Ontario Agriculture

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This past week I attended a Kitchen Table Conversations in Clinton. My wife and I were two of only about seven people who attended. It was the last of 5 meetings held in the past two weeks across Huron County. There were two reps from the local food banks in attendance. It was interesting to learn about how the system operates and what their challenges are. They were "pleased" to see that the number of clients have increased. "Pleased" because the purpose of the food bank is hitting its target. Not "pleased" because of the increased necessity of the food bank system and related support networks.
Conversation from the other attendees focused on the lack of local food that is available in our agriculturally rich County. With over 18,000 beef cows and 20,000 sheep, local beef and lamb can be hard to find. You are more likely to find USDA pork and New Zealand lamb at the local grocery than you are to find Huron County Poultry.
Each person has their own opinion on the validity and purpose of local food. The fact is that in Huron County, if we focus on local food, farmers will perish since we are an export oriented industry within our own County. It depends more upon how you determine what exactly "local food" is.
Controversy among farmers in the US has started since it "appears" that USDA is also turning towards a local food focus.
At the same time the City of Toronto has got City Council talking about Food. Coming from a County that produces more farmgate sales than each of the four Atlantic Provinces I question the purpose of Toronto Council talking about Food.
On Tuesday June 1st, the Toronto Food Policy Council, in partnership with the Medical Officer of Health has created a 6-point strategy for food system renewal in Toronto. They talk about Food being the number one service and industrial supplier with annual sales of $7 billion. This makes Huron County's Ag industry look small with an Economic Impact of only $2.5 billion. Per capita though, it is still huge.
The Food Connections Report talks about how "food leadership can help Toronto reach its social, economic and environmental goals." Isn't that what farmers have been preaching to Government for years?
We may not all agree on the 6 point strategy but the point is that why can the City of Toronto see the importance of food production and recognize that "most farmers are having a hard time making a living from their farms...", yet our local municipalities can not.
One point is that the Committee states "... enable.. bake ovens.." yet locally in Huron County a farmer had struggle to start an on-farm bakery. Reading between the lines it also shows that farmland is a valuable asset. We all have examples where local municipalities or Provincial gov't would prefer to allow more housing or a natural gas electrical generator. Maybe we should all forward the Report to our local Councils and ask that they also focus on assisting farmers and agriculture instead of fighting against them.

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