Feeding our diverse culture with locally grown
by Peter Lambrick
Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
When the Premier gave the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) its mandate letter in 2016, there was an interesting element that tasked the ministry with developing a strategy to promote locally-grown “world crops.” OMAFRA has expanded this initiative to encompass “World Foods”, which they describe as foods that can be produced, harvested or processed in Ontario that reflect the diversity of the province’s population.
As part of this mandate, OMAFRA has requested feedback through a consultation entitled: Bring Home the World – Improving Access to Ontario’s World Foods.
Ontario farmers currently produce more than 200 different agricultural products – including niche market products – to satisfy the diverse palates and worldwide demand for our safe, high-quality food.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) has provided a formal submission to OMAFRA on its World Foods consultation. We have noted that many Ontario farmers are already seizing opportunities to feed niche, cultural markets with Ontario-grown crops. OFA encourages OMAFRA to continue supporting the production and promotion of Ontario-grown world crops with policies and programs that source Ontario products and ingredients by local farmers, processors, distributors, retailers and foodservice businesses.
As part of OFA’s formal submission to OMAFRA’s consultation, we surveyed OFA members about their interest in new crop opportunities that are non-traditional or specialty crops.
We heard from 402 OFA members in our online survey about new crops – with 20% having tried a new crop in the past five years. The main reasons farmers chose to try a new specialty or non-traditional crop included changing markets and emerging opportunities (29%), crop rotation and environmental benefits (24%), and reducing overall risk through diversification (24%).
Ontario farmers are innovative by nature and are always looking for opportunities to diversify and expand. Opening up more cultural and niche food markets offers additional ways Ontario farmers can feed into the local value chain to provide new foods and ingredients. Our industry looks to OMAFRA to ensure these initiatives are supported and encouraged through provincial programming.
Read OFA’s full submission to OMAFRA’s Bring Home the World – Improving Access to Ontario’s World Foods consultation at ofa.on.ca.