Local Food Report 2016
Message from the Minister
Ontario is an agri-food powerhouse. Our farmers harvest an impressive abundance from our fields and farms, our orchards and our vineyards. And our numerous processors - whether they be bakers, butchers, or brewers - transform that bounty across the value chain into the highest-quality products for consumers. Together, they generate more than $35 billion in GDP and provide more than 781,000 jobs.
That is why supporting the agri-food industry is a crucial component of the Ontario government's four-part plan for building our province up.
Ontario's agri-food industry is the cornerstone of our province's success, and the government recognizes not only its tremendous contributions today, but its potential for growth and success in the future. The 2013 Local Food Act takes that support further, providing the foundation for our Local Food Strategy to help increase demand for Ontario food here at home, create new jobs and enhance the economic contributions of the agri-food industry.
Ontario's Local Food Strategy outlines three main objectives: to enhance awareness of local food, to increase access to local food and to boost the supply of food produced in Ontario.
In 2015, we focused our efforts on awareness, driven by specific goals to increase the knowledge and usage of local food known - as local food literacy - that have been developed in partnership with Ontarians. This year, we'll be looking for input as we develop goals for increasing access to local food, and I invite you to be a part of this consultation process.
I also invite you to celebrate the achievements of the past year as outlined in the following Local Food Report - part of our government's commitment to transparency and accountability. In the pages that follow, we review Ontario's local food goals, describe the initiatives in motion and highlight our successes. We also showcase a sampling of the many local food initiatives that have sprung up in every corner of the province and the local food champions that are driving them.
I am proud to see more awareness of local food across Ontario. Our food processing sector is experiencing growth - with more and more entrepreneurs and businesses across Ontario starting exciting new agri-food enterprises that are helping to increase "made-in-Ontario" local food options that consumers are asking for. I applaud our local food champions for making this possible, as well as every Ontarian who is reaching for the food grown, harvested and made right here at home.
Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
The agri-food sector in Ontario is made up of hundreds of thousands of people: farmers, food and beverage processors, distributors, retailers and restaurateurs. Within those ranks are countless local food champions who drove the local food movement forward in 2015/2016 - from nutrition programs supporting students in Northern Ontario to innovators in Cornwall turning shipping containers into hydroponic farms.
The Government of Ontario was there to support these innovations and ensure the sector continues to grow and develop. By providing funds to an agri-food business incubator for new equipment, working with municipalities to develop their own local food strategies or helping grocery stores highlight their local food offerings, the provincial government has been able to partner with a number of great local food providers to expand opportunities for the people of Ontario.
Throughout the 2015/16 fiscal year, the Government of Ontario:
- Committed approximately $21 million to over 150 projects through the Local Food Fund, leveraging investments of more than $98 million
- Committed over $6.3 million in funding through Growing Forward 2 to 115 local food projects
- Allocated $6 million to the Greenbelt Fund to support local food initiatives
- Invested over $3.9 million in 21 projects related to local food activities through the Ontario Trillium Foundation
- Invested $2.5 million through the Southwestern Ontario Development Fund in three local food manufacturers to help them acquire new innovative equipment, expand their facilities or increase production capacity
- Committed over $1.1 million to seven local food projects in 2015 through the Rural Economic Development Program to help increase economic competiveness, innovation and diversity within Ontario's rural communities
- 175 farmers' markets are now registered with Farmers' Markets Ontario
- The Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association boasts approximately 300 members, and this number continues to rise
- 81 per cent of Ontario shoppers can identify Ontario-grown fruits and vegetables in grocery stores
- 52 per cent of principal grocery shoppers in Ontario include locally grown food in at least one meal per day, while 78 per cent eat local food at least once per week
"The local food sector has been identified as a key economic driver in eastern Ontario."
- Bryan Paterson, Mayor of Kingston & Chair of the Eastern Ontario Mayors' Committee
Nothing beats the taste of home, and Ontario produces an abundance of tasty and nutritious food, from vine-ripened tomatoes to mouth-watering prime rib beef to award-winning wines and beers. In total, the province produces over 200 different commodities grown on almost 52,000 farms.
Ontario's diverse and extensive agri-food sector supports more than 781,000 jobs - approximately one in every nine jobs across the province - and contributes more than $35 billion annually to our GDP. It's a sector that has shown continual positive growth over the past decade, and that trend continues.
At the 2013 Premier's Agri-Food Summit, Premier Kathleen Wynne saw this growth potential and challenged the agri-food sector to double its annual growth rate and create 120,000 jobs by the year 2020.
In her challenge, the Premier tasked Ontario's agri-food sector with creating more demand for - and access to - home-grown food to keep jobs and dollars in our communities across the province. She also asked the sector to satisfy the changing tastes and values of Ontario consumers with products such as world crops, organics, foods with added health benefits and artisanal and speciality goods.
The industry responded.
