by Deron Johnston
On December 6, the North Grenville Municipal Centre was the site of a special agri-food workshop hosted by the Agri-food Management Institute. When asked, several people involved in local food and agriculture couldn’t remember the last time that a workshop like this was hosted here.
According to their website, the Agri-food Management Institute (AMI) “promotes new ways of thinking about agri-business management and aims to increase awareness, understanding and adoption of beneficial business management practices by Ontario agri-food and agri-based producers and processors”. The organisation is based in Guelph and funded by Growing Forward 2, a federal, provincial, and territorial initiative.
The workshop itself was a full-day event, launched by AMI Executive Director Ashley Honsberger, who was not only the facilitator, but also spoke about exploring the possibility of growing new types of crops, and gave the audience of fifty a number of tips and strategies when contemplating trying something new. Some of the other presenters were: Anna Crolla from OMAFRA, Colleen Acres from Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA), Ruth Vogel from the local chapter of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), and Len Davies of Davies Legacy Planning.
Some of the highlights of the day included: Kemptville resident, and OMAFRA specialist, Katie Nolan, speaking about the Eastern Ontario Local Food Conference and the Two Rivers Food Hub. Jessica Kelly, also from OMAFRA, who is a Direct Farm Marketing Specialist, provided some very helpful information about getting started with on-farm sales and value-added products. Bruce Kelly, from Farm & Food Care Ontario, gave an amusing and informative presentation on “Conveying the Story of Agriculture”. He outlined some of the challenges of being a livestock farmer and dealing with animal activists and their activities, both on the farm and at large-scale agricultural events.
It’s unfortunate that the workshop was not better advertised in the area, because some local foodies were disappointed that they hadn’t heard about it. The workshop provided information that would have been useful to both local food producers and agricultural business owners. Jim Beveridge, of B&H Grocery Store, said that he hoped that this workshop was the first of many of these types of educational opportunities to be hosted in North Grenville. Does this mean that the upcoming purchase of the former Kemptville College by the Municipality of North Grenville is making waves in the agri-food community, and alerting people that North Grenville is ready to become a player in agri-food?