Monthly Archives: March 2017

Local Food Or Lottery Ticket

Local food is an important subject that has been gaining momentum in the region over the past few years. This publication has printed a number of articles about local food in the past, including the possibilities for local food, the benefits of it and even the reasoning behind why it’s important. Please consider the following information about the importance of local food.

1) Agriculture and agri-food is the 2nd largest employment sector in the Ontario economy. Increasing the output of local food creates jobs, helps create new businesses and adds more tax revenue to the municipality. Buying local food means that one dollar spent can circulate as many as seven times within the community before it leaves North Grenville.

2) Locally grown or locally made foods look better, taste better and are more nutritious. The food is often harvested or made at the exact right time for best flavour, freshest appearance and maximum nutritional value. Imported food often sits for days in warehouses, travels great distances and gets handled by many people before it gets to your plate.

3) Local food is safer. It’s much less likely to be preserved, chemically treated and will be handled by less people. You also know exactly where it comes from. Livestock are processed in nearby facilities and farmers are more likely to have direct oversight on processing. You can even look the farmer in the eye at their roadside stand or at the farmers’ market and ask them questions. Farmers know their responsibilities to keep food safe and take it very seriously.

4) Local food encourages both environmental and financial sustainability. Farms typically use less municipal services than the value of the taxes that they generate. A cow doesn’t drive on our roads or an apple doesn’t call the police if it’s noisy outside. As well, farms often have their own ecosystems and capture far more carbon than they could ever produce. They also preserve fertile land, protect water resources and can offer a safe habitat for a wide range of wildlife.

5) Local food ensures food security. In 2008, there was a global food crisis where food commodities prices like wheat and rice soared because of global crop failures. It created riots and massive food shortages around the world. By growing and producing more food locally, it decreases the need for importing as much food. This also means that the prices of food would remain relatively stable and only increase incrementally rather than following massive price spikes in the event of global food disasters.

6) The demand for local food has risen dramatically in the past decade. Consumers are seeking out local products more often now. At a recent local business reception, Janet Campbell, the owner of Mrs. McGarrigle’s in Merrickville, told the audience that the biggest change that she’s noticed in her business in the past ten years is that customers are demanding more and more local products and she’s having trouble keeping up.

7) A strong local food system can also help other business sectors like tourism, retail and manufacturing. Having restaurants that serve good local food, having a vibrant farmers’ market, and having local retailers selling local food products can all lead to more tourists coming to North Grenville to spend their money. Manufacturing products from locally grown ingredients can be exported and sold in other parts of the province, country and continent. All of this can lead to more jobs, better paying jobs, less time driving & more time at home for residents, and more municipal tax revenue for improved infrastructure, facilities and services.

Despite all of this, local food has had little or no support politically in this municipality. Without the local political will to pursue the many benefits of local food, it becomes that much more difficult to build a strong, sustainable local food system. Municipal political support makes it much easier to pursue essential funding, and gain access to other critical resources at both the federal and provincial government level. Doesn’t building a local food system make more sense than wishing for a large employer to ride into town (looking to get everything for free) like every other municipality in Eastern Ontario? We’re just as likely to win the lottery. Besides, local food tastes better than lottery tickets.

Going About Local Business

As part of a presentation to council at the Committee of the Whole meeting of February 21, 2017 on the Municipality of North Grenville’s updated Economic Development Marketing Plan, Tom Graham of T D Graham & Associates shared some information on job growth provided by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
Since 2010, just over 1000 full time permanent jobs have been created in North Grenville. Yes, you read that right. This job growth was broken down into the following: retail – 13%, service – 13%, healthcare – 9%, building/trades/trucking – 9%, professional/technical – 6%, financial/real estate – 3%, and ‘other’ 47%. As you can see, not all of the job growth is in minimum wage jobs, which is frequently what happens when an expansion of corporate big box retail shopping takes place like we’ve seen (and will continue to see) here in North Grenville. This is fantastic news! This type of positive story is very rare in today’s economic climate, especially in Eastern Ontario. This is also an indicator that the current efforts and direction by the municipal Economic Development Department is having a positive impact.

Some people think that the biggest indicator of positive economic growth is measured by the number of new large businesses that move into town. Case in point could be the Giant Tiger facility that is going to be built just outside of Prescott. There is a belief that the municipality should have done more to try to bring that operation here because of the number of jobs that it would create. However, there are some points to consider when thinking that we need to attract these types of large operations or businesses.

For example, the Giant Tiger warehouse is actually a relocation and expansion of an existing facility. During the recent Leeds Grenville Economic Development Summit, Giant Tiger stated that most of the employees for the facility will be coming from Ottawa where they are currently working in those jobs. They couldn’t say with any certainty how many new jobs will be created by the move. As a matter of fact, because of the new technology that will be used in the new facility, it may require existing employees to move to other jobs within the facility that otherwise might be filled by new employees. There will be short term employment benefits to the area through trades jobs for construction of the facility, but there may not be much direct permanent job growth. It could be argued that the real benefit to the area will be if all of these Ottawa employees move here and buy homes. North Grenville would be a logical place for these employees to move to as it’s perfectly placed between where they’ll work and Ottawa (where their social lives, friends and family are). If this happens, it’ll become critical to convince these new arrivals to spend their money locally.

Having a diverse job market and business community is much more secure and sustainable simply by being less vulnerable to major financial events or corporate decisions that sometimes cripple areas whose economies are built around a small number of large businesses or only one type of industry or sector. This is very problematic for areas where industries are natural resource based. They can be very vulnerable to fluctuating world market prices (Alberta and oil is a great example). As another more local example, look at areas like Belleville and Brockville whose local economies were significantly impacted by the large loss of jobs at their local Procter and Gamble facilities. If one of these large employers moves to town, it’s a positive at least at first, but insulating these large employers with other diverse businesses that aren’t dependent on their ‘big brother’ is a must.

Not to be forgotten in all of this talk of job growth, is research from OMAFRA that states that in rural Ontario, as much as 80% of job growth actually comes from the expansion and success of local existing businesses. This helps to explain why the local job growth has maybe flown under the radar of most people. It’s unfortunate, but a number of small businesses each adding a few jobs over time doesn’t make the headlines or capture people’s attention quite like the appearance that a Giant Tiger would. This good news also seems to further underline the importance of continuing to support local businesses by spending your money locally. It may mean that someone you know who’s unemployed, gets that newly created job.