Current Research and Reports
The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation has a number of ongoing research projects. If you have any questions or feedback we'd love to hear from you.
Call for Proposals
Opportunities for Growth in the Fruit and Vegetable Sector in Southern Ontario
Ontario’s agri-food sector makes a significant contribution to the province’s economy: in 2017, the sector supported 822,485 jobs—11.5% of total employment in the province—and contributed approximately $39 billion to the GDP. Ontario also imports a lot of its food, with import values reaching $27.3 billion in 2017. Fruit and nut and vegetable imports were especially high, valued at over $4.2 billion and $3.1 billion in 2017, respectively. While at least some of those imports reflect seasonality of harvest and climatic factors, these imports happen throughout the year.
These data suggest there are significant opportunities for growth in the fruit and vegetable sector in the Greenbelt and across southern Ontario, which would result in economic benefits for the province. Research conducted by Econometric Research found that more than half of southern Ontario’s imported food products could be produced within the province. If local production expanded to replace 10% of the top 10 fruit and vegetable imports, the Ontario economy would gain close to quarter of a billion dollars in GDP and 3,400 full-time jobs.
The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation is interested in understanding the constraints as well as opportunities to expanding fruit and vegetable production in the Greenbelt/southern Ontario. The project will involve looking at the opportunities as well as both the production and demand constraints for expanding production for up to five (5) fruit and vegetable crops.
Download the full RFP here. The deadline for proposals is July 5th.
Economic Impact Assessment of Ontario’s Green Infrastructure Sector
Green Infrastructure Ontario (GIO) Coalition is a multi-sectoral alliance, including industry associations, environmental groups, conservation authorities, community groups, and not-for-profit organizations working to promote the implementation of green infrastructure across Ontario. You can find out more about GIO by visiting their website.
As a member of the GIO Steering Committee, the Foundation is co-leading a project to assess the economic impact of Ontario’s green infrastructure sector. Green infrastructure is defined by GIO as the natural vegetative systems and green technologies that collectively provide society with a multitude of economic, environmental, and social benefits.
The objective of the project is to produce a credible and compelling report on the economic contributions of the green infrastructure sector in Ontario. The report will define the green infrastructure sector, assess the economic impact of the green infrastructure sector, and estimate the potential to stimulate economic growth in Ontario from increased investment in green infrastructure.
Download the full RFP here. The deadline for proposals is July 2nd.
Reaching New Audiences: Connecting the Greenbelt to New Canadians
Between 2011 and 2016, 39% of the 1.2 million newcomers who arrived to Canada settled in Ontario. A majority of Ontario’s newcomers settled in Toronto and its surrounding municipalities. As a result, municipalities in the Toronto CMA are exceptionally diverse: newcomers in Markham, Richmond Hill, Mississauga, and Brampton make up over 50% of their populations, while Toronto’s foreign-born population is just under half of its total population at 47%. While New Canadians are increasingly becoming a significant proportion of the country’s and province’s populations, research and anecdotal evidence suggests that New Canadians visit parks and outdoor areas less than Canadian-born populations.
The Greenbelt contains many agri-tourism, nature-based tourism, and other recreational opportunities throughout its parks, natural areas, and agricultural areas, including 10,000km of trails, a 475km cycle route, and a number of Pick-Your-Own farms. As such, the parks, natural areas, and agricultural areas in the Greenbelt can provide New Canadians with opportunities to participate in nature-based tourism, agri-tourism, and other recreational activities right next to their new home.
The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation is interested in continuing to expand our public outreach to New Canadians in order to increase their familiarity with the Greenbelt and the benefits it provides them and the region, as well as increase their use of the Greenbelt’s natural assets.
Download the full RFP here. The deadline for proposals is July 10th.
Agriculture Trends and Updates: Understanding the Greenbelt’s Unique Advantages
Home to 750,000 acres of some of the most productive agricultural land in Canada, the Greenbelt supports a thriving agricultural and agri-food sector. Because of high quality soils and a favourable climate, the Greenbelt produces a significant amount of produce in close proximity to Canada’s largest markets in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
This report profiles the changes in agriculture in the Greenbelt from 2011 to 2016 compared to the rest of Ontario. A key finding is that nearly 11% of Ontario’s vegetable acreage and 53% of Ontario’s fruit acreage is in the Greenbelt, including more than 80% of Ontario’s acreage in peaches, plums, prunes, apricots, and grapes.
Agricultural Advisory Committees: Recognizing the Value of Agriculture in the Golden Horseshoe
The decisions of local and regional Councils have direct and immediate impacts on the short and long-term viability of agriculture. Agricultural Advisory Committees (AAC) have been established by Councils across the Golden Horseshoe throughout the years to help give the agricultural sector a stronger voice in the decisions that would affect them. AACs have a mandate to identify agricultural issues and opportunities to enhance the sector by providing an agricultural lens to municipal policies, plans, and processes.
Produced in collaboration with the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance, this report examines the structure, challenges, and successes of AACs in the Golden Horseshoe. It highlights a number of lessons learned from AACs in the Golden Horseshoe that will be useful for existing AACs, as well as municipalities interested in establishing an AAC.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture hosted a webinar on this research, which you can view here.
Greenbelt Farmers: Sustaining Soil Health
Healthy soil is the heart of Ontario farms and our food system. Healthy soil contributes to multiple economic and environmental benefits including improved crop growth, water and nutrient retention, resilience, biodiversity, and climate change adaptation and mitigation. Yet Ontario’s agricultural soils face challenges to their health and conservation because soil organic matter is decreasing in many areas, there is too much bare soil in winter, and soil is increasingly at risk of erosion. It is also concerning that tillage is increasing, crop rotations are becoming less diverse, and there is an ongoing shift away from perennial forages to annual crops.
This report tells the stories of 14 farmers in the Greenbelt who are using a variety of practices to improve their soil health and the economic and environmental reasons behind their choices.
Research in Progress
Costs and Benefits of Water Adaptation Measures in the Greenbelt
The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation is working in partnership with the University of Waterloo and Green Analytics to develop an innovative, agent-based model approach to examine regional water use dynamics in the Greenbelt. This will help the region to understand water use trade-offs during periods of water shortages in the region, looking decades into the future as drought conditions are more likely due to climate change.
As farmland makes up half of the Greenbelt, the project focuses on the role agricultural adaptation practices, like soil management, irrigation, and water storage, can play in mitigating the impacts of water shortages. We will be inviting stakeholders to a Fall workshop to learn about the model and help test it.
The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation is a member and proud supporter of EcoHealth Ontario. EcoHealth Ontario (EHO) is a collaboration among public health practitioners, planners, conservation authorities, academics, and many more, committed to sharing information, developing the science and facilitating the discussion on the important connections between the environment and our own well being. You can find out more about EHO by visiting their website.
The Foundation is currently working with EHO on a project to increase our understanding of the relationships between environment and health. The results will help decision makers understand the health-related increased costs associated with losing greenspace, as well as reduced costs associated with greenspace enhancements.
Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance
The Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance (GHFFA) is a partnership between the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation and the regional municipalities and Federations of Agriculture in Niagara, Peel, Halton, York, and Durham, and the cities of Hamilton and Toronto. The GHFFA has a mandate to support growth in the food and farming cluster in the Golden Horseshoe, one of the largest food and farming clusters in North America. You can find out more about the GHFFA by visiting their website.
The Foundation is supporting the GHFFA to undertake a value chain analysis for Ontario carrots in order to better understand the sector and identify gaps and opportunities for growth. The project will also produce a template that can then be used for other value chain analyses.