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Municipal 2018
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Mapleton business gets grant to promote local food, community

by David Meyer

PARKER - Perth-Wellington MPP John Wilkinson finally gave the lie to the over-used expression “If you build it, they will come.”

Wilkinson added an important and often missing part to that expression of hope.

“But, they need to know about it.”

He was speaking at The Harvest Table in Parker, where he was announcing a grant of $59,562 to help that business sell its products, and help local farmers and take a multi-media approach to letting people know about the benefits of local food.

Wilkinson was making the grant announcement on behalf of Minister of Agriculture Carol Mitchell.

“When we buy Ontario, everyone wins. It’s good for farmers and processors, good for families, good for the environment and good for our rural communities,” he said.

Wilkinson explained that when he was first elected eight years ago, he asked Premier Dalton McGuinty to hold a meeting every year with people from every facet of the food industry.

With its $33-billion a year in economic impact in Ontario, it is of major importance and the second largest industry in the province.

Wilkinson said the government learned out of those meetings that people want to eat local food, and partnerships were needed to help promote that.

Among the initiatives was bringing back the Foodland Ontario label, advertising campaigns promoting local foods and benefits to the environment through such things as promoting the 100 Mile Diet, where food does not have to travel more than that distance to reach a consumer’s plate, “and not come from farms half way around the world.”

The Harvest Table’s line of ready-to-eat local food products will be expanded and market tested with the help of the 100 Mile Market, a local food sourcing and distribution company.

Wilkinson said most of the produce available in Canada comes from within a 70-mile radius of Parker. But, he added, the problem is farmers and food suppliers are often so busy they are unable to properly market their goods and services.

So, the province came up with the Ontario Marketing Investment Fund. It had $9-million to help that group inform people of its wares. Wilkinson called it “the piece that was missing” from the farm food chain.

The Harvest Table is owned and operated by John Slot and his daughter, Cori Claus. Slot was involved in the chicken industry for nearly 30 years, and held positions on provincial and federal boards. He admits he has “a passion for food.”

He said the food industry can currently “glue meat together” to make it look like steak, and it offers all kinds of fillers and other tricks to lower costs and increase sales. The Harvest Table will have none of that, although he added it does have to try to be competitive.

The company does such things as using the ends of bacon to create real bacon bits. It uses its own brine recipe for its hams and then has them custom smoked to its specifications, and there is no water inflating its chicken pieces.

He is currently working to develop meals with local ingredients, and is working with The Fountainhead in Fergus to supply that area’s need for people with restricted diets.

The company can deliver meals to seniors that are healthy, gluten free and with no monosodium glutamate (MSG). The meals are contained in special plastic that allows them to be placed in an oven. He said The Harvest Table can do custom meals for seniors, and deliver seven or eight of them at a time to clients.

He promised, “No chemicals - and fresh ingredients.”

The government grant will allow The Harvest Table to expand its food network. Slot is hoping that it will help him promote not only food and farming, but the entire community. He is working on plans for farm tours where people from the city can visit actual farms and have hands-on experiences with beef, pork, chicken, and dairy operations.

“We want urban people to see real farming,” he said. “Wellington-Perth is the most diverse [food producer] in Canada. We need to show that to urban people.”

Slot said such promotion could benefit local bed and breakfast operations, and the tours would allow visitors to sample food from at least two main dinners during the course of their stay.

He said they could visit a local restaurant serving local food on a Friday night, take tours on Saturday, and sample another dinner that night before returning home.

He said it is very important that city people learn more about the food they eat, as well as finding out that some of the best food in the world is grown within a 90 minute drive of where they live.

Citing his work with poultry, Slot said he believes the countryside must send a stronger message to urban centres that they live very close to where quality food is produced.

Mapleton Mayor Bruce Whale was on hand for the announcement, and he said, “It’s great to see [that Slot] has not really retired yet, as he slows down.”

Whale added it is great to see that local fruits, vegetables and meats will get the promotion they deserve and that is “something that is maybe not done so well.”

Slot’s ideas are not limited to just cities. He is working with schools about supplying such things as breaded chicken tenders, and will also work with places where pupils have dietary issues.

“Now, we can market those products,” he said. “We have no problems finding local produce.”

More connections

Nick Morris, of RR3 Clifford, was at the grant announcement in Parker, and is interested in being part of the promotion - even though he does not focus on food.

His operation, Flowers to Fragrance Lavender Farm, grows plants for natural beauty products, and he has several dozen on display.

The company offers shampoo, conditioner, shower and body wash, bath blends, deodorants, moisturizing creams, lip balms, hand lotions, foot lotions, health products for such things as varicose veins and massage creams for aches and pains, mother-and-baby products, and fragrances for the home.

It even offers a half  dozen products for pets.

Morris said his company works with one from Toronto to distribute its products, and he is also in talks with another operation closer to home, in Orangeville.

Morris is also already involved in local promotions in Minto and, “We’re planning on doing field tours in the fall,” but that is still in the organizing stage.

And, he said, similar to Slot’s products, his products, too, are pure.

“No synthetic chemicals,” he said.

Helping everyone

Whale said in an interview any promotion that brings people into Mapleton has a good potential for “a spin-off for the township.”

He said, “This is a great place to do it,” and noted if the township works with entrepreneurs, there is hope for good results in other part of the local economy.

He added when it comes to food production, the hands-on producers are about 2% of the population, and it seems sensible to show the remaining 98% “where their food comes from.”

The Ontario Market Investment Fund has provided more than $9-million to 177 local marketing projects across the province since 2008.


August 12, 2011


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