Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario –Excellence in Agriculture Award Recipient

The Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO) was recently presented with an Excellence in Agriculture Award. Chosen from more than 100 innovative project submissions, EFAO won for their Farmer-led Research program,

The Excellence in Agriculture Awards recognize agri-food businesses, individuals and organizations that have raised the bar for agri-food excellence, demonstrated leadership in their field, undertaken strategic product development benefiting their sector, or advanced technological innovation.

The EFAO is a membership organization that was established in 1979 and is located in ag_awards2Guelph.  Their main mission is to help and support local ecological farmers by creating a strong knowledge sharing community. EFAOs Farmer-led Research program allows farmers to conduct studies on their own land and then share their finding with other Ontario farmers. This helps to spread knowledge about the benefits of ecological farming practices and provides an opportunity to learn about ecological challenges facing farmers. There are four farms currently working through the Farmer-led Research program to conduct over 60 on-farm trials.

ag_awards5Ali English, Executive Director of EFAO said that she feels this award recognizes the hard work the 500+ farmers across Ontario who have been working to help make farms more profitable and foster environmental sustainability. Currently at the Ignatius Jesuit Center, a partnership with the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, is undertaking a pepper breeding project. The goal of the project is to produce high quality peppers using ecological farming methods, then share the outcomes with farmers across the province.

The Excellence in Agriculture Awards recognize agri-food businesses, individuals and organizations that have raised the bar for agri-food excellence, demonstrated leadership in their field, undertaken strategic product development benefiting their sector or advanced technological innovation.

ag_awards43Ontario is home to  25.3% of all farms in Canada; more than any other province. The Excellence in Agriculture awards helps to recognize hard working producers, processors and agri-organizations across the province.

What’s up Next?

If you are interested in keeping up with the Excellence in Agriculture Awards, make sure keep you eyes on Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Twitter @OMAFRA. There is more good news to come.

Agricultural Advisory Committees – Positively Impact Your Community

Agricultural Advisory Committees (AAC) are made up of community stakeholders such as Councillors, municipal staff, farmers, farm stakeholders or organizations, and other bec-ritchie-358371-unsplashinterested residents within the community. The purpose of the committee is to help shift the lens towards agriculture when it comes to deciding upon new policies, plans and processes. AACs are tremendously important because they form a direct link to the farming community, which in turn gives farmers a voice. The farming community within regions aren’t as large as they once were, so an AAC allows their thoughts and opinions to be taken into consideration when decisions are being made that may impact them.

On May 23rd, 2019, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs along with representatives from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the University of Guelph hosted an informational webinar on AACs. The webinar focused on the lessons-learned from the results of a recent a case study report. With panelists from the Halton, York, Kawartha Lakes and Durham Regions own AAC Committee members giving first hand examples and stories of their own experiences.

Farmers, municipal staff and Councillors from across the Golden Horseshoe Region all had input into the report. It reviewed committee agendas and minutes, terms of reference and future work plans; this gave a large amount of detail regarding what each committee was seeking to accomplish. Many of the panelists described their experiences with their AAC as extremely positive and stated how imperative the committee was to the success of farms and other agricultural businesses within their region.

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 Golden Horseshoe Region Map

 

All in all, the webinar succeeded in providing a greater understanding of the importance that AAC’s play in regions across Ontario. With 100% of participants stating that this webinar improved [their] understanding of Agricultural Advisory Committees.

One participant stated: “[The webinar was a] Great opportunity to share information and connect with other jurisdictions. It was great to show how research can improve practice. Quite often academic research can be difficult to apply. This a challenge/barrier. Great job!”

A special thanks to Dr. Sara Epp for hosting the webinar and to the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance and Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation for their support with the report.

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Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance
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Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation

Tips and Tricks for Labour Retention and Attraction in Rural Communities

So, what’s the problem?

To attract and retain workers, rural communities need to be more creative and attentive than their urban counterparts. In urban areas, there are a lot of features to attract workers– the variety of restaurants, tons of entertainment activities, and close proximity to all the services you could need. On the other hand, in rural communities, you need to work a bit harder to showcase the many wonderful features like short commute times, privacy, lower housing costs, and the beauty of your surrounding environment. On top of this, businesses need to put in effort to keep their workers by offering extra perks, a good working environment, or higher pay. But, higher pay isn’t always an option. Luckily, there are a ton of options that won’t break the bank and some options where you can cost-share with other local businesses.

Flexibility, meaningful work, and good work culture!

Continue reading Tips and Tricks for Labour Retention and Attraction in Rural Communities

Growing Local- How Two Farmers Facilitated Economic Growth in Their Community

As the summer season begins, one thing you can always count on are on the opening of local farmers’ markets. These markets are filled to the brim with an abundance of farm fresh produce ready to bring home and share with family and friends.  As you look forward to your weekly farmers’ market, you can be assured that you know where your food is coming from and that you are supporting your local economy.

