Fair Finance Funds

The Fair Finance Fund (“Fund”) is a non-profit social finance fund dedicated to providing loans and mentorship services to local food and farm enterprises that value strong local food systems, local economies, and a healthy planet. The Fair Finance Fund builds on seed capital to implement an ongoing investment opportunity for community-minded investors, that is, individuals who want to invest their capital to build local food systems in Ontario to support food that is grown, raised and processed in their own backyards. The Fair Finance Fund provides support across Ontario’s food webs, from production to waste redirection.

Interview with Sally Miller, Project Manager, Local Food Farm Co-ops/Fair Finance Fund

By Sadaf Kazi, Social Enterprise Development, NORDIK Institute

What inspired you to lead Fair Finance Fund? 

When we started this, I was the project manager for the Local Food Farm Co-ops, which is a provincial network for food and farm co-operatives across Ontario. Every year we do consultations with members and every year one of the major themes is to help them get access to capital. I led the development of a discussion paper that we later circulated to all of our members and partners. We received enthusiastic feedback resulting in a number of meetings in 2017-18.

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Black River Co-operative

Interview with Mike Degagne, Founder Black River Co-operative

The Black River co-op is a burgeoning farming cooperative located in the quaint and picturesque town of Matheson, Ontario, 70 kilometres north of Timmins. They support knowledge-sharing around regenerative farming, protection of farmland, and community resilience. 

By Sadaf Kazi, Social Enterprise Development, NORDIK Institute

What inspired you to start the Black River co-operative?

My wife and I started the Black River Co-operative with a farmer from Matheson who was looking for a succession plan. He is 71 years old. He had his farm that he cared for his entire life. He was driven to make sure that his land was available to young people who wanted to grow their food and have a sort of self-sufficient lifestyle, without going into massive amounts of debt. Before we met him, we were trying to figure out how to live our lives according to our environmental and social values. We met and figured out that a co-operative was the only financially viable way and time-effective way to reach our goals.  Three years ago we got together with Bill and started talking about the co-operative.

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Grocer4Good Ability Development Program

Interview with Lisa Vezeau-Allen, Founder Grocer4Good Ability Development Program

By Sadaf Kazi, Social Enterprise Development, NORDIK Institute

What inspired you to start the Grocer4Good Ability Development Program, and what is your motivation behind it?
My inspiration came from having a son on the Autism spectrum and working with a marginalized population in my work, also knowing not many opportunities are available for paid employment and skill development for people facing barriers. I resided and worked in Boulder, Colorado, for three years from late 2014 to early 2018 and was exposed to different social enterprises employing youth and adults on the autism spectrum. I attended the Autism of America National Conference. I had the opportunity to experience different models in terms of what would work and what wouldn’t work — moving back to my hometown of Sault Ste. Marie in early 2018, I intended to start a social enterprise I waited until I could determine what would be the best model as well as what would be sustainable.
The sustainability piece is key here. The announcement of the closure of Downtown Walmart was the catalyst to create a small grocery store in the food desert, mainly because the social enterprise model lends itself well to assisting various groups in overcoming barriers to employment. My motivation was a little bit of everything: because I am personally affected, the opportunity to work with marginalized populations, seeing the downtown Walmart closing, and then confirmation that something needed to happen because we need a sustainable revenue-generating model.

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EcoSuperior is an incorporated not-for-profit organization, operated by a volunteer board of directors that wants to achieve greater environmental stewarship in Northwestern Ontario and Lake Superior Basin through engagement, education, collaboration, action and leadership. They are supported entirely through fee-for-service projects delivered for municipal, provincial and federal governments as well as corporate sponsors and other funding agencies.

They offer a wide range of programs and services, from community and school presentations to information resources and a growing retail operation of eco-friendly products.

The Spotlight features an interview with Ellen Mortfield, the Executive Director for Eco-Superior Environmental Project at Thunder Nay Ontario.

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