Business Retention and Expansion Training Program

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ (OMAFRA) Business Retention and Expansion program (BR+E) is a structured approach to economic development that helps communities to cultivate an environment for local businesses to grow and thrive. Since the program’s launch in 1998, over 10,000 businesses have participated in more than 300 BR+E projects across Ontario. Over the past two years, a broad range of communities such as the Town of Hanover, Dufferin County, Huron County and Whitewater Region have worked with OMAFRA staff to undertake BR+E projects to identify strategies for post-pandemic business growth.

Attend a free, three-part online BR+E training series in June if you are:

  • An economic development professional who will be undertaking a BR+E project,
  • An elected official or municipal staff who would like to learn more about the BR+E program,
  • An individual who is interested in managing or coordinating a community BR+E project.

All four stages of BR+E will be covered during the OMAFRA BR+E training sessions listed below:

Session 1Tuesday, June 14th
10:30 am – 12 noon
Optional SessionFriday, June 17th
10:30 am – 12 noon
Session 2Tuesday, June 21st
10:30 am – 12 noon
Session 3Tuesday, June 28th
10:30 am – 12 noon

Click here to register for the sessions. More information about the OMAFRA BR+E program can be found here:

Growing the Agriculture and Food Innovation Ecosystem

Join the Agriculture and Economic Development Community of Practice on May 11 from 10 am – 11:30 am to hear about Ontario’s growing agriculture and food innovation ecosystem including presentations about several provincial and regional innovation initiatives including:

Economic development officers, planners and those involved in community economic development should join in and share how the agriculture and food innovation ecosystems can help your agriculture and food industry.

Ontario’s agriculture and food industries strive to meet an ever-increasing global demand for agricultural products. Ontario agriculture and food innovation projects are evolving and expanding to help people make new business ideas become reality.

Register for this Zoom meeting at: After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) have coordinated the Agriculture and Economic Development Community of Practice – a free, online network to bring together economic development and planning professionals across Ontario interested in agricultural issues. The quarterly meeting topics will be based on relevant municipal policies, procedures and programming impacting the agricultural sector.

OMAFRA Business Consultants Can Help You Grow Your Food Processing Business -Meet Marg MacDonald

What is your role in Business Development Branch? 

I’m a Business Development Consultant and the Sector Lead for the Confectionery, Snack and Frozen & Prepared Foods categories. My role is to be a trusted resource for Ontario food processing companies to help them to succeed and grow their business.

What initiatives or projects are you currently working on?

My work engages companies from multinational companies to small firms across a range of topics including supports information and advice for new expansion or equipment investments, making connections and navigating within government and the Ontario food sector and providing advice and supports about opportunities to expand their sales markets. My colleagues and I offer industry and government level insight and provide confidential and complimentary services specific to the need of our clients.

What do you most like about the work you do?

I enjoy working with a such wide range of clients and companies across the province. Ontario is the leading food processing jurisdiction in Canada and there are so many innovative products developed and produced here in Ontario which makes for interesting work.  I appreciate the opportunity to work with food companies to help them achieve their goals.

Professional background or How did you become involved with Business Development?

Before joining OMAFRA I was in the private sector working in agribusiness.  I started out with a large Canadian company as an inside sales person where I was responsible for two production facilities, scheduling, inventory management and export documentation.  I leveraged this experience and co-founded a trading business that brokered ingredients and services in the animal feed and petfood sectors.

What trends are you seeing?  

Trends across multiple sectors are in health and wellness as well as sustainability. Consumers today are well informed and are seeking unique and trusted products as well as clean labels.  They are also concerned about the planet which is driving many manufacturers to address their sourcing practices and environmental footprint.

How has COVID-19 impacted the work you do?

Pre-Covid I spent a lot of time on the road meeting clients in person and touring plants.  Covid has changed that, but it has also opened up a lot of other doors to meet with people “virtually”. Thanks to platforms like MS Teams and Zoom, I can have a meeting with someone across the street or across the globe.  It has also allowed me to work more closely with colleagues across the province.  I can still “drop by their cubicle” virtually.

How do people contact you?

I can be reached via the OMAFRA website or via LinkedIn.

How Huron County’s Ec Dev team found success with their BR+E project

A BR+E project can be an effective way to help local businesses overcome unforeseen circumstances. Recognizing this opportunity, Huron County’s BR+E team set out to complete a BR+E project in early 2021 with the aim of recruiting volunteer teams to visit local businesses to gather data before identifying and implementing goals and actions. Shifts in public health restrictions led to several shifts in Huron County’s approach, and the project team has since been able to successfully navigate through Stages 1 to 3 of the BR+E process. Here’s how they did it.