Over the past two years, Ontario's agri-food sector has added $1.3 billion in GDP and created more than 34,000 jobs. The latest Agri-Food Scorecard shows growth rates have increased since the launch of the challenge in 2013, and according to the Agri-Food Growth Steering Committee - which comprises government leaders and industry experts who advise the Minister on how to best grow the agri-food industry - current data indicates that the industry is well on its way to meeting the 2020 goals.
Over the past two years, Ontario's agri-food sector has added $1.3 billion in GDP and created more than 34,000 jobs
"There is an incredible amount of delicious, locally grown and locally made food available right here in Ontario. We all want to buy food that is more sustainable, and cash flow is an important ingredient in every farmer's sustainability. By choosing to spend our dollars on local food and beverages, we can help make buying local more sustainable for everyone."
- Carl Heinrich, Chef/Co-Owner Richmond Station; Winner - Top Chef Canada Season 2
Consumers want to see more locally produced foods in stores, markets and restaurants. The Ontario government has recognized that interest as an excellent opportunity to strengthen the local food sector with more producers, more processors and more innovation - and, as a result, create more jobs for Ontario.
To realize that potential, the Ontario government put together a Local Food Strategy. Developed in consultation with consumers, farmers, processors, retailers, food service providers and not-for-profit organizations, the strategy is built on three pillars:
- Consumer awareness and education: Ontario consumers are aware of, value and choose more local foods.
- Access to local food: Local food is identifiable and widely available through a range of distribution channels.
- Sufficient supply: Ontario's agri-food sector is competitive, productive and responsive to consumer demand.
In 2015, the Ontario government also appointed an Agri-Food Growth Steering Committee, consisting of leaders and experts in government and industry, to help grow the province's agri-food industry. Its seven recommendations, submitted in October, include:
- Enhanced actions by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) to attract and retain agri-food investments, to grow our domestic market shares and to drive exports
- Collaboration between OMAFRA and industry partners in developing a plan to build up the competitiveness of Ontario's agri-food sector, with a strong focus on innovation, scale and modernization
As you will see in the pages that follow, achieving these local food goals and implementing the Agri-Food Growth Steering Committee's recommendations requires a multi-pronged approach. It involves funding innovations, investing in our food distribution system, building the capacity of producers and processors and removing barriers to growth.
Another key ingredient in reaching these goals is local food champions: the passionate people and organizations that are putting more local food in schools, featuring local food on restaurant menus, launching markets and food hubs and much more. There are far too many to list, but the Ontario government is proud to support their efforts and pay tribute to a small sample of them in this report.
"The Committee is confident Ontario can build its competitive advantage as a long-term global leader in food production for domestic and international consumption."
- Amy Cronin, Co-Chair, Agri-Food Growth Steering Committee
When consumers head to the grocery store, local food choices aren't always obvious. Many consumers don't know what grows in Ontario or what produce is available during which seasons.
However, market research shows that consumers care where their food comes from.
By educating consumers and clearly identifying local choices, OMAFRA is making it easier to follow through on those intentions.
According to the 2015 Foodland Ontario survey, eight out of 10 Ontario shoppers are likely to purchase fresh, local food.
As part of the Local Food Strategy, Ontario established the following food literacy aspirational goals in early 2015:
- Increase the number of Ontarians who know what local foods are available
- Increase the number of Ontarians who know how and where to obtain local foods
- Increase the number of Ontarians who prepare local food meals for family and friends, and make local food more available through food service providers
Over the past year, Ontario has made important progress towards these goals.
Initiatives & Achievements
In the grocery store
Foodland Ontario is the government's flagship program helping to increase local food literacy. For nearly 40 years, this program has helped consumers identify food grown in Ontario and appreciate the diversity of our local products - with impressive results. As of 2015, 94 per cent of Ontario shoppers recognize the Foodland Ontario symbol.
As of 2015, 94 per cent of Ontario shoppers recognize the Foodland Ontario symbol.
Foodland Ontario is using that brand recognition to bring greater awareness to local food options. Since 1977, it has established more than 1,200 logo placement agreements with producers, retailers and food service operators. These agreements make it easier for producers to use the Foodland logo and help Ontario consumers identify locally produced food.
Since 1977, Foodland Ontario has established more than 1,200 logo placement agreements with producers, retailers and food service operators to help Ontario consumers identify local food.
In 2015, Foodland Ontario distributed over 9.5 million pieces of point-of-sale material and information resources to retailers, on-farm markets, farmers' markets and food service operations. The 135 events it supported across the province attracted over 250,000 attendees, while its public relations efforts generated 1,107 print articles and 201 television appearances, reaching an audience of 34 million.
"Awareness of the Foodland Ontario logo is nearly universal among primary grocery shoppers in Ontario."
- Michael Howell, Associate Vice President, Ipsos Reid Public Affairs