Supporting the Ag System New initiatives are ensuring Ontario agriculture is supported now and in the future Photo: Leeds Grenville Economic Development Office E nsuring Ontarians have access to a diverse supply of local food is about more than just protecting high quality farmland. It also requires protecting and enhancing an agricultural system providing the critical services, goods and infrastructure that farmers need to get their products to market. The Greenbelt Fund, a non-profit supported by the Government of Ontario to bolster the province’s local food sector, is investing in projects that help sustain agriculture and help ensure farmers have access to the full roster of goods and services needed to stay in production. Community Leadership in the Ag System In North Augusta, a group of private citizens headed by Barbara Schaefer worried that lack of access to abattoirs in the community was jeopardizing the future for local hog farmers. The group came together to create a new, not-for-profit community-owned abattoir to meet the needs of the farmers in Leeds and Grenville, Frontenac, Lanark and Ottawa-Carleton. Farmersville Community Abattoir (FCA) received $30,141 from the Greenbelt Fund last year for new equipment to refurbish the decommissioned slaughterhouse now run by the group. FCA estimates that this abattoir will help secure the futures of 1,300 area farmers and increase local food sales by $240,000 a year. Schaefer (who owns her own farm Upper Canada Heritage Meat) says that there is a shortage of local abattoirs that have facilities for pork, so she decided to take action to help secure her own future as a pork producer and that of other pork farmers. “We started with this fairly run-down slaughterhouse,” she recalls. “The equipment was out-of-date and we needed to upgrade.” With help from the Greenbelt Fund, Schaefer and her team were able to make the abattoir functional by October 2016, and she notes that Greenbelt Fund staff have been very helpful and Paul Bernicky, Manager/Lead Butcher, Farmersville Community Abbatoir, and Barbara Schaefer, owner of Upper Canada Heritage Meat accommodating. “With a start-up project like this, steady cash flow is very important in the beginning and the Greenbelt Fund made this possible,” she explains. “They were there for us from the very beginning when we needed the cash. It worked out very well for us and gave us a great start.” Regional Support Supporting not only farmers but the agricultural system is an idea that’s gaining traction at all levels of government. Halton Region is one municipality that is investing in this area. The Region created an “Agricultural Liaison Officer” position, hiring Anna DeMarchi-Meyers for the role. DeMarchi-Meyers works with staff from the Land Use Planning and Economic Development divisions as part of the Region’s rural ag strategy to support farming. An analysis on the following initiatives is underway: • Rural broadband internet gaps; • A local food procurement pilot project involving regional long-term care facilities (also supported by the Greenbelt Fund); and • Mapping of existing ag-related assets Kathy Macpherson, Vice President of Strategy and Programs at the Greenbelt Fund, says support for the entire farming system is key to long term agricultural viability. “It’s now more clear than ever that we must go beyond protection of the agricultural land base and ensure there are sufficient services for farm businesses,” she notes. “These include everything from farm equipment repair to crop storage, processing and marketing services, and slaughter capacity.” The Greenbelt Fund changes the way we eat by investing in projects that bring more Ontario food to Ontarians’ plates, with financial support from the Government of Ontario.