Eastern Ontario Local Food Conference – The North Grenville Times http://www.ngtimes.ca The Voice of North Grenville Sun, 22 Apr 2018 15:09:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 Preserving Our Farms http://www.ngtimes.ca/preserving-our-farms/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/preserving-our-farms/#respond Wed, 24 Jan 2018 19:00:25 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=10687 At the Bring Food Home & Eastern Ontario Local Food Conference held this past fall at the University of Ottawa, one of the workshops was a policy discussion on “Farmland Preservation and Protection”. The purpose of the workshop was to “develop a set of policy positions aimed at strengthening Ontario’s capacity to preserve farmland for […]

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At the Bring Food Home & Eastern Ontario Local Food Conference held this past fall at the University of Ottawa, one of the workshops was a policy discussion on “Farmland Preservation and Protection”. The purpose of the workshop was to “develop a set of policy positions aimed at strengthening Ontario’s capacity to preserve farmland for agricultural use, and limit investment, development and conversion pressures that may result in its degradation”.

The resource that was used as a starting point was a research paper created by a University of Ottawa student Christopher Kelly-Bisson. In his paper, he revealed some startling statistics. From 1986 to 2016, the total amount of Ontario farmland had decreased 11.5%. Within that statistic, crop land had increased by 3%, while pasture land had decreased 50% and all other types of farmland had decreased by 23%. From 2006 to 2016, Ontario lost 7.2% of its farmland, which is equivalent to a piece of land approximately a quarter of the size of the City of Toronto.

Some of the reasons for this decline were discussed at length. One reason is “urban sprawl” or simply population growth, which is causing urban areas to expand outwards. As large and medium-sized urban centres grow, they start spreading out into areas that were previously agricultural lands, which are being bought and developed by residential developers. Some of the smaller farmers are reluctantly willing to sell their land because their farms are no longer sustainable or there may not be someone in the family willing to take over the farm.

Another related reason was the significant decrease in the total number of farms, mostly smaller ones. For the same reasons as above, a lack of succession options within the family or the farm is no longer financially sustainable. The costs involved in operating a farm have steadily risen over the last three decades to the point where for some its not financially possible to operate a smaller farm. Medium-sized and larger farms appear to be better equipped to financially handle the challenges of farm operations. Some of these same medium to large-sized farms are also buying up the smaller ones or at least portions of their land assets. The “Go Big Or Go Home” philosophy seems to be not only alive and well, but in some cases a financial necessity.

Farmland speculation is also a contributor to the situation. Some corporations are buying farmland and then sitting on the land, speculating that the value of the land will increase over time and they’ll be able to sell it for a much higher price down the road. This means that prime or even serviceable agricultural land that could be producing food or other agricultural products that would help local economies, will instead possibly sit inactive for years, until the right bidder comes along.

To maintain or grow a strong local food system, we need to prevent these situations from happening. We need an adequate amount of prime agricultural land and more farms to provide sustainable food production to also strengthen our food security so that major crop failures in other parts of the world don’t raise food prices and create food shortages here. There are steps at the municipal level that we can take to reduce the possibility of this happening. For example, between 2000-2014, York Region lost 7000 hectares of agricultural land to non-farm uses.

Ontario has created several policies, policy statements and land use strategies over the past twenty years to make it more difficult to convert farmland to non-farm uses, however these strategies are limited and often subject to both municipal and/or regional cooperation and interpretation. Let’s help keep our local farmers on their land by buying what they produce. You can also visit www.ontariofarmlandtrust.ca and www.bonnefield.com to see how these two organizations are doing in this area.

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EOLFC – de-colonizing the food system http://www.ngtimes.ca/eolfc-de-colonizing-food-system/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/eolfc-de-colonizing-food-system/#respond Thu, 02 Nov 2017 18:46:39 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=9372 This year’s Eastern Ontario Local Food Conference [EOLFC] was held this past weekend at the University of Ottawa. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs [OMAFRA] is the organizing body behind EOLFC. For this year’s conference, OMAFRA combined forces with Sustain Ontario, an incorporated non-profit organization created to become “the unifying voice for […]

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This year’s Eastern Ontario Local Food Conference [EOLFC] was held this past weekend at the University of Ottawa. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs [OMAFRA] is the organizing body behind EOLFC. For this year’s conference, OMAFRA combined forces with Sustain Ontario, an incorporated non-profit organization created to become “the unifying voice for food and farming interests across the province”, to host an even larger four-day event named “Bring Food Home – Upstream Collaboration”.

