Portage Regional Economic Development's hoping the formal launch of the Our Big Table initiative will boost tourism, and local farm gate sales. Executive Director Douglas Barill's been working on the initiative for quite some time, and recently launched the website, which includes a map of the area and marks local producers and agriculture related businesses. Barill explains farm-gate sales are nothing new to our region, but their way of promoting them is.
"Part of it is really growing your own economy. The experience from a business perspective is they're increasing their customer-base. We had a number of these farm-gate sales around the region, and inside the city as well, we just didn't aggregate the data anywhere. What we did now is aggregate the data and we enabled outsiders and insiders in the Portage region to shop directly with their farmer."
Barill says with a growing interest in people knowing exactly where their food comes from, this initiative could help provide value to the shop local experience.
"All data shows that if you know the actual person you're doing business with, you'll do more business with that person. This is really a shop local program 2.0. It's actually about knowing your neighbour, knowing somebody who's in business because that's what the real value is. It's not about price, it's about value."
While he anticipates Portagers will take advantage of the initiative, he also anticipates a much wider reach. He says they're hoping to see Our Big Table reach into Winnipeg and the surrounding region, in order to promote agricultural tourism.
"The primary aim is an agri-tourism experience. As you can see on the map there's horseback riding, trail rides and these sorts of things. The idea is that there are a million people within a gas tank's distance of Portage. If we think in that market scale instead of just 20,000, that's a lot more revenue in all of our pockets."
Barill feels now that the website and map have been formally launched, they'll see more producers coming forward.