by Deron Johnson
At the North Grenville Council Meeting on Tuesday May 21, the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Advisory Committee was born. It was one of eight advisory committees created, as well as: Accessibility Advisory, Active Transportation, Arts & Culture, Community & Economic Development, Community Health Wellness & Fitness, Environmental Action and Heritage Advisory. Each committee will at least start out organized with similar procedures, structures and meeting agendas. One of the committees that drew this writer’s attention was the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Advisory Committee. According to the committee Terms of Reference, the stated purpose is “To assist the Municipality of North Grenville in its efforts to identify, review, discuss and make recommendations to council on agricultural and agricultural-related issues”. This could become very important as the plans for the Kemptville Campus move forward. Based on a perceived interest on the part of council to see agriculture become a bigger part of the future of the campus, the committee could become an important contributor. With this in mind, it might be wise to establish a strong relationship between the committee and the campus, right out of the gate.
In the not so recent past, apparently there was a previous agricultural committee that was mothballed by one of the previous councils. As a result of this, it almost seems as if the agriculture sector in North Grenville has been forgotten about from an economic development perspective. When you add in the loss of Kemptville College due to the withdrawal of Guelph University, agriculture has been dealt some mighty blows in this area. However, agriculture still remains a significant component of the North Grenville economy. With a strong agricultural committee supporting existing farmers, working to explore new opportunities and sectors, it is possible that agriculture could once again emerge from the shadows and take its rightful place as part of the rural identity of North Grenville.
During a recent webinar about agricultural advisory committees, hosted by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), the participating panel made some key points on things to consider. One of the points was the need for a workplan for the committee (updated annually) to ensure that the committee is productive and contributes meaningfully. Another was the importance of having the committee create an agricultural or agri-food strategy to guide future decisions of council when it comes to agriculture. According to another panelist, it is critical for the committee to advise council on how their decisions (in areas like land use planning and transportation planning) can impact farmers. The committee was also believed to be the best way to both connect council to the needs of the farming community and develop strong agricultural policies.
In North Grenville, we are blessed with a lot of knowledge and expertise when it comes to the agricultural sector (a fraction of which was on full display at the recent Rural Summit). As potential committee members, there are a number of former professors who taught at Kemptville College still living in the area. There are also a healthy number of farmers and many residents who either work in the field or who are passionate about agriculture and agri-food. No matter how council chooses to compose it, this group could be a formidable one.
All eight committees are now open for applications from community members with the exception of the Community & Economic Development Advisory Committee, which has already been filled and has started meeting. Applications are to be submitted to the municipality by Friday, June 28 at 2 pm and will be circulated to members of council for review. The chosen candidates for each committee will then be appointed by resolution of council. You can get more information about each committee and find the application on the municipal website www.northgrenville.ca/careers or pick one up at the municipal office.