There is no doubt that locally grown, fresh produce tastes great. But along with better flavour, buying local means that millions of dollars are kept in the province each year.

The full scope of agribusiness in Ontario is huge — the province’s agrifood system generates over $35 billion in GDP every year and supports close to 800,000 jobs. These numbers include not only food producers, but food processors and distributors as well.

Kamroon Khan is one such food processor. He is the President of Sheik Halal Farms, Canada’s largest halal duck processor. Around 25 years ago, Khan started his operation by working with the local Mennonite community to procure locally raised ducks for his Halal food processing business. He built his business from the ground up and went from processing 10 ducks per week to the 4,000 per week his company processes today.

Khan is continuing to expand his business with the help of a $75,000 investment from the Greenbelt Fund. “I saw a big demand in the market for halal duck, but in order to increase production, I needed to buy new equipment,” says Khan. “Since then, annual sales have grown from three million dollars to eight million dollars. Next is the organic chicken market. I plan to grow sales to $20 million over the next few years.”

The Greenbelt Fund is a non-profit that supports local agriculture in Ontario through its grant program for farmers and agrifood businesses. The Fund’s investments in more than 215 projects like Khan’s, across the province, have resulted in $13 in economic activity for every dollar invested since 2010. The Greenbelt Fund’s focus is on supporting entrepreneurs like Khan and investing in projects that reimagine how food is bought and sold in Ontario.

A delicious, worthwhile investment

“Buying local is a tremendous boost to Ontario’s economy,” says Ed McDonnell, CEO of the Greenbelt Fund. “If we replaced just 10 percent of our top food and drink imports in Ontario with local products, we would add another $250 million to the GDP. That level of economic activity supports rural vitality and helps hardworking Ontarians find good jobs in processing and distribution.”

McDonnell adds, “The Greenbelt Fund’s role is to increase capacity in the local food sector because we know the demand is strong. People want to choose a local product — and our investments are making sure diverse and abundant local food offerings are available to all Ontarians.”