New projects support Ontario agriculture and agri-food sector
On Wed., April 18, Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, along with Burkhard Mausberg, CEO of the Greenbelt Fund, announced in Peterborough that 24 local food projects which will increase access to local food across Ontario were made possible with funding from the Greenbelt Fund and the Government of Ontario. From left are Pat Learmonth (Director of Farms at Work), Sam McLean (McLean Berry Farm), Deputy Mayor Sherry Senis (Township of Selwyn), Warden Joe Taylor (Peterborough County), Minister Jeff Leal (Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs), Cheryl Ellis (Board member, Transition Town Peterborough), and Burkhard Mausberg (CEO of the Greenbelt Fund).      Courtesy photo

PETERBOROUGH – On Wed., April 19, the Greenbelt Fund announced 24 local food projects that will increase access to local food across Ontario, made possible with funding from the Government of Ontario. These investments support farmers and agri-food businesses as an essential bedrock of Ontario’s economy.

Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, made the announcement along with Burkhard Mausberg, CEO of the Greenbelt Fund, at McLean Farms in Peterborough. This investment includes a $15,000 grant to Farms at Work to partner with Transition Town Peterborough to strengthen the impact and sustainability of Peterborough Local Food Month.

Farms at Work’s project is one of 24 new projects across Ontario, totalling over $800,000 in new investments from the Greenbelt Fund through the province’s Local Food Investment Fund program.

“Farms at Work showcases local food through Peterborough Local Food Month, which celebrates local food leaders and farmers bringing local food to our plates,” said Mausberg. “The Greenbelt Fund invests in projects all along the food value chain from farm to table, increasing the sale of local food and strengthening the local food economy.”

“Through the Local Food Investment Fund, our government is making it easier for Ontarians to enjoy the good things grown, harvested and made in Ontario. When we invest in projects that support Ontario’s powerhouse agri-food sector, we are helping strengthen our communities, both rural and urban, create good jobs and boost our local economies,” added Leal.

“Through Peterborough Local Food Month. we engage the community about the benefits and value of choosing local, which supports our farmers and ensures that farmland stays in production,” said Pat Learmonth, Director of Farms at Work. “The support from the Greenbelt Fund and province means we can solidify Peterborough Local Food Month as a signature agricultural event in the region.”

About the Local Food Investment Fund:

In 2015, the Ontario government provided the Greenbelt Fund with $6-million over three years to support initiatives that will help support the province’s local food strategy by enhancing consumer awareness and access to local food, as well as generating demand and supply of Ontario foods and beverages. The investment supports initiatives such as the Local Food Investment Fund, which is a grant program for farmers and other businesses along the food value chain, broader public sector institutions, and not-for-profits working to increase the amount of Ontario-grown and made food purchased and enjoyed across the province. The Local Food Investment Fund’s three grant streams focus on enhancing local food literacy, increasing market access for small and mid-size Ontario farmers and processors and increasing purchases of local food in the broader public sector, such as hospitals and universities.

The Greenbelt Fund’s innovative investments get more local food onto the plates of Ontarians. by working with businesses, institutions and NGOs to make Ontario’s farmers the first choice for consumers. The Fund’s work has generated a 13-fold return on their investments, permanently changed the food value chain and improved local food awareness and education around the province. As a not-for-profit, the Greenbelt Fund is supported by public and private sources.

The Ontario Government is investing over $830,000 in 24 innovative projects bringing more local food to Ontario plates across the Province. Since 2015, the Greenbelt Fund has invested $3.8-million to support 77 projects across Ontario. The projects are:

