Six Nations farmers need money for $5.6 million agricultural centre

The Six Nations Farmer’s Association estimates it will cost at least $5.6 million for a new agricultural resource centre to help the community with food security and rejuvenate farming on Six Nations.

The idea has been in the works since 2017 but after a recent presentation to Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council (SNGR) it’s not clear where the farmers will get the funding.

Coun. Helen Miller said she’s not sure where council would get the money even though she supports the idea of the centre.

“We haven’t done budgeting. It’s a good idea and everything. I know council’s expected to fund the whole thing but that’s a lot of money. I don’t know where we’re expected to get the money. I hate it when I raise the hard questions and I get accused of not supporting the farmers. That’s not true. I do support the farmers. I’m also a councillor sitting here responsible for the money and it’s going to cost a lot of money to do this.”

Finding land for agriculture is also a problem, she said, saying the community is in a land crisis.

“People can’t find land to build a house. We don’t have that much land as you can see, we’re just little.”

A central component of the agricultural resource centre would be a grocery store, or farmer’s market, in addition to a being an information hub that would assist farmers on Six Nations.

The farmers have already established a food sustainability task force, board of directors and office space on Fourth Line behind J.C. Hill School.

The goals of the centre, said Six Nations farmer Jesse Porter, are to increase access to agricultural knowledge, support ancestral agricultural traditions, provide food security for the community and support for economic development as it relates to agriculture and food.

The grocery store would operate like a farmer’s market with specialty foods.

They would also provide technical information and business information to farmers.

The farmer’s market would provide jobs for community members, including a manager, assistant manager and other staff.

The 13,000 sq. foot building would be open seven days a week with an additional 10 acres of land needed for the resource centre.

Porter said the estimated $5.6 million construction budget was from two years ago and would be more now due to inflation.

He estimates annual sales would hover around $3 million.

Admin and staff costs would be estimated at around $500,000 a year.

Porter said the previous grocery store attempts on Six Nations by private businesspeople didn’t work because of personal issues.

“You know the old, ‘my truck’s bigger than your truck,’” he said. “What I’m saying is: lack of support.”

The farmer’s market would be community-owned and therefore, community supported, he said.

“We want this to be community owned so we can get as much support from our community,” said Porter.

Coun. Miller said higher prices also played a role in the failure of those previous grocery stores.

She also expressed concern over the centre competing with another grocery store currently operating on Six Nations, Clover Leaf Farms.

“I don’t think our community can sustain two grocery stores,” said Miller. 

Porter said, “We are definitely not naive to our people looking for bargains,” but he pointed out that, “just because something’s a good price doesn’t mean it’s a good product.”

The market would differentiate from Clover Leaf because of specialty products, said SNFA board member Ruby Jacobs, adding that the resource centre is critical to teaching people how to rejuvenate agriculture in the community at a time when food costs are at an all-time high.

Council agreed to accept the SNFA report as information.

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