Pilot school program uses Ontario produce to raise funds, promote healthy eating

Fresh from the Farm logoIt’s a new initiative that’s a win for farmers, students and healthy eating.

Fresh from the Farm is a pilot program being launched this fall in select school boards that will let students fundraise for their schools by selling Ontario fruits and vegetables.

Modeled after a similar program in Manitoba, the Ontario initiative is a partnership between the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF), Ministry of Education, Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (OFVGA) and Dietitians of Canada. Continue reading Pilot school program uses Ontario produce to raise funds, promote healthy eating

New label makes soybutter safe solution for peanut-free schools

A new approach to labelling a locally produced soybutter is making it easier to use in Ontario’s peanut-free schools.

The toasted soy spread looks and tastes so much like peanut butter that some schools weren’t allowing it, says Scott Mahon, President of WOWBUTTER Foods, a family-owned business in the Stratford area.

To address this challenge, the company has introduced a new peel-off label with individual “Made with WOWBUTTER” stickers underneath that can be applied to school lunch containers identifying their peanut-free status.

It’s a unique system that has just won WOWBUTTER Foods a Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence.

Continue reading New label makes soybutter safe solution for peanut-free schools

Apple grower featured in Faces of Farming calendar

She was the winner of the Golden Apple Award for industry service and leadership at the 2011 OFVGA annual meeting. Now, in 2012, Cathy McKay will also be a calendar model.

She is the first-ever apple grower to be featured in the popular Faces of Farming calendar, produced annually to promote awareness of food and farming in Ontario. Thirteen Ontario farmers or farm families are featured in the calendar every year, nominated by the project’s sponsoring organizations. Continue reading Apple grower featured in Faces of Farming calendar

New crops in local soils raising high hopes

Ontario lavender bunches

Lavender, hazelnuts and sweet potatoes are not crops we commonly associate with this province.

Yet they’re starting to emerge in Ontario’s south coast area, the fertile sand plains in Norfolk, Brant, Elgin, Middlesex and Oxford counties where tobacco used to reign supreme.

As the decline of the tobacco industry continued over the last decade, agricultural and economic development leaders in the area began grappling with key questions governing the future of their region, which is a key producer of many Ontario foods, including fruits and vegetables.

How can we bring new life and new value to this farmland? How can we keep farmers profitable and sustain the rural and regional economies? At the same time, is there an opportunity to bring new products to Ontario or to grow crops here that we’re currently importing from other places around the world? Continue reading New crops in local soils raising high hopes

Local food made easy

New food service marketing program expands markets for Ontario foods

If you build it, they will come.

That’s the thinking behind a new marketing program being used by Gordon Food Service (GFS), Ontario’s largest family-owned food service distributor – expanding and promoting their offering of Ontario food products by making it easy for their customers to identify and buy local food.

Earlier this year, the company was the recipient of a grant from the Broader Public Sector Investment Fund, a partnership between the Greenbelt Fund and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) that aims to increase the amount of Ontario foods purchased through municipal, school, university and hospital food service settings. Continue reading Local food made easy

Bringing local farmers and food buyers together

Growing mesclun mix

As an unabashed advocate for local food and farming, I was thrilled to see that here in Guelph we have an officially recognized local food champion in our midst.

Leslie Carson, of St. Joseph’s Health Centre, was honoured in the 2011 Local Food Champions Report, part of a series of initiatives by the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation and the Greenbelt Fund to connect Ontario’s farmers and food producers with public institutions.

Schools, universities, hospitals, day-cares and other public sector facilities are large-scale buyers and consumers of food. This represents a significant market opportunity for Ontario farmers — but one that currently isn’t being filled to its potential. Continue reading Bringing local farmers and food buyers together

Keeping tabs on where the cows are

RFID tags are placed in an animal's ear

Many modern-day pet owners microchip their four-legged companions.

This is to help identify them should they become lost, injured or otherwise harmed in some way.

Farmers are doing a similar thing with their beef cattle.

They’re using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to keep track of their animals as they move from farm to farm at various points in their lives.

These tags, which are placed in the ear, store information about each animal, such as its farm of origin, age and identification numbers, to help farmers and processors maintain and promote food safety and traceability. Continue reading Keeping tabs on where the cows are