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Fair promotes shopping local, food grown on West Coast

The blooming agricultural sector of the West Coast of Vancouver Island got a big showcase at Friday's Meet Your Maker event in Ucluelet.

From water buffalo brie to lamb's wool, local products got a regional spin at the event in conjunction with the Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce's first annual Business Fair.

"We wanted to let the people of Ucluelet know there are sheep in Port Alberni that are local, organic and good products," said Jan Carter of Cottonwood Farms in Port Albermi.

Russell Dyson of Coleman Meadows Farm, also in the Alberni Valley, brought his water buffalo products to the event, along with pictures of the massive, gentle creatures that comprise his herd of 23, raised at one of just three water buffalo farms in B.C. "The West Coast provides us an excellent clientele - it's nice to come out here and meet them," Dyson said.

Dyson touted his herd's mozzarella, bocconcini and brie for higher levels of calcium and protein and less cholesterol than traditional cow's milk dairy.

The two events were planned in conjunction with B.C. Chamber of Commerce week, said executive director Susan Payne.

Businesses on display ranged from West Coast entertainer Adley Show, who charmed the kids with elaborate animal balloons and didgeridoo music, to the ethereal nuptial decor of West Coast Wedding Events with Suzanne Ryles. Windsor Plywood enticed homeowners with flooring reno options nd expert advice, and Community Futures shared their ability to make small loans that could make a big difference for West Coast entrepreneurs.

The display was a long time in the making, said Payne.

"It's something I've been wanting to do for a couple years, to expose some of the businesses that have cool services that people don't know about and to open it up to the public - kind of a shop-local thing," Payne said.

"Hopefully, this will be the first of one every year," she said.

The event connected the public with regional food producers and new local sources of good food, said Marcie deWitt of Eat West Coast, a sponsor of Meet Your Maker along with Clayoquot Biosphere Trust and Port Alberni Transition Towns.

"Not that long ago, our food system was based on a relationship with the land and local farmers. If you could not grow it or trade it, you most likely had never tried it," deWitt said.

"Getting to know who grows your food can be a rewarding experience. Lucky for us, avenues to access great local products are increasing ... knowing where your food came from builds another important link with your community," she said.