PROVIDENCE BAY—The Manitoulin Island Community Abattoir (MICA) in Providence Bay is up for sale as a functioning facility, with the goal of finding a new owner and operator to grow and develop the business.
“Hopefully, it won’t mean any kind of change. The board will keep operating the abattoir until a buyer is found,” said MICA chair Birgit Martin.
MICA will be able to sell the building as an operating abattoir and not simply a vacant building if it continues to operate as usual for the time being. The abattoir also serves an important service upon which many Island farmers depend, so any shutdown would have major impacts.
The dream of having a community abattoir took a stronger hold in 2007 when the group began drawing plans to create an abattoir to benefit Island farmers. MICA originally constructed and operated the abattoir to work alongside Papa’s Meats in Providence Bay, a butcher shop and deli which MICA had purchased.
The 4,200 square foot abattoir opened for business in early 2013 with the goal of saving shipping costs to farther kill facilities and reducing the environmental load of transporting products great distances. The facility is provincially-inspected by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).
MICA secured over $1.3 million in funding in 2012 from a variety of sources. This enabled them to hire staff for the store and abattoir operation as well as fund the construction of the plant.
Although the grants carried terms that required repayment if the plant was sold or did not meet the original conditions, MICA treasurer Jeff Hietkamp said the grants should now be beyond these terms.
Ms. Martin said the best future for the facility will likely happen if it is purchased and operated by a sole proprietor.
“It’s been run by a volunteer board of directors and the board can’t do any more to run the business effectively. There needs to be a marketing effort and there needs to be day-to-day management; the board can’t do that.”
Ms. Martin said there are six members on the board who are all farmers, running their own personal operations and working for MICA in a volunteer capacity. The board decided to sell the facility to enable it to grow beyond the means of the current members.
There is currently one harvest day scheduled per week with OMAFRA and the abattoir generally operates at least three weeks per month.
“I mentioned that a marketing effort is required, well realistically the plant should be running every week. A sole proprietor would have the time and the means to do that to get more volume through the plant,” said Ms. Martin.
“With any luck, the new owner would be able to increase business for local farmers to buy livestock or cattle for them to process and sell locally, across the Island and beyond. It should be good news for everybody and it would be a win-win in the end.”
Should a buyer be found, the existing board will dissolve. MICA previously sold Papa’s Meats and Manitoulin Meat Boss opened in its place in 2018, leaving the abattoir as MICA’s only operation.
MICA’s short history has not been without its challenges. In October 2013, the board took over management of the abattoir and store from outgoing managers Joan and Dave Brady to move the operations in a different direction.
Despite the financial situation improving through the years as the number of processed animals increased, Mr. Hietkamp said the abattoir has yet to post a profit. In December of 2016, MICA was late on a hydro payment and was facing fines until Hydro One arranged to waive them.
According to MICA board members, the facility could easily handle an increase in production as-is, or large growth with the addition of a processing facility. What the future holds for the abattoir will only be limited by the ambition of a new buyer.