Two farmers you might spot this summer are Jeffery and Lesley Lucassen, the owners of Victory Veg located in Oxford Country. Three years ago, they quit their jobs and decided v_v_tomatoe_26to move back to Jeffery’s families retired dairy farm. They began to renovate and revitalize the farm by transforming it into a modest vegetable farm. However, this year they have added a major upgrade; a 6,800-sf hydroponic tomato greenhouse. This greenhouse is home to 700 individual tomato plants ranging from cherries to cocktails to beef steaks. The Lucassen’s credit the knowledge and support they received from OMAFRA as vital to them. If they had any questions or concerns there was always someone to lend a helping hand. When it came to the growing of their plants OMAFRA Greenhouse Specialist Shalin Khosla played a key roll in helping them succeed with their new endeavor.

Jeffery warmly remarked that “He [Shalin Khosla] was like an advisor, so to speak. I could take a picture of an issue I had and send it to him and he would tell me exactly what it was. He was really knowledgeable.”

Before Jeffery and Lesley started Victory Veg, the old farm wasn’t really contributing to the economic development of the community. The Lucassen’s have really turned that around, the hustle and bustle that was once seen on the farm has returned. Although germination_smalltomatoes are their main product, they also have fields filled with beets, onions and all different kinds of lettuce – as well as broccoli, carrots and peppers, to name a few. They germinate these plants from seeds for months before planting them, so you know they are extremely fresh and tasty.

v_v_sign_3This summer when you go to your local farmers’ market, keep your eyes peeled for the Victory Veg stand. They are currently located at the Ingersoll farmers’ market and are also planning to be in Stratford and Cambridge. Or, if farmers’ markets aren’t your thing you can visit their store front in Beachville, they are listed on the Tourism Oxford ‘Growing Fresh map’.

June 5th Downtown Revitalization Online Community of Practice

Surviving and Thriving with Seasonality

Join the growing network of practitioners interested in economic development and downtown revitalization when the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) hosts the next session in the series, on June 5, 2019, from 10:30-12:00.

Previous sessions have focused on measuring progress on downtown revitalization, undertaking physical improvements to support the success of businesses, and key programs to support downtown revitalization (Main Street Revitalization Initiative and Digital Main Street).

This session will focus on strategies that municipalities and Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) are using to address seasonality in downtown areas, and variations in seasonal population and visitation. Representatives from the Towns of Goderich and Collingwood will discuss events, promotions, and other activities that are keeping the downtown area a destination beyond their traditional summer and winter peak seasons. The session will conclude with an interactive question and answer period, and an opportunity to share any insights you have on dealing with the challenges and opportunities that our varied, Ontario climate offers for downtown areas.

To register for the event, click on the link below:

https://june2019-omafra-dr-communityofpractice.eventbrite.ca

OMAFRA facilitates and coordinates resources and tools to assist rural Ontario communities with engaging in economic development. For more information on OMAFRA’s Downtown Revitalization program, visit our website or contact the Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Advisor in your area.

Discovering the Economic Development Potential of Youth

Youth possess a great amount of community and economic development potential.

Rural communities have been grappling with how to attract and retain youth and young Diversity of populationfamilies for years. Youth get lured away from rural areas by the bright lights of the city, higher education, good jobs, and entertainment; all things typically perceived to be lacking in rural areas. Haliburton County and Dysart et al, are no different in facing this scenario, but they are about to do something about it. Led by a small group of young entrepreneurs and committed community leaders, the community has seen the emergence of a number of opportunities and initiatives to support youth in the region.

 

Dysart et al will be hosting a Teeny Tiny Summit on June 7th to share their success stories on harnessing the economic development potential of youth and young families. Continue reading Discovering the Economic Development Potential of Youth

Export Opportunities for Ontario Companies

Ontario Hosts Large International Food & Beverage Trade Show

Ontario recently hosted SIAL (Salon International de l ‘Alimentation) Canada, the largest international food and beverage tradeshow in Canada.

SIAL Canada brought many of the major players in the agri-food industry together under one roof at the Enercare Centre in Toronto the three-day exhibition..

Thousands of industry visitors flocked to Toronto to sample, learn about and purchase Ontario’s many unique food and beverage products for local and international food-service and grocery destinations.

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Ontario Pavilion SIAL Canada 2019

Close to 150 Ontario businesses exhibited, presenting their exceptional agri-food products. These companies showcased one-of-a-kind products in categories such as, beverages, confectionary, bakery, snacks, cheeses, meats, aqua-culture technology, and more!

New to SIAL this year, was the Ontario Pavilion, which showcased twenty Ontario companies and provided networking space. These companies were busy at the show sampling their unique, delicious and innovative products and meeting with multiple foreign buyers with the intentions of selling their products in global markets.

 

The Honourable Minister Hardeman, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, visited SIAL on Tuesday. The Minister toured the Ontario Pavilion and visited with a number of other exhibiting Ontario companies.

