Through our series of Downtown Revitalization Community of Practice events, we are continuing to build a network of practitioners with an interest in economic development and downtown revitalization across the province. Given the challenges that have emerged over the last several months across the globe related to COVID-19, particularly for small businesses in downtowns and main street areas, building those networks and sharing leading practices has taken on an even more important role. As part of that work, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) is pleased to facilitate the next session in its downtown community of practice event series, to be held on June 1st, 2020, from 10:30-12:00.
Guest blog written by Emily Potter, Executive Director, NOFIA
With the current COVID-19 situation changing daily, challenges that farmers were facing prior to the outbreak have escalated, and new challenges are being presented week by week. While the general public are expressing concerns about the food supply, farmers want the public to know that they will not stop producing safe and healthy food for them to consume. Despite mounting challenges, Ontario’s agriculture and agri-food industry is resilient and innovative.
Industry organizations everywhere have been working hard to provide up-to-date information and create tools to ensure farmers and producers can continue to meet the country’s demand. Whether this be releasing practical tools and information, developing support programs, or working with the government to ensure the supply chain is maintained.
The Agriculture Economic Development and Planning Community of Practice held a webinar on April 15, 2020, to discuss issues in the agriculture and food sector due to COVID-19 and how to help communities during these difficult times.
One concern expressed is the lack of agriculture labourers. The agricultural community is worried that they will not get their full complement of temporary seasonal workers, and that would impact their ability to plant and harvest this season. The goal of the Community of Practice it to help find local and regional solutions to address these types of issues.
The rapidly emerging impacts of COVID-19 on local communities has left economic developers seeking guidance on how to best respond to the crisis and offer effective support measures. Working together, elected officials, partners, local businesses, community members and economic developers can implement actions to mitigate the negative outcomes of this outbreak and work towards a more resilient future.
The International Economic Development Council held a webinar in early April to discuss a ten-point action plan for how economic developer organizations (EDOs) at all levels of government can work through a three phase recovery plan: mobilizing to help their local businesses now (Phase 1), preparing to reopen safely and securely (Phase 2) and positioning economies for longer run recovery Phase 3).
Predation by wildlife is a year-round problem in rural Ontario with two peak periods in spring and late summer. OMAFRA has developed the Wildlife Damage Compensation Program to help farmers who lose livestock due to wild animals killing or injuring their stock. This resource offers training materials and suggestions for farmers to help discourage wildlife from attacking.
Recently a farmer from northern Ontario demonstrated the effectiveness of a couple of these methods. There was an incident in which a pack of large grey wolves were attacking beef cattle on the farm. The producer had contracted a trapper but the attacks continued. The farmer called an OMAFRA advisor asking for help. The advisor suggested using a combination of flashing lights and noise to discourage the wolves as demonstrated in the video below.
As a continuation of a previous blog post on tips to support your business community, this blog offers mental health strategies on navigating through COVID-19. Due to the uncertainty business owners are currently facing, it can be extremely difficult to manage stress levels while working through economic setbacks. Although, there are several significant unknowns, it is important to ensure that mental health and self-care is a top priority for yourself and your business community during these challenging times. It is not uncommon to experience feelings of anxiety, isolation and stress.
Below are some key insights from mental health experts on practicing good self-care for yourself and your employees.
On March 5th, 2020, the Agriculture Economic Development and Planning Community of Practice hosted a webinar on planning for agriculture. This webinar fostered a discussion between the audience and the speaker, Dr. Wayne Caldwell, on the impact and opportunities for land use planning and near-urban agriculture. Potential challenges and opportunities were addressed, along with ten methods to create a more viable agricultural sector through planning practices.
As Ontario’s population grows, urbanized and highly populated areas are expanding into agricultural areas. While there are certainly opportunities for agriculture in proximity to urban markets, it can also pose some risks and challenges.
Businesses in all sectors will be impacted by COVID-19 in some manner. In order to support them effectively, economic developers will need to do some outreach and consultation to assess these impacts and determine the needs of the businesses in their communities.
This will be particularly difficult at this moment, as businesses struggle with various priorities. Here are some tips to connect with your businesses effectively.
Business Retention & Expansion (BR+E) is a concept that can be activated for times of crisis. It is a structured and community-based approach to business and economic development. It helps communities learn about issues facing local businesses and sets priorities to address these needs where possible to help strengthen the economy. It is important to recognize that few communities can do everything they would like to do to support their existing businesses.
Business Retention & Expansion (BR+E) is a structured, action-oriented and community-based approach to business and economic development. The data and knowledge obtained from business interviews is used to address issues and opportunities facing employers.
BR+E best practice suggests that interviews should ideally be conducted in-person because face-to-face interactions can offer beneficial results. However, there are some potential challenges to be aware of.
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 (April 8, 10am- 12pm and April 22, 10am-12pm). Click here to register.
This interactive training will:
- Share key agriculture economic development concepts
- Introduce the range of agriculture economic development activities your community can explore
- Give you tools to develop a plan for agricultural economic development in your community
- Provide an overview of the Agriculture Economic Development guide and its three stages: plant, grow and harvest.