Exploring wild blueberries as a place-based socio-economic development opportunity in Ignace, Ontario
Non-timber forest products
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Wild blueberries are an important food source in rural communities of Northwestern Ontario, and can be used as a possible alternative to diversify their economic resource base. This study explores the socio-economic development opportunity through wild blueberries in and around the township of Ignace in Northwestern Ontario through two research papers. The first paper demonstrates the economic viability of a wild blueberry business by exploring the market demand and willingness-to-pay for wild blueberries picked by rural and First Nation communities, and developing an economic profile of a pilot wild blueberry picking and selling business in and around the township of Ignace in Northwestern Ontario. The second paper explores through a community case study how a complex adaptive system’s theoretical lens can facilitate an understanding of the challenges associated with alternative development opportunities in communities, where growth and economic development are limited to primary resource industries such as mining and forestry. From a complexity lens, the resilience and adaptation of local communities in sustainable diversification of resource based businesses are explored. The results of market survey and conjoint analysis support wild blueberries as a viable food source for economic development and strengthening food security in the region. The complex relationship and challenges demonstrate that such challenges may be better understood and overcome through a complexity approach.