  • Bayfield Berry Farm, Huron County ($37,250) – increasing processing of Ontario fruit juices, cider, preserves and fruit liqueurs– will expand their on-farm processing facility to meet growing demand for fruit juices, ciders, preserves and fruit liqueurs. The expansion will allow Bayfield Berry Farm to develop packaging and labelling, including requisite nutritional information, to sell their products to wholesale and retail markets, in addition to their on-farm shop. The project is expected to increase sales by up to 50 per cent in their first year.
  • Cauldron Kitchen Inc., Ottawa – Local Food Entrepreneurship Program ($5,000) for four to eight participants to build the skills to create a viable local food business. Participants will have access to business development classes, mentoring and commercial kitchen use.
  • Cohn Farms Processing and Distribution Hub, Bradford ($72,500) – will be scaling up capacity at its processing and distribution hub to meet growing demand for local food, which is outpacing supply. The project is expected to double the number of farms supplying Cohn Farms to 25-30, create over 15 full-time equivalent jobs, and increase sales of local food by over $4-million per year.
  • Deep Roots Food Hub Grow, West Carleton – Food Hub ($48,500) – will increase access to local produce by investing in a new co-packing approach for its roots cellar, providing storage, distribution and marketing opportunities to area farmers. In addition, the project will expand the Good Food Box program and include an “Eat West Carleton” promotional campaign.
  • Earth Fresh Farms, Burlington – increasing access for Ontario’s new innovative white potato ($42,900). Earth Fresh Farms will work with nine Ontario growers to grow premium Polar White potatoes and extend the season for Ontario white potatoes. The project is expected to increase the market for Polar White Ontario potatoes significantly, with increased sales of well over $1-million a year.
  • Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario, Guelph – supporting local food market access for Ecological Growers across Ontario ($14,475). The EFAO will increase market access for small to mid-scale ecological producers by providing specialized training through workshops and farm tours, including selling to new markets (food hubs, retail, wholesale, farmers’ markets), on-farm value-added opportunities, and new and emerging markets (world crops, heritage grains, ecological fruit).
  • Farmersville Community Abattoir, Athens – processing equipment ($30,141). FCA is a new, not-for-profit initiative to establish a community-owned abattoir to meet the needs of the farming communities in Leeds and Grenville, Frontenac, Lanark and Ottawa-Carleton. By establishing a community-owned facility,the Abattoir will help ensure the long-term viability of the agricultural system in Eastern Ontario for 1,300 farmers in the region and increase local food sales by $240,000.
  • Farms at Work – Tides Canada, offices in Vancouver/Toronto/Yellowknife – initiatives expanding impact and sustainability of Local Food Month in Peterborough ($15,000); by working in partnership with Transition Town Peterborough to facilitate local food-related workshops, events and tours throughout September and culminating in the Purple Onion Festival.
  • Flanagan Foodservice Homegrown, Kitchener – Local Food Project ($42,840); is Canada’s largest family-owned foodservice distributor and funding will increase sales of Ontario foods by increasing its local food offerings, improving traceability, and investing in a promotional campaign to improve awareness of Ontario food available to its customers. The project is expected to increase local food sales by $1-million in 2017.
  • Greenhouses Canada Northern Ontario mobile growing facility ($52,283) – will purchase a mobile “grow truck” to serve as an indoor demonstration and training site, and allow for transportation of fresh produce to remote northern communities (including on seasonal ice roads). The project is expected to increase local food sales by $117,000.
  • Halton Healthcare Good For You, Locally Grown – Phase 2 ($51,500) – will build on the progress made to increase local food served in its hospitals by working with farmers, manufacturers and other industry colleagues to develop recipes using Ontario food that meet the nutritional needs of patients. The project will also establish branding to identify local food choices to patients, as well as a marketing campaign to promote the local food offerings at Halton Healthcare facilities.
  • Len & Patti’s Butcher Block, Lindsay – improved production efficiency to increase Ontario raised pork, beef, lamb, elk and goat ($46,438); to meet growing demand for Ontario raised meats, Len & Patti’s Butcher Block will invest in modernized machinery to increase production capacity. The project will include a new smoke house, tumbler, sausage stuffer, and patty machine. The increase in production capacity is expected to increase the sale of local meat by $2.5-million by the end of 2017.
  • Local Line Inc., Kitchener, Food Hub Project ($28,316) – will build custom local food hub software for Ontario food hubs, based on a market assessment of the needs of Ontario’s existing food hubs. The platform will leverage existing Local Line marketplace and reporting software to create easy-to-use software for new and established local food hubs.
  • Munye Kitchens, Toronto – increasing local food outreach – multi-ethnic African communities and beyond ($23,495) – will create a local food guide for multi-ethnic African communities to increase awareness of locally-grown foods relevant to the African communities and identify where Ontario-grown produce can be purchased. The project will also educate consumers on how to use African crops like okra and callaloo, grown in Ontario and the Greenbelt.
  • Muskoka Foundry market assessment for the development of a local food hub ($30,000) – will establish a new aggregated local food hub in Northern Ontario in Bracebridge’s historic Foundry building. The space will include 10 permanent retail spots for agri-food processors, and provide mentorship opportunities for new processors and producers through an additional 10-15 temporary vendor stalls. The project is expected to increase local food sales by $1.5-million per year.
  • National Farmers Union, Ontario – building a network of local food advocates ($32,675) – will enhance local food literacy across the province by building a network of local food advocates across a number of sectors, including educators, healthcare providers, faith communities, artists, academics, outdoor professionals, and youth. The NFU will create tailored local food information material for the different advocates and create a directory of local food advocates.

