This week’s guest commentary comes from Debra Pretty-Straathof, Board Member, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
For the second year in a row, Thanksgiving comes in June. It’s Local Food Week from June 1-7, a celebration of the fresh, healthy food grown, and processed right here in Ontario. Local Food Week highlights Ontario’s agriculture and food industry, and provides the perfect backdrop to promote the wide variety of Ontario foods and beverages available all year long.
If you live and eat in Ontario, you enjoy the widest variety of locally-produced food. Ontario farmers grow and produce more than 200 products. These range from traditional crops and livestock like corn and wheat, hogs and chickens to ethnic foods like bok choy and kohlrabi. We’re able to produce such high volume and variety of quality food because Ontario has more than half of the highest quality, Class 1, farmland in Canada.
Ontario’s more than 51,000 farmers produce more than just food. Ask the average person on the street about the importance of Ontario agriculture and they won’t likely know our sector directly contributes $13.7 billion to Ontario’s economy. And on a national level, our province generates nearly one-quarter of the total revenue for farms across Canada.
Agriculture’s biggest partners, Ontario food processors, understand the value of local food. Ontario’s food and beverage sector purchases more than 60% of all the food produced on Ontario farms. Food processors are extending the value of Ontario grown and raised products, and contributing an additional $21.3 billion to our province’s GDP. Local food has a huge impact in Ontario – not just feeding us, but fueling the entire economy.
Thanksgiving is typically a time when we pause to enjoy the bounty of the harvest. For the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) we believe Local Food Week is about recognizing the variety of great, healthy food grown right here at home. The Ontario government has chosen the first week of June to focus special attention on the homegrown food and beverages available in Ontario. Those of us in agriculture know Local Food Week is really local food year. Celebrate the good things that grow Ontario during Local Food Week. And keep the love of local going all year long – Ontario farmers are. And Ontarians are reaping the benefits of our industry 365 days a year.