Bring Food Home is Ontario’s biennial conference connecting individuals and organizations who are working towards a sustainable food system in our province. Bring Food Home 2011: Preparing the Ground for a Sustainable Food System took place in Peterborough over three days of education, networking and more.
1) Municipal/Regional Food Policy
2) Meat and Abattoirs
3) Alternative Farm Finance
4) New Community Food Initiatives
5) Northern Food Systems
7) Research (Unfortunately there are no summary notes below on this broad topic; however, we invite you to read through the Proceedings document to see how research is approached by a variety of working groups.)
The following notes are the summaries of the group discussions at the strategic planning session, including some videos of presentations. Please see the Conference Proceedings for more information about the following topics: Farm To School; Farm to Cafeteria; and Market Vouchers.
The group found that there was a need to bring together information around municipal and regional food strategy planning because policy experience on various issues is currently spread around the province. The group proposed that Sustain Ontario convene a working group around this issue that would compile resources and materials, explore
what kind of online forum we would use (FoodNet, Sustain), discuss the use of webinars, elect someone to keep the group moving forward and working toward these goals.
The three overarching themes that were identified were regulation scale-ability, supply management and secession. Using these ideas, the group came up with the following next steps:
The group plans to establish a working group through Sustain Ontario, encourage financial institutions to get involved, identify creative advisors with technical knowledge, pull together concrete technical, legal and financial documents, and educate our peers on the importance of this work. From Sustain Ontario and the network we ask for help in understanding conservation easements; bringing together a creative council of lawyers, tax advisors, financial advisors and marketers; creating a broad public campaign on farmland preservation; and sharing information across regions.
The research involved will include finding agricultural business models that help us achieve our goals and sharing those with investors, and doing cost assessments of community services and the benefits for municipalities. In the next year the Provincial Policy Statement is going to be reviewed and we should get together a working group to find out what’s been included and what we still want included. We require assessments of ecological goods and services and we must begin to include these into our financial thinking. From government we need farmland protection, favourable taxation on easements, a levy on farmland conversion. We must also engage staff in the ministries as advisors, especially the Minister of Innovation.
Finding more funding for these initiatives is key:
WHAT IS NEEDED
1) There is a need for stronger regional connections.
2) A forum for connecting the North and South should be created, ideally in the South as it is closer to decision-makers but it should also present the opportunity for Northerners to speak on their own behalf.
3) A Northern food system map must be created to identify where the food in the North is coming from, what the channels are and how we can adjust that system to fit Northern communities better.
4) Researchers should match their research interests in the North with community needs so that research contributes toward community development.
5) Government must listen, participate and respond to community needs. For example, the Far North Act prescribes to communities what they should be including in their land use planning maps, and food is not one of them. Linking larger provincial policies and legislation to community needs is not all about importing food as a lot of food is being harvested from the forest. Also, Far North planning is not all about conservation and development, it’s about supporting community sustainability.
There are 27 different Co-ops working with Local Organic Food Co-ops (LOFC), with activities ranging from farming and processing, to distribution and retail. Some of the ideas that were identified included:
The first step is to determine what information and research is needed to move forward. A good place to start would be a “Coop 101” that would distill the 100+ page Coop Act. Once identified, tips could be provided on how to take advantage of the resources that would be available. The Sustain Ontario could disseminate information about Cooperatives in the resource section of the Sustain Ontario website, or potentially as a Good Food Idea for 2012.