Choosing a location is one of the most important decisions entrepreneurs make when planning or relocating their business venture.
Here’s a request we received from a retail client: “I might have an opportunity to move on to the main street, but I need more information for my business partner. He doesn’t seem to think it will make that much of a difference.”
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ (OMAFRA) Business Retention and Expansion program (BR+E) is a structured, four-stage approach focused on ensuring that local businesses in rural communities survive and thrive.
When communities take on a BR+E project, they take meaningful steps towards retaining and expanding businesses by getting a clear understanding of issues facing local businesses and then capitalizing on opportunities.
As part of the program, OMAFRA offers comprehensive BR+E training to:
individuals who are interested in managing or coordinating a community level Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) project.
economic development professionals who will be involved in the implementation of a BR+E project.
We recently held our fourth online community of practice for Ontario’s downtown revitalization community. The session focused on events, promotions, and other activities communities are using to address seasonality, and to keep their downtowns a destination beyond traditional summer and winter peak seasons. Here’s a quick summary of the session:
Sue Nicholson, General Manager of the Downtown Collingwood BIA provided an overview of the current landscape in Collingwood, the resulting focus of the BIA in promoting the downtown (e.g. authenticity, arts, walkability), and the full range of initiatives used to even out resident and tourist visitation in the downtown throughout the year. Some of these initiatives include self-directed walking tours, various arts-based events from May to October, and mid-week events in the summer. Overall, Collingwood has been able to work with partners across the region, including “cooperative/competitors” like Blue Mountain, to build a vibrant calendar of events and initiatives that reduce traditional shoulder seasons outside of summer and winter in Collingwood. Click here to download the presentation.
Susan Carradine-Armstrong, Manager of the Downtown Goderich BIA focused in on a key event the community uses to promote the downtown in the winter, the ICEtacular festival. Over four years the BIA has been able to successfully build ICEtacular into a key event on the Town’s calendar and a prime opportunity for downtown businesses to see notable activity in a traditionally slow season. The event has been able to attract an estimated average of 3,000 people per year for the weekend and has resulted in average increases in sales for retail and food service providers in the downtown each year over the course of the event. Click here to download the presentation.
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.
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!
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’.
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.
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:
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.
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 families 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.