The Art of Canning and Food Product Development for Cultural Entrepreneurship

Niriqatiginnga: The Art of Canning for Cultural Entrepreneurship introduces the art of canning, food preservation and product development to urban Indigenous Winnipeg youth.

Combining canning and hands-on skills development, participants learn to create and market a food product, while exploring opportunities for cultural entrepreneurship in the agri-food sector. The project explores sustainable food systems through traditional knowledge exchange for cultural preservation, food literacy and economic reconciliation.

In December 2023, this component of Niriqatiginnga was approved for funding from the Sustainable Canadian Agriculture Program – Indigenous Agriculture and Food Systems program with Manitoba Agriculture

There are several funding opportunities open right now in Manitoba. We encourage community artists and food-sector entrepreneurs, researchers and local businesses to apply.

About the Project

Exploring career pathways and Food Product Development

Our project, as an experimental pilot, stems from a desire to revive and celebrate the traditional practice of canning and food preservation. 

We view canning as not merely a method to extend shelf life; but holding cultural significance for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. Our aim is to impart these skills and empower youth to create and market their food products. 

Through hands-on canning workshops, oral history storytelling and community building, participants will learn about preserving fruits and possibly meats using traditional methods. These workshops serve as platforms for cultural exchange and relationship building, as participants will also share stories and insights related to their heritage. 

Guided by experienced mentors and food industry entrepreneurs, participants will acquire practical expertise and explore innovative approaches to food preservation. We envision an engaging process wherein participants interact closely with mentors and experts. A range of tools and materials will be provided, such as canning jars, utensils, canners, and labels. Expert facilitators will lead the workshops, ensuring that participants develop a comprehensive understanding of the art of canning and food product development. 

This project will also serve as a vehicle for building relationships needed for introducing and exploring potential pathways and opportunities for careers in the agri-food sector.

Our Commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Advancing Economic Reconciliation

An Introduction to Food Sector Entrepreneurship

This developmental, experimental pilot project project aims for impacts across key agriculture and agri-food sectors, particularly local food production, food processing, value-added production and new product creation. It works to build relationships with harvesters, food processors, producers, and distributors, while exploring ways to streamline getting those products into the community. 

Approaches to cross-cultural and traditional knowledge exchange, similar to a ‘train the trainer’ approach are intended to support advancing economic reconciliation through food-sector skills development, entrepreneurial capacity building, early career exposure and opportunities and growth within these sectors.

Skills Development and Empowerment

The project’s immersive workshops will equip Indigenous youth with practical canning, food preservation and introductory food industry skills. This empowerment not only preserves cultural practices but contributes to the local food production sector. By reviving traditional methods, participants enhance local food sources, aligning with sustainable agriculture practices and bolstering the local food production sector.

Entrepreneurial Capacity Building

Beyond transferable skills acquisition, participants will be introduced to concepts for cultural and food sector entrepreneurship. This capacity is intended to directly impact the agri-food sector by nurturing emerging entrepreneurs to design, create, market and sell new and value-added products. This training and early career exposure link between producers and consumers, with the goal of fostering a more resilient local food processing and distribution sector.

Sustainable Impacts and Outcomes

Transferable skills in cultural/food-sector entrepreneurship and enhanced capacity for participation in enhancing local food systems will yield broader benefits. Participants launching micro-ventures with support from established businesses nurtures self-reliance impacting local food production, processing and value-added sectors. Economic reconciliation is advanced by integrating traditional knowledge and agri-sector training. Pilot tests feasibility for future delivery.

Knowledge Exchange for Sectoral Development

Exploring Cluster-Based Approaches

Innovation Clusters can be defined as: inter-connected organizations, projects and institutions working in a common industry. They involve the creation of collaborative and dynamic relationships between various players around common goals, innovative ideas, knowledge sharing, public and private investment. Clusters also foster collaborative environments around common frameworks designed to promote synergy and innovation. 

Some important examples of organizations, models and approaches we want to study are:

The Arctic Foods Innovation Cluster (AFIC) is a project that aims to pull together relevant people in the Arctic foods value chain for a cluster-based approach to food production and regional economic development. On this same front, we are also excited to learn about the UArctic Thematic Network on Northern Food Security.

Manitoba Agriculture’s Food Development Centre (FDC) provides product commercialization, technical and research assistance for agri-food businesses. It provides a services focus on plant and animal protein products and ingredients to support the Manitoba Protein Advantage (MPA).

Hosted every two years in Winnipeg by the Kivalliq Chamber of Commerce, Northern Perspectives 2024 is a business and cultural showcase of Nunavut with focus on expanding the economic opportunities within Nunavut and partnership opportunities with businesses from Manitoba.

Economic Empowerment

Next Steps

After the completion of this prototype/pilot canning workshop series, our project aims to extend into several significant next steps, all designed to ensure a sustained and enduring impact that can be replicated and delivered so that it will continue to benefit participants and their communities.

We’re committed to providing ongoing mentorship to our participants. We understand that the journey of a cultural entrepreneur doesn’t end with the workshops or program. To facilitate this, we’ll explore establishing a longer-term mentorship program connecting participants with experienced mentors.

These mentors will provide valuable insights into product development, effective marketing strategies, and the intricacies of managing a successful business. Through regular check-ins and targeted workshops, participants will have the opportunity to address challenges and refine their entrepreneurial skills. We recognize the importance of continuous learning in this journey.

With this project as a prototype, we will improve and explore its potential as a replicable model for future delivery, possibly incorporating a series of in-person events and events to include resources for delving deeper into food production techniques, ensuring participants are well-equipped to produce high-quality products. We aim to build on this work to cover topics such as food safety regulations, sustainable business practices and scalability, where participants can make informed decisions and adapt to evolving market demands.