The heartbeat of the Fraser Valley can be found in the farmlands that encircle the region and through the farmers who grow some of the world’s best vegetables, berries, dairy products, and meats. While the art of producing food has been perfected by many of these farmers, there are admitted knowledge gaps in the way they understand and leverage current business tools and marketing technologies.
Enactus UFV, a student-led organization that works in collaboration with the UFV School of Business and aims to create social change, explored these barriers further.
“We conducted some research and we determined that farmers face severe time constraints that prevent them from utilizing some of the resources that are out there and beneficial for them to thrive,” says Trisha Kumar, the president of Enactus UFV.
Empowering the local community and helping them thrive has been the calling card of Enactus UFV. In the last few years, the growing organization has taught financial literacy to locals and has partnered with the Indigenous community on a candle-selling business.
This spring, Enactus UFV will launch the Fraser Valley AgroConnect Project, which will support local farmers in three areas: resource and information gathering, business management, and business recruitment.
Kumar says the goal in this not-for-profit venture is to alleviate the burden of research by aggregating important information such as grants and upcoming events into one online, easy-to-access platform specifically for farmers in the Fraser Valley. Enactus UFV will also offer social media marketing resources.
“Lastly, we’ll connect farmers with students who are interested to learn more about the agriculture industry,” says Kumar. “So that hopefully there’s potential for recruitment and opportunities for those students to actually get hands-on experience, to learn about the agriculture industry and perhaps work on site.”
Enactus UFV has students and faculty willing to assist, as well as a solid footing of financial resources. For the Fraser Valley AgroConnect Project, the organization received several grants including nearly $6,000 through the UFV Strategic Initiative Fund as well as a $5,000 Samsung technology grant.
This latest funding is part of an impressive growth period the organization has enjoyed over the past year. In 2021, Enactus UFV raised over $25,000 worth of grants from UFV and other industry partners. That total is among the highest of the 71 other educational institutions with Enactus chapters in Canada.
Enactus UFV has nearly tripled in size in the past year to 32 members from within the UFV School of Business and other programs. In this year’s Enactus Regional Competition, Enactus UFV won the CWB Financial Literacy pitch competition and was the second runner-up for all three challenges: the CWB Financial Education Challenge, Scotiabank Climate Action Challenge and TD Entrepreneurship Challenge.
“These are wonderful achievements given that our organization was launched only in late 2018,” says Dr. Saeed Rahman, an assistant professor in the School of Business and faculty advisor for Enactus UFV. “There is a tremendous need for projects or programs that directly impact our community, especially after the last two-and-a-half years with the pandemic and the flooding.”
Even before the devastating November flood that inundated farms and set back the agriculture community in the Fraser Valley, Enactus UFV members were looking for ways to connect with farmers and provide them with business marketing tools.
“They’re the ones who bring food to our table, but they are also the ones who are taking the majority of the impact of those extreme weather events,” says Rahman. “With this AgroConnect project, we could help them in multiple areas.”
Under the guidance of faculty from UFV’S Food and Agriculture Institute, School of Land Use and Environmental Change, and Research, Engagement, and Graduate Studies office, members of the Enactus UFV team were able to connect with local farmers, consult with area experts and conduct several in-person field visits. They have worked closely with web designers and developers to create an online resource platform for farmers, which they hope will go live in May 2022. There is also talk of providing social media and branding workshops to agriculture professionals in the near future.
Even in a challenging year, Enactus UFV sees the farming community coming out on the other side, better and more equipped.
“COVID-19 really highlighted that it’s important that farmers find ways to market their services, especially in the virtual realm, because during the pandemic, a lot of face-to-face direct-to-consumer marketing simply couldn’t occur,” says Kumar. “So, it’s important that farmers adapt…and we will be there to help them.”
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