Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin at reception last week unveiling True North Fraser brand that will identify local produce.

Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin at reception last week unveiling True North Fraser brand that will identify local produce.

True North Fraser marketing food, drink

Local producers already on board to market produce from Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge and Mission

Look for it on the side of a food truck, on locally processed meats, even on some exotic shitake or enoki mushrooms, now that the True North Fraser logo has been unveiled to promote local growing.

The logo, which depicts stylized berries, farmhouses and fields amidst a backdrop of Coastal Mountains, is the idea of Invest North Fraser, the regional economic development entity involving Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge and Mission.

The hope is that the northern side of the Fraser River will become known as an agricultural entity recognized by grocery shoppers and diners throughout the Lower Mainland or even outside the country.

People increasingly want to know where their food comes from, said Lori Graham, with Pitt Meadows Economic Development, at a reception last week announcing the logo.

Rod Roodenburg, with Ion Branding and Design, which created the design, said the North Fraser brand was already present.

“We just brought it out.”

Some local food producers are already on board. Hopcott Premium Meats and Kitchen Picks Living Herbs had the logo stuck on to their products on display tables at the reception in the Arts Centre Theatre.

Kent Mullinex, with Kwantlen Polytechnic University, has been trying to raise awareness of the economic role of local production of food and shared some statistics to demonstrate that.

Mullinex says the food industry in the Lower Mainland is worth $5.5 billion annually, but most of that leaves the economy every day.

In one year, 2010, agriculture generated $2.5 billion, but lost $87 million. There’s only one processing facility in the Lower Mainland, despite the fact that B.C. grows fruit and vegetables.

“Billions of dollars are on the table,” he said.

But shoppers dependent on cheap food imports are vulnerable while the economy bleeds jobs and money to out-of-country producers.

“We have put our food system eggs into one basket, and it is a tenuous one.”

Peak oil, climate change, loss of arable land, population growth, and inflation could all compromise that, he added.

This is not a one-time proposition but an on-going one- a regional economic sector generating billions within and for the region’s economy and communities each and every year.

He said that sustainable food systems are part of a sustainable society.

In all, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge and Mission have more than 12,000 hectares of agricultural land. But it’s unlikely more than half of that is used for farming.

Mushroom grower Paul Hsu, with Shan Ming Mushroom Farm on 136th Avenue, likes the logo program.

“It’s a good idea to recognize locally,” said Hsu, who’s company ships exotic mushrooms across the country for supermarkets and restaurants.

The logo can be used in conjunction with other symbols, such as BC Grown, or BC Hot House tomatoes, can be included on websites and incorporated into company or farm promotional materials.

Postage-stamp labels can even be stuck on individual food items while signs can also be made for roadside or vehicles, depending on how a company wants to use the logo.

Maple Ridge planner Diana Hall said the municipalities are doing an inventory of agricultural land in cooperation with the provincial government.

Maple Ridge is also working with Kwantlen on creating a bio-regional food system design and planning project. Pitt Meadows and Mission are expected to join in.