By MPP Toby Barrett
Ontario Agriculture Week is upon us. Across our riding, and the province as a whole, we have much to be proud of. From Haldimand’s clay to Norfolk’s sand, our area boasts and produces an abundance of diverse crops and livestock.
Back in 1998, my colleagues and I proclaimed the first week of October as Ontario Agriculture Week. We felt farmers deserved to be thanked and celebrated and we felt it was fitting that the week chosen coincided with the peak of harvest.
This year, Agriculture Week comes on the heels of the Caledonia Fair and coincides with the Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show. I have always been a supporter of class trips to fairs where young people have the opportunity to learn more about crops, livestock and about farm heritage.
We are also fortunate to have farm media and social media that sees the value in promoting agriculture by highlighting our unique and varied commodities.
Visitors to our area enjoy the beauty and smell of local lavender farms, the brilliant orange of pumpkins ripening in the fields, plump berries through the spring, a cornucopia of vegetables, and vistas of wooden barns with livestock out front.
Haldimand County is true to its heritage with traditional crops, and livestock including beef, dairy, poultry and pork. Buffalo, ostrich and emu can also be found in the area. Discerning customers who like to buy their meat close to home, can choose from a handful of operations that sell at the farm gate.
Technology has changed the face of agriculture, and it’s evident in the greenhouse industry. By way of example, Haldimand is home to North America’s largest gerbera daisy farm – Rosa Flora. It is also the largest greenhouse cut flower operation in Canada. This massive facility has 1.5 million square-feet of greenhouse space and its own fleet of 18 refrigerated trucks.
Items we may consider staples on the breakfast table, especially as the weather grows cooler, like cider, honey and maple syrup can all be found at various farms in both counties.
Over the past few years we’ve witnessed estate wineries and micro-breweries popping up across our area – the most recent opened in August in Jarvis.
Billing itself as Ontario’s Garden, Norfolk County is the country’s number one producer of asparagus, tart cherries, ginseng, peppers, pumpkins, squash and zucchini. Additionally, it is the province’s top producer of cabbage, blueberries, rye, strawberries, and a leading producer of sweet corn, apples, potatoes, tomatoes and cucumbers.
When looked at on a per-acre basis, Norfolk has the second highest total farm capital value and has the most farms in Canada reporting incomes of over $2 million. It is also the number one destination for seasonal farm workers in the country, all of whom support local businesses on payday.
Locally, we appreciate where our food comes from and the hard work our farm families do to ensure we have an abundance of safe and healthy food. However, as I travel the province I am often shocked at the lack of knowledge of some Ontarians who lack this appreciation.
I encourage everyone to celebrate Ontario agriculture, not only today or this week, but throughout the entire year.