True North Fraser farm signs slow on uptake

It’s been a year since branding program rolled out

  • May. 13, 2014 6:00 a.m.

The process of promoting locally grown goodness from the north side of the Fraser River is unrolling at an uneven pace, a year after the True North Fraser brand was announced.

Only three farms in Pitt Meadows have bought the True North Fraser signs, which promote local food to visitors and into the wider markets.

No Maple Ridge farms have signed up for the signs, so far.

There’s lots of interest in the program, evident by the number of businesses that are now promoted on the True North website.

“We don’t have any yet in Maple Ridge. We will fairly soon, I don’t know the exact timing of it,” said Sandy Blue, with Invest Maple Ridge.

“It’s not a case of not buying into it. We’ve got so many things on our plate. We think it’s a fabulous program.”

However, several businesses are participating in the branding program.

Free stickers showing the logo are available, while the website will list events and farm tours.

“Those are all listed there, as well.”

The True North Fraser program is an initiative of Invest North Fraser, and economic development partnership of Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and Mission.

The program includes a mobile-friendly website,  a municipal roadside signage program, plus signs for private properties, a True North Fraser Facebook page, a printed rack card and product stickers.

Blue said Maple Ridge restaurateur Chris Whittaker, who runs Forage restaurant in Vancouver, likes the True North program.

Blue presented at a recent Metro Vancouver sustainable food program in Vancouver, where True North Fraser drew interest.

In addition to the farmers’ signs, the City of Pitt Meadows also used a grant to buy six of the smaller road signs it’s placed in key locations.

A $14,175  grant provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, through its Invest Canada – Community Initiatives program, and the Maple Ridge Agriculture Advisory Committee paid for the signs, along with a matching amount from Pitt Meadows.

Don MacDonald was one of the Pitt Meadows growers who ordered a sign last year and said it will be easier with the signs for visitors to find the farms.

There are two sign options for farmers. Costs are $105 for a one-sided sign. An additional sign is $30. Two-sided signs are $140, with a second sign costing $65.

Blue said each municipality takes a lead on a particular project, and with more agricultural businesses in Pitt Meadows that city took the lead on the road signs.

Maple Ridge is just figuring out how the signs will be displayed on its roads.

Bruce Livingstone, with Maple Ridge’s strategic economic initiatives, said the focus for True North Fraser has been on getting listings on to the website.

“We’re actively encouraging local farmers, artisans, ag-businesses and event organizers to send us details on their businesses and events to include on the website. We’ll also be including the True North Fraser rack card with the tax notices so we’re anticipating a surge of interest in the website and signage program.”