Ontario’s local food industry impacts our economy, our environment and our culture. The local food value chain includes farmers, processors, distributors, retailers, restaurants, other food service organizations like the broader public sector, who are working to provide quality products to Ontarians.
In March of 2019, the Government of Ontario established the final goal of the Local Food Act, 2013: to remove red tape barriers and open the door for using more local food across the broader public sector (BPS). To support the goal’s success, the government developed many tools and resources including the Broader Public Sector Champions Program. Organizations are encouraged to share their local food procurement baseline with the province. Then create and track targets for increasing local food purchases, and voluntarily report back to the province how they are meeting their local food goals.
Certificates of Recognition from the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs will be awarded to participating institutions each June during Local Food Week.
What Does This Mean for you?
Broader Public Sector organizations receive funding from the Government of Ontario but are considered outside the governing body. BPS organizations that can participate in the local food Broader Public Sector Champions Program are hospitals, municipal long-term care facilities, school boards, universities or colleges, school boards, and child care centers.
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.
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’.
Ontario Hosts Large International Food & Beverage Trade Show
Ontario recently hosted SIAL (Salon International de l ‘Alimentation) Canada, the largest international food and beverage tradeshow in Canada.
SIAL Canada brought many of the major players in the agri-food industry together under one roof at the Enercare Centre in Toronto the three-day exhibition..
Thousands of industry visitors flocked to Toronto to sample, learn about and purchase Ontario’s many unique food and beverage products for local and international food-service and grocery destinations.
Close to 150 Ontario businesses exhibited, presenting their exceptional agri-food products. These companies showcased one-of-a-kind products in categories such as, beverages, confectionary, bakery, snacks, cheeses, meats, aqua-culture technology, and more!
New to SIAL this year, was the Ontario Pavilion, which showcased twenty Ontario companies and provided networking space. These companies were busy at the show sampling their unique, delicious and innovative products and meeting with multiple foreign buyers with the intentions of selling their products in global markets.
The Honourable Minister Hardeman, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, visited SIAL on Tuesday. The Minister toured the Ontario Pavilion and visited with a number of other exhibiting Ontario companies.
Ontario also participated in SIAL’s hosted buyers’ program and welcomed buyers from the United States, Dubai, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Netherlands, and Mexico. While they were here, more than 70 Ontario companies met with the international buyers to discuss potential export opportunities for their businesses.
SIAL Canada will be hosted in Montreal in 2020, but will be back in Toronto in 2021. There is already a keen interest from Ontario companies to participate in upcoming SIAL Canada shows as they will have more opportunities to meet with foreign buyers and present their products to industry visitors.
OMAFRA’s Local Food First Impressions Community Exchange (FICE) program, allows communities to gain a fresh perspective on how their local food assets are seen through the eyes of first-time visitors. A FICE program means that:
Two communities are matched based on similarities (e.g., major sectors or population)
Each community recruits a group of volunteers to act as visitors
Those volunteers are trained by OMAFRA staff to conduct the visit
The visitors record their findings about the partner community
Observations are presented to each community
Action plans are created based on the feedback gathered