SAULT STE. MARIE -- A new website aimed at supporting the Algoma district's local food economy has officially launched.

Buy Algoma, Buy Local was created by the Rural Agri-Innovation Network (RAIN) and features an interactive map for residents to find places which feature local products.

"We decided to include that map so that people who want to support locally, have access to it at the finger-tips, in sort of a one stop shop type thing," said Lori McDonald, spokesperson for the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre.

"It's especially important that we do this now, through what's been an incredibly difficult time for our producers."

McDonald says the program is partially funded in response to the pandemic, through the Algoma Community Foundation's COVID-19 Response Fund.

"We wanted to not only support local producers now, but also keep that momentum going when this comes to an end," she said. "This has really shed some light on how important it is to purchase locally."

The website features numerous types of producers, retailers, and restaurants for people to visit across the region. One of those is the Algoma Highlands Wild Berry Farm, based out of Wawa. 

"We got involved with this because we're so busy farming and trying to make our product," said Trevor Laing, part owner of the farm.

"It's been a big help so far, with people definitely giving us more calls for orders than we were seeing before."

Laing says his operations at the farm have taken a big hit, due to the pandemic's restrictions.

Every year, he says he hires foreign workers for labour, while a big chunk of the farms revenue comes from tourist visits.

"We're still technically closed right now to the public and as for labour, it has been mostly family helping out," he added.

Going forward, Laing says he hopes the website will help connect him with more local vendors, in order to move his product.

"We expect to have a pretty big year, with the look of our crops," he said.

"Of course, we need to move that product out to make any profit, so anything that can benefit us right now, like this website, is absolutely huge."