On the second day of the conference, (the first day consisted of local food tours around Eastern Ontario), there was a panel discussion on “De-colonizing Land and Food: What That Looks Like In Ontario”. The focus of the discussion was to explore the relationship and interconnectedness of land and food from an indigenous food sovereignty perspective. The panel was made up of five indigenous people from various First Nations in Ontario who shared stories of the challenges they face in their respective communities.

Food appears to be a very complicated matter for indigenous peoples. When settlers from other areas of the world started arriving in Ontario, they brought their food traditions, food methods and ingredients with them. Four ingredients that the settlers brought to Ontario that one member of the panel referred as “poison” were: sugar, salt, lard, and wheat. None of these four ingredients were part of the diet of the indigenous people of Ontario. Over the last two centuries, these ingredients began to work their way into the food system of First Nations. Not only for indigenous peoples, these ingredients have come to create health concerns for all Canadians.

Many of the traditional food habitats for indigenous peoples have been disturbed by settlers, to the point where they no longer provide the food sources that were relied upon in the past. Consider that Rice Lake was so named because the lake was an important habitat for wild rice, which was an important part of the local indigenous diet, according to indigenous panellist Larry McDermott. Today, one member of the panel observed, they can no longer find any wild rice growing around the lake.

Modern agricultural practices, expansion of residential and commercial activities, and even current regulations around food handling and preparation, can have negative impacts on indigenous food systems. The attendees heard a story from Perry McLeod-Shabogesic about how, in order to continue to use some of the food traditions in his community, at times they’ve taken a “don’t ask permission, go ahead and do it” approach with food. He said that, by asking permission of government agencies or organizations to do something, you have given away your power. He stated that, before doing any new food-related activity, his community does their research into the safety of the activity and possible health outcomes. They then decide whether to go forward. If they do, Perry noted that, after they’ve been performing the activity for a while “under the radar”, they’ll be approached about it and, quite often left, to continue. Occasionally, they’ll even be asked to demonstrate what they’re doing, so that others can learn.

The goal of the discussion was to inform attendees about the challenges faced by indigenous peoples surrounding their food system through stories and knowledge-sharing. Rather than an atmosphere of blame, or scapegoating of settlers, this discussion was intended to move forward and seek new allies to help reconcile the Ontario food system in a just and meaningful way.

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Alternative farming http://www.ngtimes.ca/alternative-farming/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/alternative-farming/#comments Wed, 29 Mar 2017 19:55:44 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=4622 When someone talks about farming, certain visuals usually come to mind. The first one might be of a herd of dairy cows grazing in a pasture, or maybe some type of crop growing on hundreds of acres of land. However, according to a 2012 United Nations report on “Food and Agriculture: The future of sustainability”, […]

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When someone talks about farming, certain visuals usually come to mind. The first one might be of a herd of dairy cows grazing in a pasture, or maybe some type of crop growing on hundreds of acres of land. However, according to a 2012 United Nations report on “Food and Agriculture: The future of sustainability”, the future of agriculture lies in the form of small-scale, sustainable farming. Our current large-scale agriculture model leaves our food supply and the cost of food vulnerable to a number of issues, such as climate change. So what would this new visual of farming look like? Let’s explore some of the options that are available to be implemented by practically anyone.

One of the options that was discussed briefly at last year’s Eastern Ontario Local Food Conference was the idea of urban farming. This is a broad topic in itself, but, for our purposes, let’s specifically look at the trend of ‘lawn farming’. It’s the practice of replacing the lawn of a single home with a garden. “Don’t grow grass, grow food”, would be the mantra for this movement. From lawns the size of postage stamps, to larger two-acre properties as we have in some areas of North Grenville, people can not only grow a significant amount of their own food, but can also sell some of the yield at the local farmers’ market, at a roadside stand, to community-based local food operations like the Two Rivers Food Hub, or local retailers and restaurants.

Another option that was discussed at the EOLFC was modular or ‘vertical farming’. This is the practice of producing food vertically in layers, similar to a kind of growing wall, instead of the traditional method of farming horizontally or flat on a field. This type of farming is very interesting, as it can be done in a wide variety of locations using everything from a metal shipping container, a basement, an apartment bedroom, or something larger, like a warehouse. This method allows the farmer to control the climate much better than outdoors, where the crop may be vulnerable to weather elements. There have been recent advancements in controlled-environment agriculture (CEA) technology that can support this type of agriculture.

The final option we’ll look at, very briefly, is permaculture, which is “a system of agricultural and social design centred on stimulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems”. Traditional farming methods often utilize a single, or two-crop philosophy, while permaculture is looking at agriculture as more of a self contained system that can use its own inputs to help sustain itself. The philosophy is a kind of “work with nature, rather than against it” process, where, rather than bringing in outside resources (that may damage or disturb the natural system or environment) to encourage growth of certain crops, use the resources generated by the system itself, that occur naturally.

