History of agriculture foreshadows fundamental changes in agri-food sector by 2041

Oct 08, 2015

7 million people in the GTA place changing demands on the Ontario food system

By Denise Faguy, Farms.com

Country Heritage Park recently held a forum on the Future of Food & Farming: 2041 Changes and Choices. More than 100 people attended the event, which was held during Ontario Agriculture Week. Country Heritage Park was a perfect setting for the Forum as it is rooted in agriculture history, yet is at the doorstep of 7 million people in the GTA – the customers who are placing ever-changing demands on the Ontario food system.

Former Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) Steve Peters was the Master of Ceremonies for the day. He noted that many of the GTA’s urban residents are 7 to 8 generations removed from farming, but that OMAFRA understands the social contract between urban Ontario and the farming sector. “The last crop cannot be houses,” Peters said.

Peters also explained that the time period chosen for the theme, 2041, was chosen because it was a generation away, and that between each generation a great many things can change in the agriculture sector. He cited the following examples of generational change:

  • In 1916 Robert Borden was Prime Minister. Canada and much of the western world’s energies were focused on WW1. Everything grown in the world was grown organically!
  • In 1941, William Lyon Mackenzie King was Prime Minister and the government had released its first National Food Strategy to feed the 11.5 million people in Canada. Fifty percent of the population lived in urban areas and 50% lived in rural Canada. Mechanization and pesticide use had recently been introduced to agriculture.
  • By 1966 Lester B. Pearson was Prime Minister, there were 20 million people in Canada, but the population split was now 70% urban and 30% rural. The US provided 35% of Canada’s food supply. Legislation was introduced to allow for seasonal agriculture workers.
  • By 1991 77% of Canada’s 28 million people lived in urban areas, and only 23% lived in urban areas.
  • Now in 2015, less than 20% of the population lives in rural areas. With precision agriculture and other agriculture innovations, as well as imports of food, Canada’s growing population has reached approximately 35 million people. Consumers who are, in many cases, much more aware of the food they eat.

This historical look at generational change set the stage for the speakers throughout the day who provided thought provoking insights into everything from eating crickets and mealworms as an excellent source of protein, to the ways in which our social behaviour impacts food trends. A common theme throughout the day was a need to focus on reducing food waste, an acknowledgement that consumer needs/wants are fundamentally what push change in the food supply chain.

Articles will be posted on Farms.com in the coming days covering many of the Forum’s keynote speakers:

  • Paul Uys, The Food Institute at the University of Guelph
  • Barry Watson, Environics Research
  • Dr. Evan Fraser, University of Guelph
  • Danielle Gould, Food+Tech Connect
  • Mike Lee, Studio Industries and Future Market
  • Andreas Düss, Nourish Food Marketing
  • Doug Alexander, Ippolito Group
  • Ryan Marshall, 7th generation farmer

For more information about Country Heritage Park, visit : http://countryheritagepark.com/

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