Continue reading How Huron County’s Ec Dev team found success with their BR+E project

Strategic Agri-Food Processing Fund Program Information Sessions

The new Strategic Agri-Food Processing Fund Program, which was announced in the 2021 Fall Economic Statement, to increase the province’s food processing capacity, strengthen its food security and position the agri-food sector for economic growth, will launch on April 1, 2022. Agri-food processor businesses are eligible for up to $3 million in cost-share funding to either build new processing facilities, expand or modernize existing facilities and adopt new innovative technologies to improve current operations.

More information on eligibility, cost share and how to apply can be found in the program guidelines. The guidelines will be posted to this link in the near future. 

The Ministry will be hosting webinar sessions to walk through an overview of the program guidelines and provide an opportunity for questions and answers. You will need to register to receive the link to join the webinar. Both sessions are the same and are offered at two different times (Friday March 25, 2022 from 9-10 am and Tuesday March 29, 2022 from 2-3pm). 

Register for a webinar here.

If you are unable to attend either of the sessions please contact the Agricultural Information Contact Centre at to request a link to a recording of the session (note: recording will not be available until after Friday March 25, 2022).

Learn more about COVID-19 updates and available benefits through WSIB’s Webinar March 22: 12:00 -1:00 PM

Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) will be presenting an informational webinar on Tuesday March 22 from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM. This webinar will focus on providing agri-food workers and employers with essential information about their available benefits and services.

The webinar will include information for workers who get injured or become ill (including contracting COVID-19), in the workplace and on the job.

This session will also showcase information about: coverage for temporary foreign agricultural workers, online services for businesses, and will also teach you how to report a claim.

To register, visit:
Once registration is complete, participants will receive a zoom link.

For more questions, please contact:

Exhibit Your Ontario Products at SIAL Canada in Montreal on April 20-22nd and Save!

Register for a booth now!   Spaces are limited. Deadline to apply is March 18th, 2022

SIAL Canada is the North American branch of an international network of trade events showcasing food exporters from around the world at the food innovation trade show in North America.

SIAL Canada 2022 will once again be a live and in-person trade event taking place from April 20-22nd, 2022 at the Palais Des Congrès, Montreal.

OMAFRA is planning an Ontario Pavilion to include 10 exhibit booths that will showcase 10 Ontario food and beverage companies. These companies will have the opportunity to exhibit under a combined banner and take advantage of attracting international buyers to their booth.

The benefits of exhibiting with the Ontario Pavilion at SIAL Canada include:

  • Turn-key booth (hard walls, countertop, carpet, lighting) for a total cost of $2500.00
  • Excellent visibility on the show floor
  • Complimentary exhibitor badges
  • Promotion of exhibiting companies in advance of and during the show in an Ontario show guide for buyers which includes company information, contact and booth location at the show
  • In person time with Canadian, US and international buyers

Get More Info:

For more information and to register for an exhibit booth visit our Registration site here.

Contact: For further details contact April Schnurr at

OMAFRA Business Consultants Can Help You Grow Your Food Processing Business

Thinking about starting or expanding a food or beverage business in Ontario? The Business Development team is here to help you find the best opportunities that Ontario can offer. Our business consultants support food processing, and bioproducts businesses.

Staff Profile: Athar Shah, OMAFRA Business Consultant

Athar is one of the ministry’s business development consultants who always goes the extra mile to service the client. He manages the Ontario bakery, milling, cereal, ingredients and edible oils and fats sector. With over 20 years of experience in Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) in sales and production, Athar enjoys sharing his first hand knowledge, experience and expertise to advise sector clients – particularly in areas of costing, product development, market research, product life cycle, launch architect and exports.

Continue reading OMAFRA Business Consultants Can Help You Grow Your Food Processing Business

Registration Open: Online Agriculture Economic Development Training

If your community is looking for ways to support your local agriculture sector; consider attending the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) online Agriculture Economic Development Training.

The course is split into two sessions and registration is free.

  • Wednesday March 30, 10am – 11:30am
  • Wednesday April 13, 10am – 11:30am

This interactive webinar training will:

Continue reading Registration Open: Online Agriculture Economic Development Training

Regional Economic Development blog focusing on agriculture and rural economic development for Ontario