Neyaashiing Smoked Fish – ($13,250) – will invest in upgrades to its smoking facility to improve food preparation, food safety and production output; will allow increased access to new markets for smoked fish sourced and processed in First Nations communities, both through retail and wholesale market channels.

  • Poechman Family Farms, Walkerton – microgreens for pastured eggs ($38,100) – will invest in significant changes to its barn to improve quality of life for its hens as well as quality and flavour of its eggs, meeting consumer demand for humane eggs. The project will involve the introduction of a new perch for the hens, and specially grown greenhouse microgreens for the hens’ diet. The pilot will allow Poechman Family Farms to share learnings with other egg farmers in the Organic Meadows Co-Operative and the Yorkshire Valley Farms distribution family.
  • Reiche Meat Products Ltd., Pembroke – growing opportunities for local poultry ($14,550) – will meet a significant gap in the agricultural system in Renfrew County by establishing poultry processing facilities, which are currently not available in the county. The availability of an abattoir in the county will allow existing small-scale poultry farms to scale up and meet growing demand for local poultry at farmers’ markets and in stores. The project is expected to increase local food sales by $100,000 and bring 20 new farmers to market.
  • Select Food Products – implementation of new cooking line to increase production capabilities and access the Ontario Market ($75,000); has made a significant investment in a new cooking and production line in order to deliver a made-in-Ontario with Ontario ingredients French’s ketchup. The project will nearly triple production capacity for Select and help French’s to execute on its commitment to make and source ketchup in Canada.
  • Victorian Order of Nurses, Windsor Essex – promoting local food literacy and increasing local food consumption in Southwestern Ontario Schools ($18,988); VON delivers school breakfast and snack programs that feed over 100,000 students every year. This project will develop local food literacy awareness materials for students and parents, to accompany increased local food served through these programs.
  • Wendy’s Mobile Market, Rideau Lakes Township– season-extension, value-adding processing and services ($71,538) – will retrofit a cow barn into a local food processing and storage facility to offer season-extending and value-added processing to local farmers. The facility will create new processed products including jams, jellies, preserves, dried fruit, and frozen entrees.
  • West Niagara Agricultural Society and Niagara 4-H Local Food Booth ($14,463) – will partner with Niagara 4-H to purchase a road-worthy trailer for the volunteers of the 4-H club to bring to food and agricultural events throughout the region. The trailer will allow the 4-H to introduce their local food products to urban and near-urban students who might not otherwise be exposed to local food offerings.
  • Wickens Lake Sunshine Greenhouse Retrofit Extension, Northern Ontario ($9,942) – will invest in a retrofit and extension of its existing hydroponics greenhouse to extend the farms’ growing season and increase capacity. Once the upgrades are complete, WLS will partner with Open Roads Public School and the Cloverbelt Local Food Co-Op to supply produce for the school’s salad bar program, bringing more local, nutritious food to students.

The Greenbelt Fund has invested significantly in projects across Ontario to increase local food awareness and sales. Since 2010, the Greenbelt Fund has seen a 13:1 return on its investment in local food projects.