December 3, 2023

Pilot Food Production Course at Agri-Food Centre

Teaching food entrepreneurship to new Canadians

Article & Photos by Valerie MacDonald

Six new Canadians, who took an online course produced by the Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre (OAFVC) in Colborne, showcased their tasty wares to the media and grocery outlets recently.

The participants, 6 of 15 in total who took the course, participated in the project which started in late January.

It was a five-week course with two classes weekly that focused on becoming a food entrepreneur. Participants were encouraged to present their idea for a food product and then turn it into a marketable product, OAFVC manager Emily Ojeda told the News Now Network.  After the course, half a dozen were ready to “make this step,” he said of the taste testing and public-exposure event held April 21. Among the grocery outlets in attendance was Sharpe’s from Campbellford.

The Centre paid for the raw foods, marketing materials and enough of the finished product for sampling and selling, Ojeda also said.

The Centre’s operations specialist Neil Horner and staff assisted in the processing each product to commercial food production standards, Ojeda explained. The Centre has a wide range of commercial-sized equipment including a 250-litre kettle and convection oven to do this.

As part of the pilot project, Madoc resident Salvador Ramirez created pumpkin seed butter (under the label Sun Dar 847-224-9846) with various herbs for a product rich in omegas, vitamin K and minerals. that can be used on bread, in dressings or with sauces, in smoothies and even on cereal.

Melanie Ferreira, originally from South Africa, now living in Toronto, brought three kinds of chilli for people to taste: hot, mild and sweet heat. Her company name is Lalies.

Born in Khartoum Sudan, Maryam Sharif Hussein turned her children’s love of dates into a low-sugar tart, similar to a pumpkin pie in texture. She started with soft, pitted dates and ended with a healthy and tasty desert.

“It’s a quick and easy way to get vegetables (into your diet),” Beverly Shepherd told the News Now Network about her Veggi Zs bottled sauce that is good on burgers, fries and other foods when you want to add veggies to a diet. She’s been in the Toronto area since fall 2020, but is now a Cobourg resident.

Nyasha Dekler said she came to Canada in 2009 from Zimbabwe and is now living in Peterborough. Through the OAFVC course and its facilities she created three varieties of sorbert: raspberry, mango and pineapple – all sweetened with monk fruit. It was her children’s love of fruit that led her to make this nutritious treat for them, she said.

The final, new food producer who showcased their products at the event were Natasha De Leon Kelly and her husband Javan Kelly. He said he saw the OAFVC/New Canadian course advertised through Facebook and they decided to take it to change up their homemade version of sorrel juice into a commercial product under the name Exotical Fusions.  Sorrel is usually very sweet, but Natasha does a low-sugar version of the drink that is very fresh tasting containing herbs that include ginger, cinnamon and cloves, in addition to dried sorrel flowers.

For more information about the OAFVC and the services it can provide call 905 375-7047 or email

#oafvc, #ontarioagrifoodventurecentre, #colborne, #food


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