In the wake of concerns over food, reconnecting consumers and local farmers is the focus behind a new initiative launched by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and Farm & Food Care Ontario.
Source Local is a year-long pilot project that is providing opportunities for people to learn more about food grown in Ontario and the farmers and agricultural workers behind its production.
A news release from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture explains the project will inspire support for food and farming, beginning with local community activities, followed by larger events in urban and suburban centres. The project is also reaching out to audiences through traditional and digital media, including online at sourcelocalontario.ca.
While Source Local is trying to connect consumers with the Ontario food chain, Peggy Brekveld, president of the OFA, said this initiative isn’t about providing people with a food map. Instead, the initiative focuses on what questions people may have about agriculture and what it means to their community.
“I think it’s valuable to remember that agriculture, food and farming they’re all connected, and they are connected whether you live in the city or in rural areas, and decisions and actions you take can make a difference to local farmers and the farming community," said Brekveld.
"If you understand the connection, then you value how important agricultural food is."
Since the project debuted in late November Brekveld said it has received some positive feedback.
“I think there is some excitement from our counties, our regional organizations, who really want to make those connections, and make some (connections) in invaluable and in fruitful ways,” said Brekveld.
Barclay Nap of Corwhin Herbs and Produce and vice president of the Wellington Federation of Agriculture, hopes this program becomes one of the first steps consumers and food producers take to talk and learn from each other.
“There’s a divide between urban and rural, farming and non farming, and that’s been happening for a long time,” said Nap. “Those who produce have to understand who’s eating, and those who are eating have to understand who's producing our food and how it’s produced."
The Source Local initiative comes during a time when supply chain issues and inflation have been affecting food security across the country and around the world.
President of the WFA and co-owner at Harrcroft Acres Ltd., Janet Harrop, mentions COVID-19 has caused people to think more about where their food comes from, resulting in more awareness about supporting local farmers.
“We're very fortunate to live in Canada, but there were times when people came to the grocery stores and the shelves were empty,” said Harrop.
"I think we've seen over the last two years, a recognition that farmers in our area really produce fresh, healthy food that's affordable, and it's produced safely, and it has a low carbon footprint."
Nap mentions there are a huge variety of products raised and grown in Guelph, and all farmers are working to produce high-quality items.
"We're actually spoiled, I think," said Nap. “We have a bounty in the different types of food or food products, or fuel and fibre available, and because of that, there’s a lot of jobs involved and that trickles down to other parts of the economy."
"It really is a food system, because you can't really grow food without the whole support system," said Harrop, “for me, I have a dairy farm, so in my mind, food includes the genetics company that we get all of our crop advisory, our animal advisory, to me that is food because all of those supply chains, the equipment, all of these resources, go in to really support growing food."
When it comes to Guelph and Wellington County, Brekveld explains residents are very engaged in conversations around food and farming.
“We’re hoping to just build on the knowledge that people already have and encourage them to see how important the agricultural issues and the agriculture story is to everyone,” said Brekveld.