David Cohlmeyer Sustainable Good Foods Consultant

We better start preparing for CETA

It is such a joy to see that Kathleen Wynn’s Ontario government and her Ministry of Agriculture starting to appreciate that local agriculture and food is already the largest contributor to the economy, and with some help could once again become even larger. On the other hand, a key part of the Stephen Harper’s Federal government agenda has been to increase international corporate control for boosting the economy (i.e. decreasing local purchasing decisions and environmental regulations). He is now actively encouraging this collapsing system by trying to launch the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Europe.

The last time something like this was launched was the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). But this had more to do with enabling trade and investments while protecting labour and the environment. Since agriculture was not really part of this agreement, Canadian (and Mexican) farmers have had to unfairly endure an onslaught of heavily subsidized American foods. To avert a catastrophe, Canadian winemakers proactively created the successful Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA). This time we need to proactively redesign most of our agriculture and food systems – especially the dairy industry. [It is terribly insensitive for Loblaws to cease selling local Organic Meadow milk at this difficult time.]

In preparation for these coming changes, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food has just announced Designation Consultations to create systems similar to the VQA. These could strengthen a variety of businesses to better serve local customers and to cope with CETA obligations. The Ministry has also just passed the Local Food Act to increase supplies and awareness of local foods. And the Ministry recently launched the Local Food Fund to help build local food networks, enhance technological capacity, research best practices, and (most importantly) educate consumers. To learn how you might access this fund, download this Local Food Fund Guidebook.

Operate your farm as a business;
so your lifestyle can become your living.

Cost-Share Supports announced earlier this year include Broader Public Sector Grants (to bring more local foods to public hospitals and universities), Market Access Grants (to establish local food hubs and distribution), and Growing Forward 2Capacity Building grants to help farmers and processors install tried-and-true practices that facilitate effective decision-making. Plus there are several additional supports only available in certain locations. These are all meant to help local food and agriculture activities augment profits.

    I have been busy learning the intricacies of all these so that I can now more successfully guide you through the application process.

There is more than just Government support

The Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems is being launched by Wilfrid Laurier University on November 14th. They will be conducting systems research, knowledge dissemination, and network building. Much work needs to be done to repair our current unsustainable system that leaves too much of the world’s population either over-nourished or under-nourished (and the disease and conflict these trigger).

Sustain Ontario is again hosting its grand biennial Bring Food Home conference from November 17th – 19th. The Windsor location may seem a long distance for some, but they promise to provide great networking. There will be sessions on just about every aspect of Sustainable Agriculture and Food. I will be on a panel discussing Sustainable Food in Foodservice.

The McConnell Foundation has partnered with Food Secure Canada to offer a Food Business Boot Camp program. A series of eight webinars and a 1½-day free Workshop in Montreal on November 26th-27th that will cover topics such as: ascertaining the business landscape, data-based modelling, business structures, financing strategies, operations planning, monitoring growth, and evaluating impact. I will be participating in a “drive by consulting“ session and a “friendly Dragon’s Den” for the participants in Montreal. Then I will lead an Operations Planning webinar in 2014. After attending the Montreal Workshop and joining all the webinars, you may be eligible for a $5000 one-on-one coaching grant.

Regent Park Farmers’ Market is closed for the season, but a dozen Wednesday vendors are expected to return next summer. Paint Box supported this pilot by paying the first year’s insurance. Photo by Chris Klugman.
Regent Park Farmers’ Market is closed for the season, but a dozen Wednesday vendors are expected to return next summer. Paint Box supported this pilot by paying the first year’s insurance. Photo by Chris Klugman.

Start looking outside the Box

For many years I provided Chef Chris Klugman with produce for his acclaimed restaurants. His latest venture has a social mandate to help welfare victims from the adjacent Regent Park (Canada’s oldest and largest social housing project) into satisfying and well-paying food service work. Paint Box is Canada’s first B-Corporation restaurant and catering business. As LEED certification is to buildings; B-Corp certification is to businesses. To qualify, a business must be conceived to benefit all stakeholders with the 3-P’s – People, Planet and Profit. All the workers are trained then paid more than minimum wage, local ecological foods are actively sourced, and then comes the profit.

Start looking at other jurisdictions

After making a decision to open my first restaurant, I was torn between doing this in either Toronto or Santa Fe. So it was a treat to revisit this enchanting city. My priority was to visit the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market. Urban contributors have fostered a vibrant year-round facility for their local farmers. With over $1-million in donations, they have erected a building on the city-owned Railyard. In addition, they provide beneficial services for their 150 farmers who are rising to the challenge of growing food in a high-dessert climate (zone-5 – the same as Toronto). The market provides professional development scholarships for farmers to attend conferences, workshops and courses. They also provide low-interest easy-to-access $5-10,000 micro-loans that have benefitted over 2/3’s of the market’s famers. And they sponsor cooking classes to encourage customer use of seasonal ingredients.

All this has resulted in more and better products at the market. On a brisk Saturday morning I experienced:

  1. blue atole corn flour simmered into a wonderfully chocolaty hot beverage
  2. Greenhouse grown everbearing Mara des Bois Strawberries from which it only takes a whiff to close a sale
  3. Chilies of your choice freshly roasted while you watch
  4. Both sun-dried and fire roasted Chicos made from field-corn kernels, that are now on Slow Food’s Arc of Taste
  5. Restaurant suppliers conferring with their farmers to determine availabilities for next week’s pickups and deliveries
  6. Jars of olive oil macerated in freshly chopped garlic; which is in turn mixed into feed for real garlicky-chicken
  7. A butcher offering weekly CSA boxes of selected choice meats
  8. Fatty Mangalitsa pig meat (from the 19th century Hungarian Hairy Hog)
Stanley Crawford is as delightful to talk with in person, as it is to read his novels, essays and poems.
Stanley Crawford is as delightful to talk with in person, as it is to read his novels, essays and poems.

A highlight of my visit was meeting the author of my favourite book. Stanley Crawford is a Taos area garlic farmer who wrote A Garlic Testament (1992 and still in print), which I have praised and lent, to many foodie friends. I describe this masterpiece as a Philosophy of the World from Garlic’s point of view.

After an absolutely delightful day, we returned to our Bread and Breakfast for another highlight that should also be introduced to Ontario. A daily Sunset Wine Soiree is a terrific way to expand the captivating B&B morning conversations that always seem to end too abruptly.

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Contact David Cohlmeyer

David Cohlmeyer smiling with his farm in the background
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6556 Line 9, RR #3
Thornton, On, LOL 2N0