When it comes to food, everybody—producers, processors, retailers, and especially consumers—is a stakeholder.

The Connect For Food symposium in Vermilion April 15 will bring individuals and groups together to discuss the food business and our region’s place in it.

Connect For Food workshops were something of a roadshow the past couple of years, with organizers Perry Phillips and Keleigh Cormier visiting communities and talking about the food industry, from local to global.

The next step is bringing it all together in Vermilion.

“It’s a capstone of a couple of years of outreach and stakeholder engagement,” Phillips said. The previous workshops, he says, were to determine if there is a need and a desire to take the process further.

“What we found in those workshops is that indeed, people were interested and felt that there needed to be some action taken to move the food sector ahead through this region,” Phillips said.

“The idea is to bring more people together and really launch this idea and the model for an initiative that will drive the advancement of the food sector in this region.”

Some of the discussion will be to identify the food-industry capacity that exists in northeastern Alberta.  There is certain to be discussion surrounding opportunities and barriers that exist at every level through the supply chain, from local to global.

In fact, the symposium will focus heavily on discussion—there won’t be a parade of presentations  and breakout sessions.

That said, there will be some informative speakers.

“The main presenter is Bianca Parsons from Alberta Food Processors Association,” Phillips said. “Bianca is going to provide some insights into the complexity of the global food system and talk about where the opportunities are to participate in that.”

There will also be a panel discussing the unstable dynamic of supply and demand.

“That is all about trying to identify where the gaps are between supply and demand. Because of course, when there are no gaps between supply and demand, those principles work perfectly.

“We’ve seen that there is a supply, and we know that there is a demand. So why are things not working better?” Phillips said. “ We need to identify what the barriers are between supply and demand, and people attending the event are going to have an opportunity to help identify those barriers.”

While the symposium isn’t just a cheerleading session for supporting local food, Phillips said “grow what you eat, eat what you grow” is an important starting point. And to that end the lunch will offer all kinds of local food products.

“We obviously want to walk the talk,” he said. “We’re completely committed—whether it’s the early morning breakfast items you’ll see, and certainly the lunch, it’s all made from locally sourced ingredients and food products.”  

Registration for the conference is open now (see ad on this page). Phillips said the “food wheel” diagram gives an indication of who the food-industry stakeholders are, and they’re all welcome to come and participate.

“We would like to see anyone and everyone that recognizes that they have a stake in the food industry, and realizes that their perspective is important; and especially anyone who has the desire to help move the regional or localized food sector forward,” he said.