Report Reveals How Ontario Municipalities Can Better Support Local Agriculture
Challenges and Opportunities Identified in the Report will Enhance Agriculture in the Greenbelt
TORONTO, October 7, 2021 – The Greenbelt Foundation has released a new report, Enhancing Municipal Capacity to Support Agriculture in the Greenbelt, which underscores how a thriving agricultural industry greatly benefits from the knowledge and support of municipal governments. This report examines 66 municipalities in Ontario’s Greenbelt to illuminate the challenges and opportunities they face in responding to the needs of the agricultural and agri-food industry.
This report examines 66 municipalities in Ontario’s Greenbelt to illuminate the challenges and opportunities they face in responding to the needs of the agricultural and agri-food industry."
The report finds that developing municipal capacity—expertise and time—is critical. Municipalities that demonstrate a strong capacity to support agriculture do so through sufficient staff resources, policies, and strategies developed with agricultural priorities in mind, as well as relationships with the agricultural community, and municipal council’s commitment or willingness to support the industry.
Typical challenges to capacity can include a lack of staff resources and budgets, the need to develop relationships with the agriculture community, and limited access to relevant tools and training for agricultural and rural planning, such as fact sheets, best practice guides, and virtual libraries of information that are easily accessible to staff.
"Municipalities are key in helping to ensure a productive and vibrant agricultural sector. Their response though hinges upon carefully investing resources to help ensure a knowledgeable, constructive and helpful staff and policy framework. Where this is done well, policy is more innovative, responsive, and thoughtful leading to a more certain and positive outlook for agriculture,” says Dr. Wayne Caldwell, Professor, Rural Planning and Development, University of Guelph.
The report identifies ten opportunities to support municipalities in developing their agricultural capacity. These include increasing cooperation and collaboration between municipalities to share learning and best practices; providing professional development opportunities for municipal planners; building municipal relationships with farmers, so farmers can be more involved in the rural and agricultural planning process; and fostering understanding of the agricultural sector across municipal departments.
Produced in collaboration with Wayne Caldwell and researchers from the University of Guelph, this report explains how municipalities can support the agricultural industry in the Greenbelt and across Ontario as it continually evolves and adapts to new trends, challenges, and opportunities. When planning for agriculture municipalities must consider many issues like climate change, balancing urban and rural needs and priorities, and the introduction of new crop types, like cannabis. This report details how municipal staff can expand capacity to respond to emerging issues effectively.
Municipal capacity is identified as the ability for municipal staff to use available resources to effectively respond to agricultural and agri-food priorities, such as agricultural land preservation, agricultural and natural heritage systems planning, land-use regulations around cannabis production, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. This concept of capacity can be further broken down into proactive and reactive agricultural sector planning. Municipalities with enough capacity can proactively plan for the agricultural sector and often exceed what is mandated by provincial policies.
“Over the next decade, international demand for Canadian agriculture and food products will continue to grow,” explains Thomas Bowers, Director of Research and Policy, Greenbelt Foundation. “Greenbelt Foundation’s recent Plant the Seeds report showed the sizable growth potential of the local market for fruit and vegetable crops. At the same time, climate change is introducing new challenges alongside the need to ensure stewardship of agricultural lands for future generations. This report highlights opportunities for municipalities to enhance their critical role in supporting local farmers in adapting and thriving in the coming years.”
The Greenbelt is an important agricultural landscape that includes 750,000 acres of some of the most productive agricultural land in Canada and two specialty crop areas—Niagara Tender Fruit and Grape Area and Holland Marsh. It is vital that Greenbelt municipalities have sufficient capacity to support their local farmers as they adapt to various challenges and take advantage of economic development potential.
For a full project backgrounder, click HERE.
About Greenbelt Foundation:
Greenbelt Foundation is a charitable organization, solely dedicated to ensuring the Greenbelt remains permanent, protected, and prosperous. We make the right investments in its interconnected natural, agricultural, and economic systems, to ensure a working, thriving Greenbelt for all. Ontario's Greenbelt is the world's largest, with over two million acres of farmland, forests, wetlands, and rivers working together to provide clean air, fresh water, and a reliable local food source.
Greenbelt Foundation Media Contact:
Director of Strategic Communications, Greenbelt Foundation
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