Jordan Station, January 27, 2007 – "Agriculture in Ontario’s Greenbelt is an important concern,” Burkhard Mausberg, President of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation told delegates attending the first Greenbelt Public Forum focusing on how to best preserve Ontario’s most valuable farmlands. “Protecting local agricultural land is critical,” said Mr. Mausberg. “It provides fresh and nutritious food, lessens our dependence on imported foods, and reduces transportation-related pollution such as smog and greenhouse gases. At the same time, farmers need economic and market conditions that allow them to make a good living growing our food.”
Over $4.4 million in Greenbelt Foundation grants awarded to farming sector. With polls showing over 89% of public support for the Greenbelt‘s goal of curbing urban sprawl and protecting area farmland, the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation has awarded to-date over $4.4 million in grants to assist farmers in the Greenbelt. Funds have been granted to supporting organizations working to open new marketing opportunities, increase consumer awareness of the importance of buying local food, and develop partnerships with retailers.
“Farmers are the stewards of the living countryside,” said Mr. Mausberg. “With solid financial support, there is tremendous opportunity to connect Greenbelt farmers with millions of urban consumers, opening up new markets for the farmer and delivering fresh food to families.”
The Greenbelt contains almost 480,000 hectares (close to one million acres) of farmland used to produce a wide variety of food and related products: from fruits and vegetables, dairy and livestock, to flowers and wine. Despite Ontario urbanites’ increasing interest in fresh local food, it remains difficult for farmers to get their locally-grown fruits and vegetables on store shelves and dinner tables.
The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation helps organizations bridge that gap. Agricultural programs who have received Foundation grants to-date include:
- A $1.4 million grant to the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association to help some 1,000 farmers improve the environmental practices on their land. "Farmers have always had to be careful stewards of their land," said Doug Whitty, co-owner of the Whitty Farm located in the Greenbelt near St. Catharines. "It would have been very difficult for us to cover the costs of environmental improvements to our farm without the support of the program. Now, with the additional Greenbelt Foundation funding, we can do more."
- $1 million to Farmers' Markets Ontario to enhance their visibility and viability by fostering the 45 markets that lie in and around the Greenbelt, and by promoting the markets to larger audiences to help attract new farmers and new customers. Over 150 Greenbelt and GTA farmers will also soon be creating Canada’s first Certified Farmers’ Markets. The new certified markets will be dedicated to real farmers selling locally-grown products. “Farmers’ markets should benefit the farmer by selling the freshest food in return for taking home a greater share of the dollar for what they grow,” said Robert Chorney, Executive Director of Farmers’ Markets Ontario.
- $10,000 to Environment Hamilton. Their Farm Fresh Hamilton initiative will develop three new seasonal farmers' markets in under-serviced neighbourhoods in Hamilton.
- $1 million to Local Flavour Plus, a group connecting farmers to big institutional users of food such as universities and hospitals.
- $106,000 to EcoSource for their Farm to School pilot project reconnecting urban students and rural farmers in Peel Region through farm visits, local food celebrations and a Greenbelt food healthy school snack program.
- $180,000 to AGcare for Agriculture Hits the Trails, a program aimed at increasing public awareness about farmers’ contributions to the environment.
- $62,000 to the Centre for Land and Water Stewardship to support the University of Guelph help immigrants overcome hurdles to farming and explore opportunities to create new ethnic food markets.
- $36,500 to the Savour Durham Tour, a one-day culinary tour hosted by the Durham Farm Fresh Marketing Association giving thousands of visitors the opportunity to exercise their legs and their taste-buds.
- $15,000 to the Grape Growers of Ontario to promote the grape growing industry through the Niagara Wine Festival by sponsoring the Dan Aykroyd Celebrity Luncheon.
- $10,000 in support to the Port Perry Agricultural Society for the Port Perry Agricultural Fair.
- $45,000 to the Kawartha Heritage Conservancy for a project to seek a greater understanding of the distinct rural character of eastern Greenbelt agriculture.
- $30,000 to the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention to promote the produce of Greenbelt agriculture to some 1,200 people each February at Brock University.
- $600,000 to the Royal Winter Fair to showcase the characteristics of the Greenbelt together with a variety of partners at the Royal Winter Fair.
The Greenbelt Public Forum – Preserving Ontario’s Farmlands, Emerging Issues was organized by the Ontario Institute of Agrologists and their Professional Agrologists of Niagara and Hamilton chapter.
For further information, please contact: Donald Wiedman, Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation tel.: (416) 960-0001, ext. 305, cell: (416) 559-3934 email: info -at- ourgreenbelt.ca