Growing Community Resilience with the Cowichan Food Innovation Program

Cowichan Food Innovation Program with Spring Activator | Meet the Cohort blog post

Over a year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have become more collectively aware of the need to build sustainable and regenerative food systems. From how we grow, process, and transport our food to how we repurpose what might otherwise go to waste, the opportunities for innovation are numerous.

The potential for impact in food innovation is even greater, as eating is something we all do every day, and often not just out of a need for nourishment (and to gratify our tastebuds), but also to come together and build community and form the building blocks of successful and self-sufficient food ecosystems.

The combination of local expertise, craftsmanship, and a love of community and food is unparalleled when it comes to making an impact in this immense industry with its many niches. Add in an entrepreneurial skillset and a dash of support mechanisms, and you have a recipe for a food secure future.

At Spring Activator, we partner with communities and organizations to provide food and beverage entrepreneurs with the training and guidance they need to thrive, and also to pivot in circumstances such as those brought about by COVID-19. Enter programs such as the Cowichan Food Innovation Program.

The Cowichan Food Innovation Program

Brought to you in partnership with Economic Development Cowichan and the support of MNP, the Cowichan Food Innovation Program was created in an effort to foster innovation in the community and support the local development of a thriving food and beverage sector.

Cowichan Valley is located on Vancouver Island in British Columbia and is plentiful in unique agricultural offerings, placing the region and its food entrepreneurs into an optimal positioning when it comes to working towards local food security. However, existing businesses must evolve in the face of changing consumer demands and realities brought about by the pandemic, and new ideas often need a little help materializing. The Cowichan Food Innovation Program offers a tailored experience catering to both of these needs. 

The free, 12-week virtual program supports entrepreneurs on two journeys: an INCUBATOR to take entrepreneurs from idea to launch preparation, and an ACCELERATOR to take entrepreneurs to the next stage of evolving their business. Wrap-around support such as mentor matching, one-on-one consulting with industry professionals, and access to a community hub are some of the special ingredients that elevate this program into a fine dish.

Off to a Sizzling Start with an Incredible Group of Entrepreneurs

The Cowichan Food Innovation Program kicked off in late April 2021 with a talented group of food and beverage entrepreneurs ready to shake up the local food industry. New friendships and connections are brewing and there are an abundance of ideas and successful business opportunities amongst the cohort. 

The unwavering passion for food and commitment to bettering their community and planet is a refreshing snapshot of how local food entrepreneurs are not letting COVID interfere with achieving their goals while keeping their communities fed.

From artisanal teas to mushroom-powered products, there is something yummy for everyone, and we are eager to support the incubation and acceleration of these ideas and established businesses. We invite you to meet the cohort and get a taste of what this talented group of food entrepreneurs is cooking up!

Introducing the Entrepreneurs of the Cowichan Food Innovation Program

Midori Horayama

Midori Horayama

Cowichan Valley Miso
Midori Horayama moved to Duncan, B.C. in 2015 to accompany her daughter as she attended school. Her daughter returned to Japan once she completed school but Midori loved Duncan so much she decided to stay. Equipped with decades of experience working in various industries and a Tofu Meister certificate earned from the Japan Tofu Meister Association, Midori is developing her own line of Miso, Tofu and Natou. Her dreams of launching her own business focused on healthy foods and macrobiotics are coming to fruition as Midori works to perfect her new line of specialty Japanese food products.
Dixie Simpson

Dixie Simpson

Lost Cuzins
Dixie Simpson and Carol Keller are long lost cousins who come from different backgrounds and have reunited to create a unique foodie experience. Dixie grew up in Europe where she trained as a chef but never pursued it as a career. She is currently an Operations Director for two companies and brings these administrative skills along with recipes from her training to the table at Lost Cuzins.
Carol Keller

Carol Keller

Lost Cuzins
Carol Keller started out cooking at a sawmill in Alberta, where she also worked in various restaurants and a bakery. After moving to BC, she pursued hair dressing and owned two salons in the Cowichan Valley. After retiring from hair dressing, Carol studied farm-to-table cooking. Together, Carol and Dixie are cooking up delicious items like tomato jam that continually sells out, despite the business not being fully launched yet. Products can be ordered by calling (403) 638-9510.
Lisa Parnell

Lisa Parnell

Lisa Parnell is a cook who was diagnosed with diabetes about two years ago. She loves sweets and bread and has started to adapt a lot of her favorite recipes to make them more diabetic friendly. By doing this she has been able to keep her A1C in check and still enjoy some of her favorite foods a little more often. She would like to continue to adapt other items such as sauces, donuts, chocolates and more using natural sweeteners that don't spike blood sugar and are low in carbohydrates.

Find out more about our food innovation programming.

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