A new group has been formed to connect Foothills ranchers to community members in need.

The Foothills Farm Table Collective (FFTC) aims to build a network of local producers willing to share surplus meat and other products with local food banks.

Sherry Faulkner, co-owner of the Bluerock Gallery in Diamond Valley, and Jay Cross, a former rancher whose family had been raising livestock in the area for generations.

Faulkner says through her conversations with Cross, she learned that he had occasionally donated surplus beef to local food banks.

“That was a relatively common thing, if someone was raising livestock, they’d sometimes end up with a surplus, maybe more than fits in the freezer, more than their friends and family can buy or fit themselves. It’s sort of a byproduct of the industry.”

This, combined with the recent cost-of-living struggles felt by countless families got them thinking.

“I know that people have to make choices like skipping meals themselves so that their kids can eat, or choices between buying their medication or buying their groceries. The demand on food banks is very steep nowadays. We were considering this thing Jay had done as a one-off once or twice and wondered if we could scale it up.”

Their initial conversations about it started late last year, with efforts to form the initiative starting in-earnest earlier this year.

It’s proven to be a popular concept already, with two local producers expressing interest, one of whom has already donated.

The first was from Tangler Ridge Ranch, which donated 600 pounds of beef to the Okotoks Food Bank.

“It gives you a great idea of scale,” says Faulkner. “It wasn’t the whole animal, they did keep some cuts for their own family, but even so, the donation was 600 pounds. It’s a lot. I feel like that’s a wonderful illustration. It’s something they spared so willingly, they were so generous and wonderful to do it, and it’s literally just a small fraction of their herd, but it means nutritious meals for so many people on the receiving end.”

They’ve also been working to facilitate a donation from Tiny Springs Farms in Millarville.

Faulkner says helping to facilitate donations of a high-value commodity like meat is rewarding in and of itself, let alone doing so within the Foothills community.

“It’s really wonderful to have a source of not only protein but high-quality protein that’s locally grown. I love the immediacy of this, we've got ranchers and farmers in the area donating to people in the area, it’s a neighbour-to-neighbour initiative.”

Those interested in being involved with or making a donation to the FFTC can reach out on their website.