This week’s guest commentary comes from Don McCabe, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Ontario’s farm and processing sector is taking a more holistic approach to sustainability. It’s taking shape as a new collaboration between farmers, industry, and food and beverage processors. Farm, Food & Beyond: Our Commitment to Sustainability document outlines the principles and need for this action while building on Ontario farmers proud history of achievement in this area.
The Farm, Food & Beyond steering committee will oversee the development of a whole farm sustainability plan – addressing environmental practices, and now considering economic and social issues that impact the sustainability of the agriculture industry. To be clear, the pillar of Environmental Farm Plan of today is being bolstered with economic and social pillars to pull together the complete tenets of sustainability – profitability, planet and people.
The initiative was recently unveiled at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) sees tremendous value in this new opportunity to build on the Environmental Farm Plan – a program OFA played a key role in as a founding partner.
Working together, Ontario’s farm and food community is taking a supply chain approach to sustainable production and processing. OFA is partnering with fellow industry supporters including Christian Farmers’ Federation of Ontario, the Presidents’ Council, Ontario Agri Food Technologies, the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, Farm & Food Care Ontario and with Provision Coalition. The Provision Coalition brings in the processor voice. Members of the Provision Coalition are the major buyers of Ontario’s farm commodities.
The new Farm, Food & Beyond: Our Commitment to Sustainability initiative will build on the success of the Environmental Farm Plan program with four main objectives.
· To guide farmers in the identification of needs and opportunities for improvement in sustainability.
· To assure and inform the general public about these transformations.
· To help address growing requirements by food manufacturers and retailers for assurance that farm products have been produced in a sustainable manner.
· To demonstrate that the supply chain is working together towards sustainability improvements from farm to fork.
The term Beyond is to ensure new emerging bioproducts and other consumer goods than food are captured for necessity. These principles are not to duplicate any of the actions currently in place. It will embolden them to streamline the needs of all in the supply chain for consumer acceptance.
The support of this new sustainability initiative embodies OFA’s mission – to enable prosperous and sustainable farms. OFA was a founding partner of the Environmental Farm Plan and recognizes the importance of the environmental, economic and social sustainability of Ontario farms.
Sustainability has never been more important. Today’s agricultural practices have never been under greater scrutiny. Our industry is regularly responding to public perceptions, media scrutiny and consumer demands. As farmers, we work hard on social responsibility to animal care, crop protection, and numerous other aspects of everyday farm practice that society does not see, and then questions. The new Farm, Food & Beyond initiative will provide another way to demonstrate our sustainability practices and commitment. OFA has been engaged in discussion surrounding the issues of agriculture sustainability and social license. We believe it’s our job as farmers to help maintain the public’s trust in how we raise our animals, grow our crops and care for the land.