By Kenzie Love
As a director with the Capital Health Region in Halifax in the early 2000s, Linda Best gained a new awareness of food-related health issues affecting Nova Scotians, among them the declining amount of food being produced in the province. This knowledge spurred her to convene a food summit in 2009, and ultimately led to the creation of FarmWorks Investment Co-operative Limited. Incorporated as a for-profit Co-operative in 2011 which is also a Community Economic Development Investment Fund (CEDIF), FarmWorks promotes and provides strategic and responsible community investment in food production and distribution in order to increase Nova Scotians’ access to sustainable local food.
FarmWorks’ founders believe that investing locally and buying local food provides health, economic, social, environmental and other benefits for Nova Scotians. Its support of the food sector is made possible through a Community Economic Development Investment Fund (CEDIF), which enables Nova Scotians annually to purchase common shares in a diversified portfolio of businesses that yield meaningful financial returns on investments. FarmWorks is a member of CWCF’s registered plans program program, recently rebranded under the name Common Good Capital, which is open to all co-operatives, Community Economic Development Investment Funds (CEDIF) or similar entities , or non-profit organizations (NPO) that have eligible securities.
Investments in FarmWorks provide subordinated debt financing for farms, food processors, and value-added food producers, helping to increase the viability and sustainability of agriculture and the security of a healthy food supply. Finding financial and other support to establish and operate food-related businesses can be difficult, especially for younger entrepreneurs or those who are not eligible for financing through existing lending agencies.
With a vision of “healthy farms, healthy food”, FarmWorks has loaned $7,100,000 to Nova Scotian businesses, supporting farmers as well as restaurants, cafés, stores, farmers’ markets, seed growers, brewers and cider makers, and other enterprises. While Best acknowledges that challenges in localizing the province’s food supply remain, she continues to find her involvement with FarmWorks a rewarding experience.
“The opportunity to interact with over 500 people who’ve become shareholders in FarmWorks, and then on the other hand to work with over 140 business people who either are starting or growing food-related businesses, that’s what keeps me going,” she says.
Looking ahead, Best believes Nova Scotians will continue to need greater access to healthy food, and local farmers will continue to need fair compensation. Sustainable food production, she maintains, is part of the solution to the growing environmental challenges the province faces.
“We can do a much better job of increasing the amount of food that’s produced in Nova Scotia,” she says. “We can do a much better job of ensuring that healthy food is available for all people, we can ensure that there is equitable distribution of that food, and that all people have the opportunity to participate in the food system.”
Farmworks is one of the approximately 60 Associate Members of CWCF which have joined in order to have access to our Common Good Capital Registered Plans Program. To read more about our program, see this link. CWCF is proud to be associated with Farmworks and the great work it does around Nova Scotia.