by Andrea Yovorsky
Header image by Chelsey Ellis: Chelsea Ellis Photography
In my 2021 Summer academic term, my colleagues were the local fisheries, chefs, farmers, consumers and other food system advocates of Prince Rupert, Northern British Columbia. Due to the area’s relative remoteness, its difficult food growing conditions, and its social economic inequalities, there is a high rate of food insecurity among Northern populations.
As an MEd student of Adult Education and Community Development at the University of Toronto, I felt encouraged working with local groups and discovering the influence each has from production and harvest to consumer purchases. I would like to thank Fukasaku of Prince Rupert for supporting my academic goals and Ecotrust Canada for their collaboration and originally posting this blog on their website.
Conscious eating is more than the food we eat. The dish’s origin, how it’s prepared, and how we shop for food all contributes to an irresistible sustainable meal. When my hungry belly seeks fulfilment almost nothing beats eating farm fresh or wild foods. I feel restored when presented with a freshly harvested and prepared meal, especially when I can share this bounty with others. Unfortunately, for the Prince Rupert and Skeena region, they are often unable to enjoy food from the local harbour.
Boat-to-table movement: Fukasaku of Prince Rupert trades with BC’s Interior
Most BC fish and seafood catches are sent to Vancouver and the USA for processing and shipment around the world. My role with food entrepreneur Dai Fukasaku is to help create a community distribution network to keep fish and seafood local instead. Fukasaku Marketplace, to open late 2021, is a retail space that aims to reduce exports and build a market model where local fisheries and growers can sell their products with success and profits. Large exports often offer top-dollar and incentives. Selling with Fukasaku Marketplace might take a little extra effort, but we believe this community-driven model will develop overall economic prosperity and enhance local capacity for people who live in the city of Prince Rupert and the Skeena region.
Dai Fukasaku is building upon the success of his restaurant, Fukasaku of Prince Rupert, by creating a retail store with a farmers’ market feel at his location in Cow Bay. The Marketplace is designed for the community and encourages both farm-to-table and boat-to-table movements. Every product has been chosen based on its origin story and proximity to Prince Rupert. Dai has carefully chosen each product from his own network, fish and seafood caught in the Hecate Strait, farm grown fruit and vegetables, and artisanal and private label products.
For us home chefs and budding gourmets, we need to be creative in finding locally harvested and prepared foods, in ways that support sustainable and traditional food producers, harvesters and stewards of the Pacific Northwest of BC. This can be done by encouraging grocery stores to carry local foods, visiting farmers’ markets, asking about ingredients on a restaurant’s menu, or working with First Nations to learn about and support Indigenous food systems, trade routes, foraging and harvesting practices.
In the Skeena region, where Dai has built his business, food has always traveled far along historical trade routes in BC’s Pacific Northwest known as the Grease Trails. The Grease Trails in this region were originally shaped by the people of the Ts’msyen, Gitxsan, Nisga’a, and Haisla Nations, and were a pillar of regional food diversity and economic prosperity.
Fukasaku of Prince Rupert aspires to advance a community sharing model, which will evolve based on continuous learnings about the Grease Trails and knowledge shared by food consumers, harvesters, and producers, ensuring that diverse and healthy foods are regionally significant and more widely accessible.
Closing the food loop system
As many of our partners are in communities afar, transportation and logistics becomes a challenge. For example, transporting frozen seafood requires proper storage to prevent product spoilage. I am investigating shipping options to keep products frozen (-10℃ to 0℃) or cooled (0-4℃) depending on the product’s destination.
A successful network also requires developing smooth trade with our neighbouring partners, friends, and supporters. This summer, we worked on building partnerships with regional farms Woodgrain and Famer Cam’s foods, who have helped us sell at regional markets and encourage local distribution in Hazelton and Terrace. In turn, when Fukasaku Marketplace opens it will sell our partners’ products as well. This closed loop food system ensures trade is circulated within the community for as long as possible. We hope that locally sourced food will be shared with as many people as we can with minimum adverse environmental effects or waste generated.
In the future, Fukasaku of Prince Rupert seafood may be sold from Prince Rupert to Prince George, but today we’re focusing on building an online store, expanding product lines, and developing family size seafood packs.
Dai Fukasaku named his restaurant after his family name Fukasaku. This practice represents the highest honour he can bring to his food preparation. His name is on every dish he serves and products he sells. By building a brand of trust, shared knowledge, and shared meals, Fukasaku of Prince Rupert and Fukasaku Marketplace can help build the social movements needed to bridge communities.