SDG — Wednesday, July 5, marked the official launch of the Cornwall and Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry Food and Agriculture Advisory Council, a new initiative coordinated by All Things Food (ATF) and the Social Development Council of Cornwall and Area (SDC). The makeup of the council’s members reflect various interests, including those of farmers, producers, business owners, employment boards, educational institutions, healthcare institutions, recreation and tourism.
“We’ve been working towards this council for over a year,” said Kat Rendek, the Coordinator of ATF.
“We felt there was a significant need to pull together local food and agriculture stakeholders to discuss and to create a more representative strategic action plan for SDG and Cornwall.”
New council member Jim Wert expressed, “ The timing of the project is great because consumers are not only looking for what’s available, they also want to know how it is being produced. Producers are establishing networks to strengthen their business plan and build relationships with their customers. This project has the potential to benefit both these groups. ”
With the help of a grant from the Eastern Ontario Development Program (through the Cornwall & Counties Community Futures Development Corporation), ATF and the SDC secured funding to hire Sarah Chisholm Ryder as Food & Agriculture Development Officer. Sarah will work exclusively to advance local food economy issues, as well as serve and implement action items set forth by the new council.
This Council will work together over the next 18 months to create a strategic plan and establish some key areas of focus. At the inaugural meeting, discussion topics included administrative items and council-structure, all up for council approval and discussion, as well as a presentation from SDG Counties Economic Development and Communications Officer, Terry Besner, on the Economic Priority Areas for SDG moving forward.
“SDG’s greatest strength is its concentration of agri-food businesses, first among Eastern Ontario’s 13 counties. As the agriculture sector is a key element of the SDG Economic Development Strategy, projects like this new council will help encourage future entrepreneurial support to the next generation of food and agriculture producers in the region,” said Besner.
The meeting ended with a roundtable discussion of initial challenges, issues or opportunities for the food and agriculture sector in the region. Some themes brought to light were the idea of anchor institutions, agri and culinary tourism, the need for locally-specific food and agricultural education in SDG, local regulations, labour issues and youth retention.
The project funding is secured until December 2018, and the council intends to meet 14 more times between now and then. Specific working groups will be established to address particular initiatives and actions.
“This diverse group of members is a significant asset and will bring to light perspectives and areas of our local agri-food economy that we can begin working collaboratively to address,” explained Sarah. “I look forward to serving this council and implementing its strategic work plan over the course of the next year and a half,” said Sarah Chisholm Ryder. Sarah is the new Food & Agriculture Development Officer with the All Things Food Community Food Network.
“Improving the agri-food ecosystem in this region is a priority for Cornwall & The Counties CFDC and we are happy to have the opportunity to support this project. We have many agriculture related assets in the region and one of the goals of this initiative is to ensure we are making the most of them for the betterment of the entire community. We commend the efforts of All Things Food, The Social Development Council and the United Counties in spearheading this initiative and hope to support further as the program develops.” Lesley Lang, Executive Director of The Cornwall & Counties Community Futures Development Corporation.
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