With the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in a summer recess, it’s often said that MPPs are touring their Ridings on the so-called “barbecue circuit.”
Admittedly, almost every summer community event we attend serves up delicious food in abundance.
But breaks in the House schedule also give Members the opportunity to reconnect with their constituents, so as to be better informed and up-to-date when the debates resume in the fall.
On August 17, I had the chance to meet with the Board of Directors of the Halton Federation of Agriculture, to be updated on how the food we consume is actually grown and processed, as well as current issues.
It is important to begin any discussion of agriculture with a reminder of the economic importance of the industry.
Agriculture and food processing is big business in Ontario. Across the province, agriculture represents a $47 billion contribution to the economy.
According to recent local data, there are 431 farms on 72,920 acres of farmland in Halton, with the average farm size being 169 acres. Local food is a big part of it, with 74 of these farms selling directly to consumers from the farm itself, from stands, or from “pick-your-own” produce.
Almost a quarter of the jobs in Halton Region come from agriculture and food. In 2021, our local agri-food sector employed 30,820 people through 2,792 local business establishments. Farm cash receipts comprised $132 million, which in turn supported $288 million in gross domestic product.
Our Halton Federation of Agriculture represents the vast majority of the active farmers in our Region. Their voice is one that informs any discussion of the future of food production and processing. We need ongoing dialogue to ensure that there is balance in land use planning decisions, with a long term vision geared to protecting our best quality farmland.
Peter Lambrick summed it up best in a recent meeting with Halton’s elected representatives. “We all eat,” he said.
To that I would add: we also need to show our respect and gratitude to those who labour to put food on our tables. Especially when it’s been barbecued.