Throughout Muskoka, between 2012-2014, comprehensive analysis, along with widespread, regional consultations and research was achieved, resulting in both the Muskoka Foodshed Report, and the Muskoka Food & Agriculture Charter. In response to the outcomes and recommendations of these documents, in 2013, a diverse, grassroots group of food systems advocates formed The Common Roots Food Collective. The mission of this group was to join together networks, resources, ideas and visions to create what will become a highly sustainable model of best practices in food security and local economic development measures for Huntsville, Muskoka, and ultimately all of Northern Ontario.
In November 2013, the formation of a co-operative mechanism designed for the strengthening of food access and distribution systems along with regional agri-food capacity building and community education began.
In March 2014 the Muskoka North Good Food Co-operative (MNGFC) was incorporated by a strategically formed Board of Directors, and a comprehensive Business Plan was developed with input from leading Ontario co-operative development experts and various advisors. This plan now guides the development and implementation of Muskoka North Good Food Co-operative.
From 2014 to 2016 the co-op continued to run events, sign up new members, and sell local products through pop-up co-ops. The driving force behind the creation and ongoing development of the co-op was Kelli Ebbs.
Thanks to a grant from Fednor the co-op hired its first paid employee: our fabulous youth intern Morgan Richter.
In the summer of 2016 a team of volunteers built the MNGFC Mobile Market (thanks to a grant and loan from PARO) which was opened in the Fall of 2016 in the parking lot of Belly Ice Cream and we sold a beautiful selection of local produce.
As soon as the weather turned too cold, we moved in to our temporary location at 1 Crescent Road thanks to the generosity of Mike Harrower and Harrower Properties.
In 2017 we ran our grocery market from this temporary location and did about $165,000 in sales. In the summer we set up shop at Kent Park (rented from the Town of Huntsville) for a few months and did about $17,000 in sales from that location.
In 2018 the co-op was the grateful recipient of two grants from Fednor and OMAFRA (in collaboration with the Town of Huntsville). This would not have happened without the tireless work of Kelli Ebbs over the span of several years. With these grants, a community bond initiative, and continued growth in sales at the grocery market, MNGFC started a project in March 2018 to build a permanent grocery market, cafe, and commercial kitchen.
Along with the ongoing youth intern position, we also hired a kitchen manager, an operations manager and a grocery market manager. A significant portion of the manager salaries was reimbursed from our grants. Throughout the year we also grew our team to include a great set of part-time store, cafe, and kitchen staff.
After six months of hard work, amazing volunteers, dedicated contractors, and community support we opened our new grocery store and Uproot Cafe in October of 2018. Before the end of the year we also opened our commercial kitchen.
2018 saw our membership grow to over 900 members and overall sales grow to $450,000, triple what we did in 2017.
The current plan for 2019 is to achieve a healthy cash flow, develop our operational processes, stabilize the business and build our new outdoor living garden and patio.