Headwaters Food Summit aims to drive local agriculture forward
Registration is open to anyone who would like to spend the day learning about local foods from farmers, producers, and why it’s important to develop a regional food strategy.
Food producers, distributors, restaurants, chefs, food retailers and consumers will be represented at this first event to show their support for working together to build the food future in the Headwaters region.
Karen Hutchison of Caledon Countryside Alliance, Eat Local Caledon has been making connections at trade shows to bring together food producers and food buyers in the region for four years. The groups have been doing an annual trade meeting as well as an assortment or different presentations and meet and greets to increase the local food trade.
“This year, working with the local health unit, Headwaters Communities in Action, Hills of Headwaters Tourism, Dufferin.biz and some other groups, we brought together the idea of putting together a food summit for the Headwaters region,” Ms. Hutchison said. “This is really unique. Essentially, what we’re trying to do is bring together all the people who are interested in rebuilding the food and farming system in Headwaters.”
She says some of the driving force behind this effort is the negative net income of some local farmers and the statistic of one in five Canadian children going to bed hungry.
“We’re hoping that they will understand the possibilities of what we can do to change our food system and we that we will develop a regional food strategy.”
Ms. Hutchison says we currently don’t know what the regional food strategy is going to look like but it’s certain that a collaborative effort will result in a regional food strategy that supports a diverse, sustainable and just food system and promotes economic vitality.
Those are some of the components involved but summit organizers will also be looking to find where the energy is, what groups can commit to what to increase on this slow building movement.
“We’re now looking at the (food system) as the most important economic driver in the Ontario economy,” Ms. Hutchison said. “Many consumers now are concerned about their food. They’re interested in local food and so it’s a really good time to help rebuild our rural economy around the food system, because we know that there’s lots of spin-off benefits.”
She went on to state that agra-business and food has surpassed manufacturing in many of the indicators. It is a multiplier system; when consumers buy local food the farmers will then turn around and spend their money locally on farming supplies etc.
After registration, attendees will have time to speak with other community members or vendors before the event’s highlights.
The keynote presentation will be by Lauren Baker, coordinator of the Toronto Food Policy Council. She will speak on the “What, why and how of creating a local sustainable food system.”
There will also be a panel discussion from leaders within the Ontario food system who will share their insights and ideas for strengthening the Headwaters regional food system.
Janet Horner, executive director of GTA Agricultural Food Roundtable, will discuss the strategy they have developed for the greater Golden Horseshoe. Graham Corbett, owner of Fiddlefoot Farm, will talk about creating a just, diverse, sustainable food system.
Amanda Montgomery, Community Programs
Manager of the STOP Community Food Centre will discuss STOP’s creative way of looking at food, which teaches people about food, how to work with it, how to cook it, use it and where to get it.
Spirit Tree Cidery representative Tom Wilson will be talking about the opportunities in local food and farming from the farmer’s vantage point and how the farmer can use local opportunities to change that game. In the afternoon, Ms. Hutchison will talk about some of the programs at Eat Local Caledon.
Michael Potters, Chef de Cuisine of Hockley Valley Resort, will discuss markets and what it is about our local food culture that is so exciting to him as a chef, and Ryan Hayhurst, Chair of Guelph Wellington Food Roundtable, will talk about coordinating and moving forward and what they have learned from their Guelph roundtable.
“Then we’re going to talk a bit about how we move forward and some visions for a strategy, what’s happening on the provincial level,” said Ms. Hutchison.
She says the donations will demonstrate the good of local foods but put an emphasis on Headwaters food specifically, not just Ontario.
Participants will then be invited on a garden tour at Hockley before the food fair from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.
“We’re going to have tables set up where some of the local food either growers or processors or restaurants have a half a table and can tell people what they’re producing or growing and how they’re using local food, just telling their food story,” said Ms. Hutchison. “What usually happens is that they will meet other people and it builds community, builds business relationships.”
She added that the food system can be a powerful drive behind the local economy, especially in a region like Headwaters.
“I think it’s a really important opportunity for us in Headwaters to learn who’s interested in helping move forward our food system,” she said. “There can be a lot of social, environmental and cultural good that we can do along the way, food is a community connector, it’s part of our history and it’s part of our future.”