Survey Results # 4:
The REAPontario survey of service providers focused on three types of programs and services: those aimed at the agri-food sector, at immigrants, and at entrepreneurs. Today’s post focuses on the themes and responses that focus on the agri-food sector. These are highlights of responses from the 49 organizations who self-identified as offering specific programs or supports/resources for services for the agri-food sector.
REGIONAL MARKETING NETWORKS AND EVENTS
In our survey, these marketing initiatives formed the largest response group. They don’t necessary include any direct services for agricultural producers, but they can be very helpful in promoting local businesses.
Several respondents referred to direct sales events for local foods or annual local food dinner or fairs. For example, Savour Minto is a promotional program for restaurants and farmers/producers that combines advertising, event website, community signage, and an annual event that rotates among local towns. This event puts farmers and restaurants together and showcases them directly to the public. Tickets sell out quickly every year for this popular event.
“have reached thousands of people and increased local food awareness and purchases among citizens and businesses alike.”
According to the website, the planning table for this initiative included 45 stakeholders from government, all parts of the supply chain, the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance, and even the Guelph Community Health Centre.
The Eastern Ontario Agri-Food Network is a non-profit organization dedicated to coordinating the development of the agri-food sector in Eastern Ontario and fostering dialogue between its members and partners. It offers events, a local food directory and map, and other resources.
Other respondents stated that their organizations worked with employers in the agri-food sector. One noted that they operate in a rural community with high unemployment rates and that the local agriculture sector is poised for growth due to greenhouse operations. As greenhouses depend heavily on temporary foreign worker programs, the Local Immigration Partnership Council or LIP are providing support to the employers for hiring offshore workers and integration of the workers. This LIP and many of the other LIPs across the province and Canada often research immigration as it pertains to the agri-food sector and seek to raise awareness about the needs of agri-food sector employers.
INFORMATION AND REFERRAL
Some service organizations provide referrals and supports for people seeking work in the food sector, as employees, owners, or investors. One noted that they
“provide connections, information and resources to existing food processors, bio- product companies and some rural manufacturers.”
TRADITIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
One respondent in an Economic Development office noted that their office has a full-time staff person dedicated to economic development for local food. Services provided include project facilitation for sector development, assistance with funding applications, networking, education, and marketing programs. Projects are undertaken in partnership with neighbouring counties and municipalities, local not-for-profit and community ag-and food-organizations and post-secondary institutions. Another focuses on
“land development and policies to support the agri-food and ag-innovation sector.”
One noted the Multiplier Effect Study done for workforce in Agrifood sector in Northwestern Ontario. Others noted other research such as
feasibility studies for initiatives around cold storage or meat processing.
Several respondents mentioned that they are looking into incubators for their community, e.g.,
“We are looking at setting up an agricultural incubator but it is not yet in place.”
Another organization is working to set up a unique type of farm incubator that focuses on rural youth of family farms and is also looking at setting up a regional food hub for Southwest Ontario and entrepreneurs who want to build a food processing business but who lack start-up capital.
The Southwestern Ontario Development Fund can be used by SOME portions of the agri-food sector (the processing part and tourism, not farming or retail). This program is for established businesses with at least 3 years of financials showing profitable operation.
The focus of the program is on job creation.
One organization offers “Business and Market development support at agri-food trade shows,” and another noted that “it will search for funding and assist with applications”. One spoke as a consumer, stating that their organization was a “buyer of sustainably grown food in Ontario and Canada.”