By KIRSTEN BOLTON
The Root Food Hub Kitchen is now open, just in time for the summer growing season and in preparation for fall harvesting and processing.
The commercial, publicly accessible, Island Health-approved kitchen at 189 Beddis Rd., owned and operated by the Salt Spring Island Farmland Trust (SSIFT), will be an important resource for farmers and growers to process and add value to their produce, for local food entrepreneurs to develop, manufacture and scale up their products, and for chefs, teachers and caterers to cook in a professional kitchen.
“We are thrilled to be finally opening this kitchen to the community,” said Sheila Dobie, co-chair of the Farmland Trust, in a July 1 press release. “This was a long, dedicated process with many layers of community input, tireless work from volunteer committees and board directors, and significant participation from key donors to get the project completed.”
“Over this past year, we have benefitted from a grant from the Victoria Foundation that allowed us to reach the final hurdle of equipment installations, modifications and adjustments, meaning we could complete our Island Health approvals and make us fully available to prospective users,” said Dobie. “Over the past several years we have also been so appreciative of the additional support of Salt Spring Island Foundation, Rural Dividend, Local Food Infrastructure Fund and many private donations that have made this crucial project a reality.”
Available by the hour, the day, the week, the month or more, the kitchen includes a planetary mixer, tilting kettle, combi oven, blast chiller, commercial-scale food processor, energy-efficient induction cooktops and plenty of stainless steel countertops. Washing stations, walk-in cooler, storage shelving and freezers complete the space.
The completion of the kitchen was an important component in finalizing The Root as Salt Spring’s first and only officially designated food hub. It is the heart of the 3,000-square-foot facility on land donated by the Slegg family in 2015. As a hub, The Root also features on-site gardens, a food forest, the start of its tool and equipment rental service, permaculture, a seed bank and a barn for hosting workshops and events.
To that end, the kitchen and Root property will also serve a key role in hosting educational presentations and demonstrations as part of the Farmland Trust’s “Knowledge Series,” which successfully kicked off in January of this year. From better growing and gardening techniques to food business planning and health certification; from cooking demos to climate, insect and water issues, Farmland Trust’s programming is now welcoming ideas and experts from within the community to share food-related knowledge.
The trust recently employed a dedicated operations manager, Zoe Currelly, a chef and former operator of Salt Spring Harvest, a successful small food manufacturing business, to help farmers, business owners and community members access the kitchen as well as collaborate on workshop ideas Salt Springers may have.
Along with The Root Food Hub, the SSIFT also stewards its main property, The Burgoyne Valley Community Farm and Garden, a 62-acre parcel that supports four professional farm acreages, the Island Community Services Harvest Farm and 90 small family garden plots.
The SSIFT is a charitable organization established after a 2008 Area Farm Plan identified the need to protect and preserve farmland and encourage potential new farmers on Salt Spring. The original mandate was to receive parcels of land as gifts, donations and bequeathments, to revitalize the land, and to make it available to local farmers and family vegetable growers at affordable rates.
For inquiries about the kitchen or educational programming, contact email@example.com.