This Blueprint for Local Food Is Essential Reading

Numerous reports are published every year. The internet makes it easy to access many of them but it’s also easy for some to get lost in the digital ocean as well. I was fortunate enough to find one, prepared by researchers here in Ontario, that describes a remarkably clear and sensible plan for developing local food resources. It should be required reading for anyone interested in the topic. The report is calledMenu 2020, Ten Good Food Ideas for Ontario. It was published by The Metcalf Foundation in June, 2010.  You can click on the link for the full report (PDF format) and I encourage readers to download a copy. Here are five of the ten ideas that caught my attention, which I’ve taken from the Summary of Recommendations. All of them are examined in more detail within the 58 page report.

Support producers of locally consumed fruit, vegetables, and meats.

•     Develop a new generation of risk management programs for farmers of non-supply-managed products.
•     Link risk management programs to desirable policy outcomes such as farmland protection, sustainable farm practices, rural community development, and local market linkages.
•     Identify tax policy reforms that compensate farmers for rising labour costs and enable on-farm value-added activities.
•     Invest in local food promotional initiatives.
•     Conduct market assessment and research to further develop local food linkages.
•     Support local food infrastructure, commercialization, and product development through capital grants and loan programs.

Make room for new farmers and alternative markets within the supply- managed system.

  • Develop opportunities for new producers to supply alternative products within supply-managed commodity systems, while retaining the supply management system.

Plant urban Ontario. 

•     Make municipal and institutional urban space available for cultivation and processing.
•     Develop neighbourhood hubs to provide education, coordination, and services related to urban food production.
•     Change official plans and zoning bylaws to ensure agriculture is recognized as an urban land use.
•     Provide financial support to urban agricultural development.
•     Develop market linkages appropriate for urban growers.

Establish local food infrastructure through regional food clusters.

•     Stimulate regional food processing by establishing and expanding knowledge networks for producers.
•     Establish an alliance of small and medium-sized food processors.
•     Encourage regional food clusters through targeted investment, favourable legislation, regulations, research, and policy development.
•     Strengthen co-operative legislation to support the development of co-operative models for food processing.
•     Develop scale-appropriate food safety regulations and support compliance by small- and medium-scale processors.
•     Conduct market research and assessment geared towards regional food production and processing.

Expand public procurement of local, sustainable food. 

•     Develop a local food procurement policy for Ontario.
•     Support supply-chain linkages to strengthen the local, sustainable food sector.
•     Provide a clear definition of local, sustainably grown food.
•     Invest in local food promotional activities.
•     Develop a local food database of producers, processors, and distributors.

Simcoe County is in the process of developing a food policy, agriculture is a major component of the County’s economy and there is popular interest in the topic of local food. Menu 2020 appears to provide a great deal of ‘food for thought’ to politicians, community groups and food-related producers and processors.