Agri-tourism on radar for economic development strategic plan

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Merrickville-Wolford Economic Development Officer, Stacie Lloyd, has provided a summary of Chief Economist for OMAFRA Stephen Duff’s visit to the municipality to council and staff. On February 11, the Village hosted Stephen’s presentation which focused on the agri-food and agri-product sector in the local economy. “We were fortunate and thrilled to have Steve come out to Merrickville-Wolford and present his analysis and findings on this important industry in out community,” Stacie wrote in the memo.

Seventy-five people showed up at the Merrickville United Arts Centre for the presentation, representing a wide range of interests. Local farmers, food and agriculture related businesses and organizations, local politicians, business support organizations, and residents were all very intent on hearing what Stephen had to say.

In his presentation, Stephen provided an overview of Ontario’s agri-food sector and then focused in at a more regional and local level, looking at the population of Merrickville-Wolford, the profile of agri-food and its value chain, income levels, and local food production and demand. He highlighted the importance of the local food system, challenges, and unique opportunities it may provide for the Municipality, both locally and regionally.

Based on Stephen’s research and Ag Census data, Merrickville-Wolford’s agri-food and agri-product sector is strong and connected to other key sectors in the municipality’s local economy including tourism, retail, manufacturing, healthcare, and education. He highlighted the importance of awareness and understanding of the sector in the community and when it comes to planning, economic development, administration and property assessment. Stephen also pointed out that the agri-food and agri-product sector is one of the Municipality’s major employers, and represents a much larger presence in Merrickville-Wolford than most other parts of Ontario.

Councillor Timothy Molloy asked Stacie at the meeting: “Do we have our sights set on anything to enhance our agri-tourism footprint?” Stacie said that Stephen’s presentation showed the range of connections that their agriculture and food industry has with other sectors, like tourism. She added that agri-tourism is definitely on staff’s radar, as they continue to work on an economic development strategic plan for the municipality, which is one of the deliverables in her contract as part of the Rural Economic Development grant which helped fund the Economic Development Officer position. “It’s certainly an opportunity for Merrickville-Wolford,” she said.

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