Growing forward together
By Sue Tiffin
Published March 14, 2019
A sort of who’s who showed up for the Food and Agriculture Economic Development Forum hosted by Harvest Haliburton last week, designed to facilitate continued collaboration in cultivating a sustainable food system in Haliburton County. Included in the group were municipal planners and councillors, economic developers, food producers and farmers, food processors, retailers, restauranteurs, food tourism operators and promoters, environmentalists, eaters and anyone interested in food and agriculture in the region.
On this day, they arrived separately but worked collaboratively - as they do so often throughout the year - part of a network of promoters, connectors, educators, enablers and organizers working to promote local agricultural economic development.
You would recognize many who are directly involved in the local food sector quickly, if not from being their neighbour or their friend, then from seeing them working at farmers’ markets and food booths and in restaurants, or from seeing their names and photos and stories so often shared in local newspapers for their involvement in the community.
As some of these representatives of local food assets in Haliburton County spoke to the crowd gathered to give a taste of their successes, their challenges and their future plans, it was striking how often their stories had a recurring theme of resilience, determination and adaptability. Their innovative approaches to working with increasing government regulations, a short growing season (Andrew Graham of Graham’s Farm Market calculated frost-free days at 90 a year, with some years having as few as 65), sometimes less than hospitable soil, pest management, the effects of climate change and, as Lila Sweet of Rhubarb said, distribution for a county larger than Prince Edward Island were keeping local food and food businesses growing.
“A sustainable food system has many benefits,” said Rosie Kadwell of Harvest Haliburton at the forum. “It’s good for our local economy, it improves our health, it has a positive impact on the environment, and it provides a community with a sense of well-being.
A food system includes everything from growing, raising, processing, transporting, retailing, [and eating] the food. As you can imagine there are many players, sectors involved in a food system.
In order to make shifts in our regional food system, it’s so key that we work in collaboration.”
What can we do as consumers and neighbours to help? We can care about where our food comes from, encourage education – our own and that of our children - around local food and food producers, shop locally more often rather than opting for out-of-town sourced food, support farmers’ markets regularly and ensure that we are also playing our part in helping build the strongest, most vibrant sustainable food system in Haliburton County. Good things are growing here, and we can all join in the collaboration to further make that happen.