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Ont. puts up $4M for farmers’ market projects

The Ontario government has pledged $4 million over four years to help farmers’ market groups encourage and promote direct farm marketing to consumers.

The new funding comes from a $56 million allocation in the March budget for “buy Ontario” and “buy local” initiatives, the province said in a release Tuesday.

“By helping farmers’ markets and other venues that directly connect
farmers and consumers, we all win with a greater availability of local food,
more focused promotions and more sales,” said Ag Minister Leona Dombrowsky in the release.

As part of this funding package, Farmers’ Markets Ontario will receive up to $750,000 in 2008-09 and $600,000 in each of the following three years for:

  • expanding the “MyMarket” brand with Farmers’ Markets Ontario, as well as at farmers’ markets outside the organization, through producer and market certification that will help ensure that the products sold at such markets are grown or made by local farmers;
  • developing information for farmers who may be new to selling at farmers’ markets;
  • research what consumers are looking for when they buy Ontario food via direct marketing channels; and
  • consumer awareness and marketing activities to promote these efforts.

Meanwhile, the province’s funding will also back the Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association, an Ontario farmers’ group to promote and develop the province’s direct farm sales industry (which includes roadside marketing and U-pick operations), with up to $250,000 in 2008-09 and $200,000 in each of the
next three years, for:

  • consumer research and marketing activities;
  • raising consumer awareness of, and access to, farm markets;
  • projects to expand the number of farmers selling directly to the public; and
  • expanding the number of products on offer at on-farm markets, including meat, cheese, fibre and grain products.

The provincial ag department will also commit up to $600,000 to provide business information
and market analysis to Ontario farmers who would like more information about
direct consumer marketing. The funding will also support the development of
marketing tools and best practices for local farmers’ markets and “food
trails,” the province said.

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