Exploring ways to create new local sustainable food systems brought farmers, representatives of agricultural co-operatives and social innovators together in the County of Brant on Thursday.
The Finance, Farms and Food forum, hosted by the Langford Conservancy and Rural Ontario Institute, drew about 60 people to Langford Community Centre on Colborne Street East.
Richard Tunstall, chair of the Langford Conservancy, said the forum aimed to connect food producers, agricultural co-operatives and organizations that promote new ideas to resolve financing issues related to food systems projects.
Photo by Jason Teakle, Brant News: Bob Barnett, executive director of the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy, speaks during the Finance, Farms and Food forum at Langford Community Centre on Thursday.
“Most of Canada’s best farmland is in southern Ontario, while we also have the most development pressure,” Tunstall said. “People think we have plenty of farmland around here, but they don’t see that in the other 90 per cent of Canada you can’t grow food nearly as well.
“Today, we are looking at different ways to create the financing to deal with food issues. Farmland preservation and food security are the main issues. We are making connections between local food producers and marketing food through distributors locally in a closed-loop.”
Eight speakers addressed topics including community bonds, co-operatives and land conservation agreements.
“These are all tools for revitalizing the rural farming community to launch projects,” said Ella Haley, a member of the Langford Conservancy. “This allows for less dependency on banks and traditional forms of financing by turning to the community to help raise funds to create capital.”
Tunstall said it is important for people to invest in the local food industry.
“It allows people to invest in something that is tangible,” Tunstall said. “They get to invest in local food, but also in preserving local farmland. It is something new for people to think about investing in something local. If we get people investing, it is a loan, but you can get it at a reasonable interest rate and you are building your business without the burden of paying back the principal from day one.
“We are matching people that are doing groundbreaking work, people who want to farm and farmers who can offer land and skills.”