The Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance (GHFFA) announced Thursday, October 31, that the anticipated Asset Mapping Phase 1 Project Report has now been completed. The official announcement and discussion of the findings took place in Simcoe, Norfolk County at the Municipal Agricultural Economic Developers Conference.
The project comes as a key part of the “Grow the Cluster” pillar of our Action Plan. The information will form the focal point for advancing economic and social analysis of the assets and identifying gaps within the food and farming cluster that need to be addressed as priorities.
To set these priorities, we mapped agri-food supply chain assets across the Golden Horseshoe including farms, processors, and distributors, as well as infrastructure, research centres, and the service industry. The project represented a decisive step towards building “Foundational Data” to support the Action Plan and assist the GHFFA partnership in presenting the strengths and challenges of the agri-food industry across the Golden Horseshoe. It will serve as a building block for data enhancement in future phases of the project.
The report looks at geographical distribution, occupational distribution and trends, size distribution, and sector economic trends, with a focus on which sectors are thriving, retracting, persevering, and diminishing. Now standardized and centralized, the data has allowed for an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the existing assets, while identifying existing gaps and profiling emerging economic opportunities within the regions’ food and farming cluster.
Strong activity is shown in the two specialty crop areas of the Golden Horseshoe: the Niagara Region and the Holland Marsh. A thriving landscape sector is identified both in the growing of landscape products and the employment in the service sector. In food processing, the Grain/ Milling/ Bakery sector is thriving with potential for more growth, while the meat processing industry shows consolidation and an underrepresentation in the region.
Unprecedented, this is the first time such a diverse group, with members of the Alliance, all the encompassing regions and municipalities, and their economic development staff, have come together to collaboratively work on such a complex (and mutually beneficial) project.
Thus not only is the completion of this landmark project report a great success in that it will point to areas of needed focus to better our food and farming sector, the documented process can also act as a guide for any other groups who wish to map agri-food assets in the future. Overcoming many barriers and challenges along the way in collecting and organizing such a wide array of various tracked data, the GHFFA has a new pool of knowledge and experience, along with an in-depth documented process, that we are happy to share. Partial funding and data for the project was obtained from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
The Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance is eager to see the numerous beneficial impacts that will come from the completion of this phase of the asset mapping project. A project of such reach is important in helping us understand how crucial the food and farming sector is to the economic development of the Golden Horseshoe area. The project has confirmed that the agri-food sector is an essential component of the economy for both the rural and urban areas of the GHFFA region; the Golden Horseshoe region accounts for 38% of total Agri-Food businesses in Ontario.