Updated agenda- 2020 Virtual Municipal Agriculture, Economic Development & Planning Forum


The 12th annual Municipal Agriculture Economic Development & Planning Forum is being hosted virtually by Huron County on November 18-19, 2020. Two half days of sessions will be supplemented with a virtual tour of Huron County and some of its most exciting agricultural and rural projects. Read our last blog post for an overview of the event.

Registration is now open – select the registration link to sign up for the Forum. Day 1 & 2 – $75

Forum Agenda

Day One: 12:30-4:45pm

Day one is an opportunity to dig a little deeper into issues around export, diversification and pivoting in a COVID world, examining planning, ec dev and council’s role in growth.

Session 1: Export as a Growth Strategy
In 2019, Ontario’s agricultural exports totaled $16.6 billion. Export brings new revenue opportunities to agri-food businesses in your communities through opportunities for increased sales/profits, stabilization of market fluctuations and enhancing competitiveness. Hear from local business leaders who are active in export markets and understand the role of municipal planning and economic development in setting the stage for their success. Feel free to explore OMAFRA’s Export Resources and Supports.

Session 2: Direct Selling & Promoting Local Food in a COVID World

COVID-19 impacted farmers in many ways, one of the most significant being an immediate change in sales channels. This session will look at examples of producers and producer organizations pivoting to brand & sell in this new distanced reality. Our speakers will discuss lessons learned & highlight tools and resources available to municipalities to support and promote agricultural sales locally and beyond.

Session 3: Partnering for Diversification Along the Ag Value Chain

Diversification helps to expand business opportunities from growing new crops, operating agriculture-related operations to adopting innovative new technologies.  Our panel will discuss why they chose to diversify and how they were supported by their municipal partners in planning and economic development. 

Day Two Overview: 8:00 am – 1:00 pm

Day two will start with a coffee chat to review ideas and concepts discussed on day one. Grab your morning beverage and join in the conversation.

Then prepare for a day that will focus on innovative projects, municipal capacity and how to take an Ag Systems approach in your region. Join a small group World Café discussion to examine emerging and ongoing issues in Agriculture Economic Development and Planning. The World Café sessions are a great chance to consolidate your learnings from the Forum and engage in stimulating conversation.

Session 1: Ag Innovation – How to Inspire Innovation in Your Municipality

How can municipal economic developers encourage innovation in the agriculture sector? Huron County’s AgPrize introduces an element of competitive excitement to the process. Hear about the design, development and execution of this innovative program. Learn more about 2020 AgPrize winners during this presentation and the process to support those winners.

  • Alex Ripley, EDO Huron County
  • AgPrize 2020 Round 1 Winners
    • Kate Ayers
    • Julie Marocha
    • Yohannes Wondimu
    • Gokulan Thedchana
    • Minh Nguyen

Session 2: Municipal Capacity Research – University of Guelph

Rural communities and the agri-food sector depend on knowledgeable and supportive municipal councils and staff to thrive. Municipalities need capacity (staff/expertise/time) to respond to new and emerging agricultural issues such as climate change, permitted uses, Minimum Distance Separation, agricultural systems planning, cannabis production, environmental policy, agricultural impact assessments and lot creation. Elected officials should understand the needs of rural communities and the agri-food sector to make timely decisions that foster vibrant rural communities and businesses. The research team will present findings from surveying municipalities within the Greater Golden Horseshoe. They will share the input they received on municipal capacity needs to respond to evolving agricultural and rural issues and what can be done to increase that capacity.

  • Wayne Caldwell, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, University of Guelph
  • Elise Geschiere
  • Emily Sousa
  • Regan Zink

Session 3: Embracing the Agricultural Systems Approach

Have you been thinking about advancing the agri-food sector in your region? Have you been considering taking an agricultural system approach as municipalities are doing in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH)? Join our panel to hear about successes, challenges and inspiration around taking an ag system approach in your municipality. Examine your role in championing this approach and how this can be one of the most rewarding collaborative approaches for helping the sector thrive. Learn from pioneers in the GGH and those just getting started in this process.

  • A new paradigm for the Greater Golden Horseshoe – Jennifer Best & Meena Hassanali, York Region
  • Early implementation outside the Greater Golden Horseshoe – Denise Van Amersfoort, Huron County
  • Agri-food asset mapping to support ag system Implementation – Marilyn Bidgood, Project Manager, ConnectON, GHFFA

Session 4: World Café

COVID-19 has put many aspects of agriculture on the public radar in new and unexpected ways. How can municipalities and those along the ag value chain collaborate to drive positive change in these issue areas? Join your peers in discussing current topics to examine trends, impacts and solutions related to these issues in your region.

Topics will be finalized based on interest of participants and will range from;

  • Food Security
  • Partnering with Conservation Authorities
  • Loss and Importance of the Rural Third Space
  • Lot Creation and Severances in Prime Ag Areas
  • Engaging Local Youth in Agriculture
  • Ag Workforce to Cannabis as an Agriculture Product

Choose to attend for one or both days and encourage your co-workers and broader network to attend – it’s so easy now that there is no travel involved. Register here: Day 1 & 2 – $75

This event is proudly sponsored by OPPI, Huron County Economic Development


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