said Pawlowski.
“The goal with the project is … to provide a robust sales avenue for local farmers and take a lot of the administration and the selling work off their backs,” he said. The project will “allow us to keep increasing our customer base, but also to keep delivering to our customers.”
Photo credit: Cowichan Valley Cooperative Marketplace