By Bette Jean Crews
Ontario Federation of Agriculture
As Canadians celebrate our nation’s 144th birthday this weekend, it’s an appropriate time to consider what it means for each of us to be Canadian.
As farmers, it doesn’t matter what day of the year it is, we are never more proud than when our fellow Canadians enjoy the produce and food grown right here at home. This Canada Day long weekend farmers everywhere are especially grateful for Canadian consumers choosing to feed their families with locally-grown food.
Unfortunately not everyone shares that same pride and social responsibility. In fact, a City of Toronto committee recently refused to adopt a policy that would direct City staff to buy local food, when appropriate, instead of imported food that may come from thousands of miles away. A final decision on the policy will go to Toronto City Council in two weeks for further debate.
This decision is an example of why the development and implementation of a National Food Strategy is so important. Canadians, and certainly the City of Toronto, need a long-term strategy to preserve the existing contributions agriculture and the agri-food industry makes, while maintaining the production of safe, healthy and affordable food. Future generations of Canadians may not have the same healthy and accessible benefits local food provides if our industry and governments don’t take action now to adopt a National Food Strategy.
Ontario’s agri-food industry contributes $33 billion to the provincial economy every year and provides jobs for 700,000 people. Much of that economic contribution comes from the agri-food industry, specifically the food processing sector in the Greater Toronto Area. In fact, Toronto is home to a large cluster of food processing facilities that contributes significantly to the Toronto economy. Toronto is also surrounded by some of the best farm land in Canada – a logical source for local food when you consider that every one of Ontario’s 60,000 farmers can produce enough food to feed 120 people every year, local food has never been more plentiful or available.
The decision by a City of Toronto committee not to source local food was made with limited vision and reinforces why developing a National Food Strategy is so important. Canadians need to be able to source and enjoy local food; they need the economic contributions made by the agriculture and agri-food industry to continue and most of all we all need a safe, sustainable food system because that’s one of the many reasons we are all proud to be Canadians.
Happy Canada Day from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and our 37,000 farm family members, we are proud to be Canadian farmers providing the freshest, safest, healthiest and most affordable food in the world.