Immigrants to Farm Ethnic Crops with $400,000 Grant

Toronto, September 6, 2007 - Thanks to a $400,000 grant from the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, immigrants to Canada will soon be farming bitter melon, okra, green chilies and sweet potatoes and other ethnic foods in Ontario’s Greenbelt.

The grant to the University of Guelph’s Centre for Land and Water Stewardship program will establish a new training farm on the Greenbelt for immigrants and young people. The farm will also test new ethnic crops and includes a support program to help graduates own their own farms. The program is based on research undertaken by the University of Guelph and published in its report, “Planting the First Seed: Creating Opportunities for Ethnic Farmers and Young Farmers in the Greenbelt”.

Consultations with Chinese, South Asian, Pakistani, Korean, African, and Hispanic immigrant communities and young people revealed a strong interest in farming, but cited major barriers such as a lack of access to capital and credit, no access to farmland, and little connection to Ontario’s existing and aging agricultural community. The report, which was released today, was funded by a $62,000 grant from the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation to the University of Guelph a year ago.

“As our farmers retire we need to keep lands productive and ensure we are securing a local food supply in the Greenbelt region. This area is more diverse than ever and this should be reflected in the food we grow,” says Burkhard Mausberg, President of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation. “With this grant, steps can be taken to ensure that the immigrants living in this area have the opportunity to farm and the chance to buy locally grown ethnic food.”

The Greenbelt spans 1.8 million acres across Southern Ontario. The area stretches from Niagara Falls to Tobermory to Peterborough and encompasses farmland, rural communities and green space such as forests, wetlands and watersheds.

“With the number of farms, farmland and farmers declining, the importance of creating opportunities for a new generation of ethnically diverse farmers and young farmers becomes extremely important,” says Dr. Stewart Hilts of the University of Guelph. “We are confident that with the support of the Greenbelt Foundation, we will provide these opportunities with the help of a training farm.”

A recent public opinion poll conducted by Environics for the Greenbelt Foundation found that one-third of Ontarians say their consumption of ethnic or multicultural foods has increased over the past five years. The poll showed 57% prefer that ethnic foods come from local farms.

“Many immigrants arrive in Ontario with education and experience in agriculture, but they are settled in cities where they have no connections with the farming sector of Ontario,” says Iffat Zehra, Director of Community Economic Development for Immigrant Women. “On the other hand, the immigrant families are buying imported vegetables, spices and herbs in Toronto, which can be grown here. This grant helps provide immigrants interested in farming with what they need to become successful farmers. That means land, knowledge of local soil and weather and equipment."

Collaborators on the report include CEDIW, FarmStartToronto and Region Conservation Authority, andCollaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT).

The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation began its work in June 2005 as an independent, charitable foundation with a mandate to fund not-for-profit organizations in support of farming, the environment and rural communities located in Ontario's Greenbelt. To date, the Foundation has announced grants of nearly $10 million. Polls show over 90% public support to protect the Greenbelt land.

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Click here for a copy of the report.

Click here for a copy of the Environics poll results.

Contact: Jennifer Asselin, Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, (416)960-0001, jasselin -at-

Contact: Dr. Stewart Hilts, University of Guelph, (519)836-7657, stew_hilts -at-

For further information, please visit Description of CRAFT and CEDIW: Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) - provides training to would-be-new farmers in organic agriculture through season-long, on-farm internships.

Community Economic Development for Immigrant Women – an Ajax-based organization that creates social and economic opportunities for those who might otherwise be restricted from fully participating in the economic life of the community.

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