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Community of food producers thriving at Salmon Arm facility

About 160 food and beverage products being made at Zest Commercial Food Hub
Jo McDermott, the owner/producer behind Gaia’s Pantry, prepares her top-selling maple crunch granola in her space at Salmon Arm’s Zest Commercial Food Hub. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

It’s Isabel and Malcolm Taliano’s first day working out of the Zest Commercial Food Hub and the two are already in love with the space.

The couple are the creative culinary entrepreneurs behind Summit City Artisanal Foods of Revelstoke. Their need of a certified commercial kitchen space to produce recently brought them to the Salmon Arm food hub, where they were able to rent one of the two shared-use kitchens to produce mustard.

Malcolm, who has worked in Salmon Arm as a paramedic, said there is a kitchen facility available in Revelstoke but it can’t be used privately.

“The price point here is better, the facilities are nicer and it’s private…,” said Malcolm.

The Talianos said their goal is to one day open their own commercial kitchen.

“We’re just saving up for that, so to make that happen we’ll be using spaces like this,” said Malcolm. “I really love living in Revelstoke, but this is really cool having this space.”

Since Zest opened its doors in November 2021, the facility has undergone some renovations to accommodate demand by providing more space for anchor tenants and users of the shared kitchens. The facility is managed by Tracy Edwards, who also serves as a mentor to food hub users, and is overseen by the Salmon Arm Economic Development Society (SAEDS).

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“We started it because we recognized there was a critical supply chain gap in our food processing sector,” said SAEDS economic development manager Lana Fitt, explaining the facility addresses barriers to start-up and existing businesses by providing an affordable, certified food processing space.

“The goal of the facility is to support start-ups and existing businesses,” said Fitt. “Ultimately, we’d love to see our tenants outgrow this facility and start processing spaces outside of Zest in the community and we can continue to circulate new businesses and new start-ups through Zest.”

Zest is currently home to seven anchor tenants, who have 24/7 access to the facility, and its shared kitchens have 26 approved users with another 25 coming onboard. Fitt said about 40 full-time equivalent jobs are associated with Zest, where approximately 160 food and beverage products are being created.

Kyle Jobin said without Zest, No Bull Eats probably wouldn’t exist. Jobin and partner Lindsay Anderson, both personal trainers, produce healthy, pre-made meals at Zest that are sold through their business, No Bull Eats. They started using Zest in January 2023, and have gone from producing just under 100 meals a week to about 300 a week.

“It’s a place where small businesses basically get a chance to grow, because small businesses can’t afford to have a kitchen with the quality of equipment in here,” said Kyle, adding without Zest, No Bull Eats may could have ended up in a lot of debt. “You’d have to take out loans to be able to get a kitchen going. You’re probably looking at close to $100,000 minimum to get something decent going, for what we’d need for equipment to produce the amount of meals we do.”

Anchor tenant Kurt Sauter, of Kurt’s Sausages, was in need of a new space when someone suggested he check out Zest.

“I had a smaller spot but needed more space,” said Sauter. “This is just what we need… It’s a good thing for us. It’s a good price and everything is included, we don’t have to worry about anything. And it’s inspected – that’s all we need.”

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Jo McDermott, who creates numerous types of granola, hot cereals and other products for her business Gaia’s Pantry, explained successful sales at farmers markets necessitated a move from her home kitchen to Zest.

“It had taken over and gotten too big and was pushing my family out of the kitchen, so I had to find a space that could accommodate me and, at the time this was the last vacant room available for an anchor tenant,” said McDermott. And because the Zest kitchen is commercially certified, McDermott said this gives her the opportunity to get into some retail locations around town, which is her next project.

Since coming to Zest, Amanda Kilborn has seen her business, Forest and Food Fixation, shift and grow. She explained her business began in 2018, but was more focused on the foraging of wild foods. She said she started making bread to sell at farmers markets to supplement the wild foods side.

“Now I supplement my breads with wild foods, it’s kind of swapped, but it’s given me something to make a living from and that’s pretty great,” said Kilborn, who has gone from working at Zest three days a week to five days a week, and as an employer.

“I really wanted to have my own thing, and when this opened it just kind of coincided with exactly what I needed for my own space,” said Kilborn.

In addition to the space it provides for her business, Kilborn also appreciates Zest for its community, offering opportunities for education and collaboration.

“I’ve had a lot of people who are just starting out come talk to me about how I progressed, to give a bit of an insight… not that I’m an expert, just that I’ve done it recently,” said Kilborn. “I think that’s really beneficial for any small business starting out, not just the facility but also the environment and all the different people that come through.”

With the space built out to maximize use, Fitt said a focus is now building on those networking opportunities, “providing an expanded supportive environment.”

“We want to see this facility really be leveraged as a network for food and beverage processors and producers as well,” said Fitt. “We’re going to be hosting some new events, some new workshops and kind of moving into that realm of creating that network.”

Getting to know the Zest community was something the Talianos wished they had more time for.

“I wish we had more time to talk to the other producers here and get to know everyone, but I’m really glad we found this and it’s working out for us,” said Malcolm.
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Kurt Sauter of Kurt’s Sausages displays the various types of sausage he produces in his space at Salmon Arm’s Zest Commercial Food Hub. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
Isabel and Malcolm Taliano of Revelstoke’s Summit City Artisanal Foods work on their first-ever batch of mustard at Salmon Arm’s Zest Commercial Food Hub. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm’s Zest Commercial Food Hub opened its doors in November 2021. (File photo)

Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor, Salmon Arm Observer
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