A location just south of Alfred has been identified as a prime landing spot for the Eastern Ontario Food Hub.

Alfred-Plantagenet Mayor Stéphane Sarrazin said last Thursday the township has been in discussions with the United Counties of Prescott and Russell on the possibility of locating the federal slaughterhouse, with food processing and distribution capacities, on property south of Alfred. The $36-million project, which would meet the needs of regional and national markets, would create 65 jobs. A potential future expansion is also planned in order to satisfy international demand.

“It was a project that was suggested to be built at the 417,” Sarrazin said, noting Casselman and St. Isidore were potential locations when the project was first announced in April of 2020. “But with water and sewer they soon realized it was impossible to build there.”

Sarrazin, who also serves as Warden of the United Counties, said UCPR staff studied area municipalities regarding water capacity and ultimately identified the site south of Alfred – formerly the lower campus of Alfred College – as a possible location. The land is currently owned by L’Union des Cultivateurs Franco-Ontariens (UCFO). At 300 acres, the property has enough space for the project, sufficient water capacity, and the potential for expansion.

The UCPR has also had discussions with the UCFO about using a biodigester to control waste from the project. Sarrazin is hoping the United Counties can partner with the Franco Ontarian farmers organization for the project.

“If we can strike a deal with the UCFO and have them as a partner in the project it would be a great opportunity for us,” Sarrazin said. “They’re the ones closest to the farmers, to the agriculture world and the beef and pork producers.”

The UCPR Warden noted discussions on the Alfred site are in a very preliminary stage.

“We really have not received a confirmation, but there is a lot of interest shown in having (the project) built in Alfred,” Sarrazin commented. “We’re only in discussions right now.”

“At the end of the day this has to get a confirmation from the UCFO and all the mayors of the eight municipalities in Prescott-Russell. But if it can be done, it can be done in Alfred because of the water capacity.”

The Eastern Ontario Food Hub project is modeled in part on American food hubs, where producers send their cattle to slaughter, after which meat is packaged and distributed in a predetermined market. The project is planned for completion by the end of 2022.

Sarrazin said he expects more details on the project and the possibility of its location in Alfred to be released in the next few weeks.