By MPP Toby Barrett
As we across Haldimand-Norfolk sit down to dinner over the Thanksgiving weekend, we are reminded to thank farmers, farm workers and food processors for their role in putting food on our tables.
Every year, Ontario sets aside a week in early October to recognize agriculture. Agriculture Week is dedicated to celebrating the abundance of food that our farmers produce, the people the industry employs, the rural communities it supports, and the economic engine it fuels.
This year, Agriculture Week runs from October 4 to Thanksgiving.
While we can identify the turkey on our Thanksgiving plate as raised in Ontario, the potatoes, squash and pumpkin in the pie are often homegrown. In fact, there are more than 200 commodities produced by the province’s farmers for both domestic use and export.
In total, the Ontario agri-food sector supports more than 837,000 jobs in Ontario and contributes more than $47.5 billion each year to our economy.
During Ag Week, Ontario’s the Minister of Agriculture is hosting a series of roundtables on agriculture, which I will also take part in as the Parliamentary Assistant. Topics range from trade and export to women in agriculture; innovation to jobs and training and food processing.
Locally, this year the opportunity for students to virtually visit a farm will be available through a partnership with AgScape, 4-H and Farm & Food Care Ontario. Although students won’t get to actually set foot on a farm, they will get an inside look on how beef is raised, the challenges of fighting Mother Nature when growing apples, and how an egg farm operates.
Throughout Agriculture Week, government recognizes leaders in agricultural innovation and technology through its award program. A number of producers from both Haldimand and Norfolk have been recipients of these awards over the years.
This celebration is during the same week as the Norfolk County Fair, and right after the Caledonia Fair. It’s important to note that both fairs are organized by agricultural societies and were originally centred around farms and our rural way of life. One of my favourite parts of these fairs is the agriculture exhibits where the best livestock, fruit and vegetables are on display. It’s important to note there are always competitions to foster ag knowledge and skill in younger generations. This is also seen a big component of the smaller fairs in Dunnville, Langton, Houghton, Walsh and Tillsonburg.
Information and education is always an important part of the fairs. . . there are excellent displays of beef, dairy, lamb, poultry and beekeeping.
Agriculture Week is an excellent opportunity to celebrate our hardworking farmers, and those in the business. It’s also an opportunity to recognize the importance of the agri-food industry to our economy. The ongoing pandemic has highlighted the importance of local food production with transportation logistical challenges associated with the border. It’s my hope that local agriculture will come out of this stronger.
This week is also an excellent time to visit a farmers’ market, stop by a roadside stand or visit a pick-your-own farm. The possibilities are endless, from pumpkins, squash, sweet potatoes and herbs to beef, poultry, pork and a diversity of other unique products.
Toby Barrett is MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk