The Cities of Belleville and Quinte West hosted the 5th annual Eastern Ontario Local Food Conference, November 4th and 5th in the City of Belleville. The theme for the conference set the tone for an exceptional offering of information, inspiration and local food experiences (Creativity + Collaboration = Action). More than 200 delegates, speakers and mentors were offered a program that ignited their passion and moved them to action, with the hope that they each take that inspiration back to their communities to further advance the local food economy in Eastern Ontario.
On the conference’s first day, more than 50 delegates participated in the Quinte Region on a Local Food Tour that stoped at Cultura Salumi (Italian artisanal dry aged meat plant), Grills Orchard, Ontario Waterbuffalo Farm, Mapledale Cheese, Reid’s Dairy and Donini Chocolates.
Day two saw over 200 people arrive to take in an inspiring morning keynote and Ignite session.
Morning and afternoon breaks were put to good use. A trade show featured 17 exhibitors.
Mentorship sessions were offered allowing delegates to sign up for 15 minute, one-on-one sessions with 11 mentors offering expertise on a number of local food subjects including business development, food safety, labelling, social media, financing, food trends, food processing technology and more.
The afternoon was jam-packed with informative session designed to bring local food champions together and spark action.
These sessions included (presentations available here):
- Collaboration from the Ground Up: speakers Mary Ellen Scanlon (Mustard Seed Co-op), Alvin Rebick (Foodshare) and Moe Garahan (Savour Ottawa) shared their experiences bringing local food stakeholders together to increase access to and awareness of local food.
- Getting on the Shelf: this session brought retailers and producers together to explore ways to get their local foods on retail shelves. Key note, Cory VanGronigen led the discussion and was joined by Anne Burnham (Burnham’s Family Farm Market), Rebecca McKeen (McKeen’s Metro Glebe), Jim Beveridge (B&H Local Grocer), and Jamie Yeo (Picton Sobeys)
- Opportunities in Urban Agriculture: one of the greatest opportunities in local food is producing it where people live – in urban environments. Solving the problems that come with that takes a team approach and cooperation at all levels. This session featured Brian Morris, the Agricultural Economic Development Officer for the City of Hamilton, together with Steve Naylor, OMAFRA’s Aquaculture Specialist addressed both the opportunities and challenges. This was further enhanced by Loretta Landmesser’s presentation of her research Supporting Urban & Residential Agriculture.
- New Generation Farmers, New Ideas: the future of local foods and the agriculture sector depends on the renewal brought by the next generation. Speakers Daniel MacKinnon (MacKinnon Bros. Brewery) and Sebastian Ramirez (Zocalo Organics) shared what attracted them to the family farm and establishing a new farm and how they have made that a success. Pat Learmonth (Farms at Work) and Moe Garahan (Just Food) shared details of programs that help new farmers achieve success.
- Food Safety Conversation: Christine Card from OMAFRA led an informative session that focusing on aspects of food safety that impact food businesses.
- Spotting Emerging Market Opportunities: OMAFRA’s Evan Elford led this session, sharing expertise on how to spot food demands and trends and seize those opportunities. Then a unique opportunity was provided to producers to talk to local food processors who are looking specialty ingredients, including Tom Manley, Homestead Organics, Mountain Path (organic grains), Adrian Quinn, Brandneu Foods (kale), Bruce Enloe, Two Rivers Food Hub (storage root vegetables), Josh McJannett, Dominion City Brewing (hops), PJ Lennon, Activation products (coriander seeds, amaranth seeds, flax seeds).
A delegate described the impact of one session, “I received some advice on how to attract a grocery/food outlet to our downtown from a downtown grocer. Some of our local businesses who attended made some connections with potential local growers of their products.”
The 5th Annual Eastern Ontario Local Food Conference offered something for everyone, from producers to processors, academics to policy makers, right through to foodies who are passionate about local food. The power of bringing them all together in one place was to foster collaboration and creativity. And the outcome, was action today and in the years to come.
“It was invigorating to meet so many people that are so passionate about food”
by Heather Candler, Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Advisor