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The Honourable Minister Hardeman, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs cutting SIAL opening ribbon (third from the left)

 

Ontario also participated in SIAL’s hosted buyers’ program and welcomed buyers from the United States, Dubai, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Netherlands, and Mexico. While they were here, more than 70 Ontario companies met with the international buyers to discuss potential export opportunities for their businesses.

SIAL Canada will be hosted in Montreal in 2020, but will be back in Toronto in 2021. There is already a keen interest from Ontario companies to participate in upcoming SIAL Canada shows as they will have more opportunities to meet with foreign buyers and present their products to industry visitors.

By: Lisa Christmas

Economic Development Specialist Intern

Learn from Two Business Retention and Expansion Projects

The Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) program is a collaborative effort between government, community, and businesses that identifies opportunities to help businesses expand, retain and create jobs. The program also encourages the implementation of agreed upon activities to achieve goals, and actions to improve the local business climate.

As part of the Economic Developers Council of Ontario 2019 Annual Conference, the Orillia Community Development Corporation and Almaguin Highlands shared their outcomes in a session entitled “Beyond the Final Report – Calibrating the Success of BRE Programs”

Continue reading Learn from Two Business Retention and Expansion Projects

OBIAA 2019- Community Builders: Beyond Banners and Benches

The Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA) recently held their annual conference in Ottawa, Ontario. Themed “Community Builders: Beyond Banners and Benches”, the conference focused on highlighting the ways Business Improvement Areas have changed in their 49 years of existence. From their initial roots in taking on small-scale beautification projects, many have become the lead economic development organization for their downtown area. The conference included a diverse range of sessions that reflect on the new roles of a BIA, and more specifically its role in community economic development.

Here are some highlights:

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Master the basics: Peter Kenyon, founder and director of western Australia-based Bank of I.D.E.A.S kicked off the conference with a simple message: business and economic development is fundamentally about relationship building. Peter used the story of Tom O’Toole, who built one of the highest earning single bakery retailers in Australia by mastering the fundamentals relationship building with his staff and his customers, to illustrate his point. Peter reminded us that success in economic development relies less on money or professionalized activities than it does on building strong relationships with the volunteers, staff members, and “customers” (e.g. visitors, potential investors, local businesses) that can help carry out coordinated community revitalization strategies.

Dancing

With little funding, you can still have dancing in the streets: Andrew Sercombe from Downtown London offered insights into successful strategies used to activate public spaces using limited budgets, building partnerships with their business community, or existing and emerging communities, events, and trends (e.g. Pokemon GO). Downtown London has created activation’s ranging from pop-up seating and dance lessons, to large-scale street festivals and Instagram-worthy alleyways. For each of these activation’s, Andrew shared a range of tips based on their successes and failures, which can guide BIAs of all sizes.

Social Media

Forget about Twitter: Avery Swartz, founder of Camp Tech, delivered an engaging overview of social media for BIAs. Starting with a framework for digital marketing, Avery offered tips and resources on identifying and reaching your audience, creating content (including ten ideas), and measuring impacts. For those struggling to split resources to manage multiple social media channels, Avery suggested that the best return on investment will come from a focus on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, based on work required and average monthly users.

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Creating retail microclimates: New York-based consultant Larisa Ortiz introduced the concept of retail microclimates, where the visibility, mobility, and accessibility of an area paired with the anchors and tenant mix create a unique “retail microclimate” of businesses that support one another. Using a “Do this, not that” approach, Larisa offered tips on making sure visibility, mobility, and accessibility are appropriate for allowing complementary retail microclimates to develop.

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Digital Main Street continues its expansion: Since its launch in August 2018, Digital Main Street has been rapidly expanding across Ontario. In a presentation outlining the program, there was an overview of the impacts the program has generated so far: over 1,100 businesses participating in the online digital transformation training program, $602,500 in grants that have been distributed to small businesses, and a total of 105 jobs will be created through the program.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs’ Downtown Revitalization program advocates for the improvement of rural downtown’s through engagement of organizations that contribute to economic development. BIAs remain an important partner in that work, and annual conferences like this represent a key professional development opportunity for both BIAs and non-BIAs to strengthen our understanding of strategies and actions that are producing impacts.  If you missed the conference this year, you can access the presentations here.

Tips for Encouraging Volunteer Success- Happy National Volunteer Week!

This week is National Volunteer Week! National Volunteer Week is a time to celebrate and thank Canada’s 12.7 million volunteers. Without volunteers’ dedicating their time and talent, many organizations simply would not exist.

Volunteers can be extremely helpful to any organization. They can help manage the workloads of other employees to make the work easier and less stressful for everyone involved. Volunteers can provide objective feedback and they can engage with locals to attract more attention to the organization or the community initiative.

Continue reading Tips for Encouraging Volunteer Success- Happy National Volunteer Week!

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