Following the development of a Food Security Strategy, the Province today launched Local Food Week with a new plan and consultation on “World Food”. Following the energy of farmers, researchers, community garden organizers and chefs, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has taken clear interest in the development of local growing of crops (and shrimp!?) not historically grown in Ontario.
Both local foods and food for exports provide big markets for a greater diversity of products… i.e. farmers need to catch up to the stores, home cooks and restaurants that are serving foods from around the globe.
I was able to attend today’s announcement, organized quickly, and which came with a cash prize from Minister Leal – one million dollars to the Greenbelt Fund, which has granted support for local food system work including “world food” projects throughout the province for several years. Missing from the announcement were some of the grassroots folks who have got us to this point today in which the Government is paying attention – though some were featured in a video explaining the initiative, and a fab school garden project in partnership with FoodShare was toured, with the keen students praised for their drive.
The Minister even said that there is a big future for urban agriculture, something is Ministry had not been known to support in the past.
Right outside the meeting was a bustling Chinatown with all of those food and plants mentioned – bok choy yes mentioned again and again – but mostly not grown locally. In fact most of our produce as a whole isn’t grown locally, even Euro-centric ones. Not mentioned today is how much our agriculture infrastructure and economy has vanished.
Many crops we’ve grown for a long time have origins far afield. Some are Indigineous. Do you know where potatoes, corn, peaches originated? Most of our crops are “world foods” in some way. (Are “World Foods” the new ethnic aisle?)
I wonder if the plan will have room for people from different cultures to be growing the food of their own backgrounds here in Ontario, rather than only multi-generation Canadian farmers to be taking on these crops which are new for them. Many newcomers are coming with skills for the agri-food sector, but can’t find or access opportunities there. We’ve tried personally to make the connections, there are many barriers. Think of the many Syrian newcomers who are excellent farmers, but can’t find work yet here in the City. Of the migrant farm workers who have great skills with “world foods” but are only allowed to do labour, their lives tied to their employers.
That’s a big challenge if we’re to grow, process and sell a greater variety of foods in Ontario for our diverse population.
More info on the announcement and plan can be found here. How are you or would you like to be involved in this work? What more should be done?