Ont. backs more “buy local” food projects

Four areas’ “buy local” initiatives, encouraging the public to support local producers and food companies, are among six projects approved in the latest round for the Ontario Market Investment Fund.

The provincial fund, which provides $12 million over four years, is meant to promote consumer awareness of Ontario-produced foods and encourage Ontarians to buy locally. Over $2.7 million has so far been pledged to 52 projects, the province said Monday.

The single largest commitment in this round of funds is $51,000 for the Ontario berry industry to promote fresh Ontario berries available to the public beyond the traditional growing season.

Ontario farmers have in recent years extended their berry production seasons by adopting new technologies and introducing new varieties, and now plan to promote their products to retailers through retail contests, media and trade events and advertising, the province said Monday.

In one of four “buy local” projects, Essex County producers will work to promote Ontario-grown products to local restaurants and the local casino. The Windsor-Essex Development Commission and the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association will get $47,500 from the fund to promote locally grown foods to the community.

In another Essex project, the Essex County Federation of Agriculture will develop, promote and distribute a “Buy Local” map to raise consumer awareness of the products available throughout the county, supported by a marketing plan that includes advertising and signage, backed with $21,000 from the fund.

As well, the organizers of the “Harvests of Haldimand” Local Food Guide and culinary event plan to use $22,000 in provincial funds to develop a network between food producers, retailers, restaurateurs and tourism-based businesses.

Producers in the Chatham-Kent area will get $9,275 to print a Buy Local! Buy Fresh! map to showcase the availability of local foods in the region. The map will be available for free at municipal offices, libraries, events and sponsors and partners listed on the map.

Meanwhile, the Ottawa chapter of the Canadian Organic Growers (COG) will run a project to connect organic farmers with local retail and institutional markets. As well, the chapter plans to expand its farm tours to raise awareness of sustainable agriculture. For these plans the province will put up $25,000.

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