October 7-13 is Ontario Agriculture Week; a time dedicated to celebrating the abundance of food our farmers produce, the people our industry employs, the rural communities we support and the economic engine we fuel. Many communities recognize that agriculture benefits regional economies, however, clearly communicating the contributions of the sector can be challenging. Presenting data in a compelling way and bolstering community-agriculture relations is helping communities draw attention to the crucial role agriculture plays in local economies.
Regions of Peel and Chatham-Kent offer examples, illustrating how communities can leverage data and improve the regional understanding of agriculture.
Agricultural Census Bulletin – Region of Peel
Compiling and sharing data is central to economic development because data helps people understand current strengths and identify new opportunities. As access to data increases, it is vital for communities to share information and statistics in a manner that is accessible to everyone.
In 2004 the Region of Peel created the Region of Peel Data Centre. The data centre recently converted Census of Agriculture data into an infographic, to serve as evidence for why agriculture is an important sector in economic development work. The Region of Peel Data Centre decided to display data using infographics because it catches the attention of viewers and can be shared across a variety of platforms. The Region of Peel is proving that through effective design, complex data can become better understood and actionable.
Agri-Development Group – Region of Chatham-Kent
In Chatham-Kent, consumers felt disconnected from the agriculture sector, and in turn, mistrust was surmounting between rural and urban communities. In response, the Chatham-Kent Agri-Development Group was created.
The group works closely with the community, local government, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and local farm organizations, to advance agriculture in Chatham-Kent with a focus on raising awareness, addressing questions and increasing its profile. Since their creation, the Chatham-Kent Agri-Development Group has developed a community agriculture website, We Grow for the World, which is updated weekly with new resources.
The importance of data
Understanding agriculture sector data for your community is imperative to making informed decisions on future policy and program development. For economic development professionals, data analysis can help to:
- Identify the local assets and potential liabilities that will affect local / regional economic development
- Project local economic trends
- Market the community effectively
- Monitor economic performance overtime
Where to find data
OMAFRA’s statistics website has a number of data sources it maintains with summaries of agriculture and agriculture-related businesses across rural Ontario.
County Agricultural Profiles are a good place to start building your initial snapshot of the agriculture sector. The data found within the county profiles include: number of farms, types of land use, total greenhouse area, hired farm labour, farm capital value, total gross farm receipts, major field crops, major fruit crops, major vegetable crops, livestock inventories, poultry inventories, and major field crops.
In preparation for Ontario Agriculture week, check out your communities’ stats and get to know how agriculture is contributing to the economy. As highlighted in the previous examples, there are a variety of ways to share this information such as reports, news bulletins, social media posts and infographics.
Want more information on how to support the agriculture sector in your community, check out our Agriculture Economic Development Resource: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/landuse/aed.pdf