Group gets grant to promote local food

Elora and Fergus Tourism, together with key tourism stakeholders, has been awarded $98,500 through the Ontario Market Investment Fund as part of the Ministry of Agriculture initiative in the Ontario 2008 budget.

The announcement was made Jan. 16 and the program is de­signed to create links that connect farmers to con­sum­ers, encouraging the con­nec­tions between local agricul­ture and businesses.

Through Elora and Fergus Tourism with the sup­port of the Grand River Agri­cultural Society, Fergus and Elora Bed Breakfast Asso­ciation, Sensa­tional Elora, Well­ington Buy Local-Buy Fresh, the Welling­ton County Muse­um, and the Elora Farm­er’s Market, these groups were able to successfully compete for the funding.

Their hope is to pull together segments of the com­munity that have not had the opportunity to work on some­thing so inclusive in the past. The grant fund will not only enhance tourism for the com­munity, but will also do so from the downtown cores of Fergus and Elora to the rural borders.  In the near future, visitors to the area will have a uniquely local experience, savouring the sites and tastes of Centre Wellington.

Ontario is trying to boost grassroots marketing efforts for provincial foods and to stren­g­then rural economies by en­cour­aging more residents and businesses to buy locally grown food.

The provincial government is initially spending more than $850,000 in 15 projects, in­cluding:

–   a media awareness cam­paign to raise the profile of Ontario apples;

– a "nothing tastes like home" mobile educational trail­er to market and promote "buy­ing local" through cooking demonstrations and tasting op­por­tunities at industry, commu­nity, and school events.

–   a Grey and Bruce County project to encourage growers to participate in the local food market, and to demonstrate that using local food is a viable option for area institutions and restaurants.

In Wellington County, Cen­tre Wellington Township’s grant will be used to research­ ­and develop inventories of local business, develop and implement a marketing strategy and plan, including a new website, and arranging for and managing trade show partici­pation at local festivals.

In Mapleton Township, Mapleton’s Organic Dairy will conduct 65 product sampling and demonstrations of its yog­hurt and ice cream in 65 retail outlets, consumer flyers will be distributed, and consum­ers invit­ed to visit the farm with their family to better under­stand where their food comes from and  how it can be pro­duced and distributed.

There is $7,000 from the province for that project.

Guelph Community Health Care will receive $56,250 to continue the growth of local food availability and consump­tion in the region.

The project is hoping to increase demand, availability, and consumption of local food by hiring a project coordinator; create an integrated marketing and communications cam­paign; expand existing pro­grams; and do market research to explore new market opportu­nities.

All that spending comes from a four-year, $12-million Ontario Market Investment Fund program, which helps develop economic opportu­ni­ties through trade events, mar­keting campaigns and industry research initiatives that foster partnerships and collaboration to promote Ontario foods. The program is part of Ontario’s enhanced investment in buy local initiatives.

"We are bringing together local food networks including producers, processors, retailers and individuals dedicated to selling the fresh foods that are grown and made right here in Ontario," said Minister of Agri­culture, Food and Rural Affairs Leona Dombrowsky. The Foodland Ontario pro­gram has now expanded to in­clude meat, dairy, and eggs.