Large demand for local food council hears

By Chad Ingram

Demand for locally produced food far outweighs its production.

That finding is part of a recently completed community food assessment results of which were presented to Haliburton County councillors by Highlands East homesteader Andrew von Zuben during a March 23 meeting.

“I want to take this opportunity to get people to see food as a renewable resource” von Zuben told the room adding that agriculture is one of the quickest-growing sectors in the community. “A good healthy food system is good for our environment.”

The assessment included research about the county’s agricultural past and present as well as interviews with farmers restaurateurs and grocery store owners.

“Demand for local food far exceeds current production levels” von Zuben said. “We need to have that cultural food to match up with the new tourists we want in our community.”

Culinary attractions along with outdoors adventure and arts and culture is one of the three pillars of Haliburton County’s tourism strategy.

A researcher and database consultant were hired surveying more than 50 food businesses or programs and mapping all food access in the community.

“People are looking for retreats and agricultural properties” von Zuben said.

A consultant also reviewed the official plans of Haliburton County and its lower-tier municipalities and von Zuben said local food producers want to have a working relationship with local municipalities and in particular have influence on planning decisions since they directly impact food production.

A number of local food advocacy groups are uniting under the banner of Harvest Haliburton.

Von Zuben is taking his presentation to each of the county’s lower-tier councils as well.

A number of community partners collaborated on the assessment project including but not limited to the Haliburton County Farmers’ Market Association Abbey Gardens the Haliburton County Farmers Association the Haliburton Grain CSA and Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition.

At a recent forum hosted by the farmers association a specialist from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs said there is a particularly strong demand for sheep and goats in Canada with grocery store owners saying they could sell much more goat and lamb if it was available and only 42 per cent of the meat in the sheep and goat market supplied by Canadian farmers.