On February 18th, 2011, over 130 professionals from across Ontario come together at the University of Guelph to explore opportunities for collaboration and new policy directions in agricultural economic development. The Renewing Rural Economies Forum brought together municipal planners, economic development officers and councillors, as well as various provincial ministries and the farm community, to cooperatively respond to the complex economic challenges facing Ontario’s agricultural sector.
The Farmland Trust hosted the event as part of its Places to Grow Food project, supported by the George Cedric Metcalf Foundation. The Trust believes farmland and local agriculture should be valued as part of community economic development, and seen as a major part of revitalizing rural economies.
Many perspectives were brought forward at the forum, including those of farmers, planners, economic development officers, municipal councillors and urban food advocates. Case studies from British Columbia and Oregon were also presented to provide some outside comparison to work being done in Ontario. The forum provided a space for professionals to network and dialogue about new ways to support farmland preservation and agricultural development. Some questions posed for discussion included:
• What opportunities exist for further growth of Ontario’s agriculture sector?
• How do we reduce barriers to economic development in agriculture?
• What problem-solving is already occurring in municipalities across Ontario?
• How can we influence future policy direction for agriculture and rural development?
George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation, McLean Foundation, George Lunan Foundation, Helen McCrea Peacock Foundation