Ont. communities can support local ag

Ont. communities can support local ag
Jul 31, 2020

The OFA’s Always in Season project provides a toolkit full of tips for individuals and groups interested in supporting local food 

By Jackie Clark
Staff Writer

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) has developed a toolkit to help community groups and interested individuals support local food and agriculture. This toolkit is the first phase of the Always in Season project funded through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership and was created in collaboration with partner organizations from the Ontario ag industry.

The goal of the project is “about market development and market access in the local food space,” Danielle Collins, economic development policy analyst at the OFA, told Farms.com. Project developers want to ensure “that our producers, our farmers across the province are able to sell their products and find new markets for their products.”

Project organizers started planning Always in Season in the fall of 2019 and applied for Partnership funding with expectations for the initiative to start at the beginning of 2020.

“It was interesting to see the project evolve with COVID-19,” Collins said. “We’d originally envisioned festivals and events and activities. So, we did pivot the project slightly to look at some of those events as well, but also recognizing that there are many other ways that we can celebrate local food and agriculture through social media and e-commerce.”

The toolkit is targeted towards a wide range of individuals, from those who are new to the ag sector to individuals with professional responsibilities related to engaging with local food. Communities of all sizes, from small towns to large cities, can use the tools, Collins explained.

“You’ll find lots of examples throughout the toolkit of what communities across the province have done. So, of course celebrating those and showcasing the great work that’s being done,” she said. For individuals unfamiliar with the ag industry, the toolkit reviews “how to get started, ideas for budgets and funding, ideas for activities you can initiate.”

The Always in Season team aimed to “make it easy for anyone, whatever organization you work for, or however much funding or staff you have, (to) find something useful in the toolkit.”

Municipalities have made use of the Always in Season toolkit.

“We’re finding more and more that economic development officers, planners, health departments, anyone working in that food space, they’re interested in how they can support their local agricultural sector and promote local food in their communities,” Collins said.

Municipal or regional tourism organizations are also showing interest, she added. “In the last decade there’s been so much interest from various organizations that typically didn’t work in this space, that want to do more and get engaged.”

The second stage of the Always in Season project, which the OFA and their partners are developing now, will involve pilot events. Project staff have had to come up with innovative ideas for those engagement events to move forward while the pandemic is ongoing, utilizing online and digital tools, Collins explained.

Zbynek Pospisil\iStock\Getty Images Plus

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