MOUNT FOREST – Although March didn’t exactly come in like a lamb, a sure sign of spring is the annual Sheep and Goat Day hosted by Midwest Co-op at the Mount Forest and District Sports Complex on March 11.
Organizer Sarel Smit noted this marks the first time the event has been held in person since 2019.
In 2021, a handbook was distributed, so networking and the sharing of information continued, but this year, the event was finally able to return to an in-person format.
Smit said that 195 people had signed up, and 30-plus vendors and organizations were on hand to work with them.
“This shows how big the industry is, and that the industry is growing” he added.
First to address the group was Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Lisa Thompson.
“I want to challenge sheep and goat producers,” said Thompson. “I want to hear what you’re feeling, what your priorities are, because we have to be working together, because tax dollars are precious and we want to make sure they are going to be invested well.
“We are also investing in increasing awareness that Ontario is open for business, and that we have the best, nutritious, delicious food, not only across Canada, but around the world.”
Thompson went on to describe her government’s strategic plan, introduced last November, called Grow Ontario.
“I hope you see yourselves in it,” she said, explaining the plan’s three main pillars:
– stable and secure supply chains so farmers aren’t vulnerable to outside pressures such as the war in Ukraine;
– research and innovation to advance the agricultural sector;
– attract talent to bring people to Ontario, and encourage local youth to pursue careers in agriculture.
Thompson also hinted an announcement would be made on March 15 containing “good news for the goat and sheep industry.”
She wrapped up her speech by reporting, “We are moving very well, in the spirit of going forward with growth in this province, and the future is bright. I hope you feel that too. Take pride in the livestock you raise.”
Thompson also commended Midwest Co-op on its handbook and told those in the crowd they are “lucky” to have the co-op work on their behalf.
“Midwest, don’t stop doing what you’re doing,” she urged.