After months of construction, following years of planning, the Windermere District Farmers Institute is finishing up the final touches on the local micro abattoir with plans to open for business in January 2017.
The project, located just southwest of the Invermere Crossroads, has been years in the making and the Farmers Institute held their official tour of the completed abattoir on Tuesday, December 6th. Local dignitaries were able to see the state-of-the-art facility on the tour, which included a walk through of the holding area, where as many as 10 heads of cattle can be stored, and of each room that the livestock will move through during the slaughtering process.
Gerry Wilkie, Area G Director for the RDEK, said he was impressed with the look of the facility and is excited for what it could mean for the agricultural industry in the Columbia Valley.
In the old days, I saw some of the old facilities and it was pretty gruesome with just ply-wood thrown together, but this is first class, he said. Having the abattoir and one thats designed on such a high level, its just going to be a real cornerstone for food production in the valley. It goes a long way to our hope that we have to diversify our economy. The more diversity we have in our economy, the better it is.
Farmers Institute projects co-ordinator Hedi Trescher said that when the new regulations were enacted in 2004 that forced all abattoirs to be government-inspected, it destroyed the local agricultural industry because they didnt have a way to ensure their product was inspected. Since then, the Farmers Institute has worked through challenges such as zoning, funding and finding an operator to run the facility to get the finished product to where they are today.
There are two things that went really well with our operation and one is our contractor that we had in Chris Wiegert who really worked with us and was committed, and the fact that we got Grant Kelly (owner of Grants Foods) on board, she said. Those are the two big points for us that make me feel comfortable that this is going to go really well.
Mrs. Trescher thinks having a local abattoir may revitalize the local agricultural industry in the valley with more people taking advantage of their currently unused farmland.
If you look at, up the valley, underused farm land, (its) 50 per cent underused farm land and why? Because what are you going to do with it? You cant market it, she said. The (agriculture) market is there, especially the people with the small acreages they would use them productively. If they produce enough, they could get farm status, tax advantage, the land would look better if its taken care of rather than just falling down fences.
One of the concerns throughout the process voiced by the public has been the humaneness in slaughtering livestock along with the potential smell from the facility. Mr. Kelly said that he still hears those concerns from the public, he expects they will fade away as people familiarize themselves with the process.
The ones (livestock) that come through here, come from a farm less than an hour away, probably onto a small truck and meet their doomsday, he said. I get comfort in that because the other side of it (not having a local abattoir) is that theyre packed onto a big truck with lots of other animals travelling three hours or maybe more and where it goes after that, no one knows.
Mr. Kelly said they have already been receiving requests from local farmers and hope to begin operations using a small staff next month.