Each year, Ontario imports an estimated $4 billion in food to feed itself. If we could reduce this food deficit, starting at the local level, it could help spawn new businesses, create new jobs and reduce our dependency on other regions and countries, making our food supply and the cost of food much less vulnerable to outside influences. I believe that North Grenville is uniquely situated to be able to take advantage of this new change of direction for sustainable agriculture. We are very fortunate in that, if the Municipality of North Grenville were able to acquire the former Kemptville College, agricultural research, education, and training could be brought back to North Grenville. Keep your green thumbs crossed.

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Missing the boat on Local Food http://www.ngtimes.ca/missing-the-boat-on-local-food/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/missing-the-boat-on-local-food/#comments Wed, 30 Nov 2016 22:11:23 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=2926 This past week the city of Belleville was host to the Eastern Ontario Local Food Conference. Organized by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the annual event attracts hundreds of foodies, farmers, researchers, authors, politicians, entrepreneurs, chefs, municipal staff and all levels of government employees from across Canada, and even a few […]

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This past week the city of Belleville was host to the Eastern Ontario Local Food Conference. Organized by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the annual event attracts hundreds of foodies, farmers, researchers, authors, politicians, entrepreneurs, chefs, municipal staff and all levels of government employees from across Canada, and even a few people from the U.S. It’s a veritable big box candy store for anyone with an interest in agriculture and food. Kemptville resident Katie Nolan was one of the organizers.
The first day of the conference was a local food tour, where a full bus of participants toured across the Bay of Quinte area stopping in at five different local food businesses along the way. A new malting facility (for beer production), a premium beef farm, a well hidden boutique winery, a food canning facility, and a three hundred head dairy farm that was actually on the tour because of their anaerobic bio-digester (which converts organic waste into electricity), were all on the day’s schedule. Armed with a local food bag lunch, participants were treated to a textbook example of how enjoyable and informative local food tourism can be.
The possibilities for economic development through local food tourism seemed endless. Immediately following the tour was the local food extravaganza, with two rooms full of local food businesses giving out delectable samples of their craft. Local wines, local craft beer, local fresh pasta, and a wide variety of local meats were just some of the delicacies served up by the business owners themselves. Three solid hours of nibbling and networking were a fitting end to a memorable first day.
The second day of the conference was a series of guest speakers and information sessions. The range of topics discussed was remarkable. Everything from converting your lawn to a garden, to providing municipalities with a step by step approach to developing local food for economic development, were just some of the topics that were presented. The keynote speaker was Sarah Elton, a best-selling and award-winning author, who talked extensively about the theme of the conference, which was ‘resiliency’ in local food systems. Her two books, ‘Locavore’ and ‘Consumed’, should be priority reading for anyone working in or curious about agriculture and local food. Kemptville’s own Bruce Enloe, who is the general manager of the Two Rivers Food Hub in Smiths Falls, was also one of the guests speakers.
Probably one of the key takeaways from the conference was the need for education. There is a huge void in terms of education about all aspects of local food. There was an especially urgent call for young people to be taught how to grow food, process food and prepare it in order to live healthier lives. If not shown this, and the value of making their own food, they’ll choose unhealthy options like cheap, unhealthy, processed foods that are too easy to just heat and eat. There was also a call to educate adults, community leaders, and politicians about not only the health benefits of local food, but the community and economic development possibilities around developing a strong local food system.
Currently, we have some great good local food assets here in the North Grenville area. Those assets could become even stronger by bringing them together and cultivating new assets in order to build a strong sustainable local food system. This can be accomplished by providing education and training, and creating opportunities to share information about funding options, available resources, and recent innovations. Until recently, there has been a large leadership void in the area of local food. The Kemptville Farmers’ Market has attempted to fill this void by working with their current vendors and encouraging anyone else to start producing their own food and then to become a market vendor. The market is starting to develop strategic partnerships in order to bring leaders and experts in different areas of local food to speak to their vendors and anyone else with an interest in local food.
It was great to see Councillor Donovan Arnaud in attendance for the second day of the conference and hear him speak passionately about what he saw and heard and how he believes that local food has incredible potential for North Grenville. Here’s hoping that he can light a fire under other members of council and staff, so that they begin to understand the enormous potential for economic development in sectors like job creation, increased tourism and even the improved health of residents which are all possible with a strong local food system. What became obvious throughout the conference was that we’re currently missing the boat on local food in the North Grenville area. When you compare the benefits of local food that other regions of Eastern Ontario are enjoying, it’s a very big boat that we’re missing. However, I do take a little comfort in knowing that councillor Arnaud professes to be a former Navy man.

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