There is a movement taking place across this great province, and it’s spreading its roots from our rural farms to the plates on our urban dinner tables. The growing support for local food is not a trend or a fad. It’s a conscious choice for the health and well-being of our families, and it is helping build up our communities and our economy.

I want people across Ontario to know that when they choose local food, we all benefit.  It keeps our dollars circulating locally, creates jobs and reinvigorates our communities.

Ontario’s agri-food sector is one of our top industries.  It contributes $34 billion a year to our economy and provides jobs for more than 700,000 people across the province.  It’s an interconnected sector that reminds us how we are all a part of “One Ontario.”

"Ontario’s agri-food sector contributes $34 billion a year to our economy and provides jobs for more than 700,000 people across the province."

Local food begins on the farm in Ontario’s beautiful countryside. From there, it makes its way through many spin-off businesses in rural and urban communities. Ontario food manufacturers buy about 65 percent of food produced on our farms, and we can buy local food directly from the farm, at farmers’ markets and at retailers and restaurants in towns and cities across the province. The journey ends with you, the consumer.

Each link on this chain is dependent on another — but you are the most important elements, because you drive demand. 

Realizing our province's potential

I am so proud of our agri-food sector, but I know we can do even better. I recently challenged Ontario’s industry to double its growth rate and create more than 120,000 new jobs by 2020. I will work with them to achieve this goal.

We are home to the best prime agricultural land in the country. We have a culturally diverse population and we are embracing emerging opportunities in demand for organics, health food, artisan and specialty goods.

We are growing exciting new crops like okra, Indian red carrots and Thai hot chili peppers — in response to changing demands and shifting demographics — with demonstration trials underway in places like Vineland, Simcoe, Copetown, Holland Marsh, Ottawa and Ripley.

Last year, Ontario imported $19.8 billion in agri-food products. I believe we can increase our market share, and keep jobs and dollars in our communities.

If we meet the target to double the growth rate by 2020 – Ontario will be among the top agri-food regions in North America.

"We are growing exciting new crops like okra, Indian red carrots and Thai hot chili peppers — in response to changing demands and shifting demographics."

Investing in a sustainable future

We have a local food strategy to celebrate and support the good things that are grown, harvested and made right here in our province.

We’ve launched the Local Food Fund, part of the government’s overall investment of $30 million over three years to support local food projects. Through the Premier’s Award for agri-food innovation, we encourage new ideas that help increase demand and supply of local food. 

Ontario recently celebrated the passage of Bill 36, The Local Food Act, 2013. The new legislation — the first of its kind in Canada — will increase local food awareness and help boost sales by setting local food goals and targets. It will also create a non-refundable tax credit of 25 percent for farmers who donate their surplus harvest to eligible community food programs, such as food banks, and celebrate a Local Food Week that will take place annually, beginning the first Monday in June.

More and more, people are recognizing the value of choosing local food. It’s good for our families. It’s good for our communities and our farmers — and it’s good for Ontario’s future.