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 Guelph. 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.
Ali 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.
Ontario 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 (AAC) are made up of community stakeholders such as Councillors, municipal staff, farmers, farm stakeholders or organizations, and other interested 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.
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.
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 to 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 tomatoes 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.
This 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’.
If your community is looking for ways to support your local agriculture sector; plan on attending the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) online Agriculture Economic Development Training.
The course is split into two sessions (March 26, 10am- 12pm and April 16, 10am-12pm). Click here to register. COURSE NOW FULL – WAIT LIST AVAILABLE
OMAFRA is offering a workshop on Friday, February 15 from 1:30-2:30 p.m. at the 2019 Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies Convention for the Measuring Your Societies Performance to Tell Your Story Workshop. The conference is taking place at the Sheraton Parkway Toronto North Hotel & Suites, in Richmond Hill, Ontario from Thursday February 14th to Friday February 15th.
Helen Scutt, Agriculture Organization Specialist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, will be presenting on how to use performance measures to increase accountability, support evidence-based decision-making, and keep your society focused on continuous improvement.
In October 2017, I drove to Guelph to attend my first seminar as a participant in Class #17 of the Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program. This program, run by the Rural Ontario Institute, is a 19-month executive leadership development experience for people who want to shape the future of agriculture and food industry and make a positive difference in rural communities across Ontario. The curriculum includes a series of eight seminars across the province, a North American Study Tour, and an International Study Tour. Study topics include government and political systems, marketing and economics, environmental impact, national and international trade, communication and organization skills, decision making, consumer and social issues, media relations, agri-food trends and society and globalization and the dynamics of change. Continue reading Advanced Agriculture Leadership Program: An Opportunity Like No Other→
The Communicating Agriculture to Municipal Council – Community of Practice webinar held on December 6th highlighted ways to educate the public and elected officials about the important role agriculture plays in robust economies.
One way to inform people about the importance of agriculture is to offer a farm and food tour in the community. Typically these tours provide an opportunity for participants get to know what issues the local agriculture sector is facing. They also provide hands-on experience for those who are visiting a farm for the first time.
According to Statistics Canada, Canadian businesses are becoming much more innovative and as a result are increasing competitiveness, economic growth and social wellbeing. However they say, there must be sufficient data available to advocate for the creation of policies that support innovation. Sufficient data is gathered by the Survey of Innovation and Business Strategy (SIBS) which is the primary source for innovation data in Canada. The measurement of innovation is the performance of the business enterprise sector, looking at strategic decisions, innovation, activities and operational tactics. Continue reading Statistics Canada Releases the Results from the Survey of Innovation and Business Strategy→
The 2018 LMI survey is here! The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) is surveying farm business owners and workers on the state of agricultural labour in Canada. We ask all owner-operators, workers and supporting stakeholder groups to take part to guide future action on the growing workforce crisis.Continue reading Agriculture Labour Market Survey: Available until November 30→
The strength and vitality of rural communities is contingent on our ability to attract young leaders: they are entrepreneurs, employees, neighbours, volunteers and patrons of local businesses.
Making headlines in Ontario Farmer: “Labour shortage worsening in Perth, Huron, Grey and Bruce”. Labour force availability in rural communities is being cited as a problem by employers and economic developers across the province. It’s a challenge across all sectors, from manufacturing to agriculture to tourism to healthcare.Continue reading The Importance of Youth Engagement to Rural Ontario→
Regional Economic Development Branch blog focusing on agriculture and rural economic development for Ontario