APRIL 2021
The York Region Agriculture and Agri-Food Update newsletter shares highlights from York Region's business community, including news, upcoming events, new funding programs and more.




Ontario Government Implements Province-wide Shutdown and Enacts Stay-at-Home Order

In response to increasing cases of COVID-19, including rising numbers of variant of concern cases, the Province of Ontario has declared a State of Emergency and issued a province-wide Stay-at-Home Order effective 12:01 a.m. Thursday, April 8. All Ontarians are urged to stay home and only leave for essential reasons, such as purchasing groceries or medication. Attending a COVID-19 vaccination appointment is considered an essential purpose and residents are encouraged to continue to register for and attend COVID-19 vaccination appointments once they are eligible to receive the vaccine.

Businesses required to close or significantly restrict services due to provincial public health measures can continue to apply for support. Now, more than ever before, all residents must follow public health measures especially staying home as much as possible.


Spotlight on Local Business: Ozery Family Bakery


When Al Ozery and his son Alon opened Pita Break in 1996, they had no idea this sandwich shop that made 200 pitas a day by hand would become a full-fledged manufacturer producing 10,000 pita breads an hour on highly automated production lines.

Today Ozery operates a 100,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility in Vaughan.  Alon and Guy Ozery run the company, which employs about 200 people. Ozery is known for its innovative baked goods such as Morning Rounds, OneBuns, and Lavash crackers.


Meet The 2021 York Region Food and Beverage Accelerator Cohort

The Regional Municipality of York and York University’s YSpace are excited to announce the newest and biggest cohort in the program yet! On May 4, the York Region Food and Beverage Accelerator will kick off with 12 innovative food ventures ranging from an avocado-based natural supplements company called Metavo to a shelf stable plant-based meat kit from Netophyto Foods.
In the next five months, each company will receive weekly educational workshops, a dedicated industry mentor, and customized support based on their company objectives.


Calling All York Region Producers!

We're updating our internal directory of primary producers, and as a local agri-business, we want to make sure we have your updated information to share agri-food program information and make industry connections to enhance local food sales. 

We also are giving producers that sell to the public the opportunity to appear on an upcoming local food page on - helping promote your business and increase your exposure!


Farm Boy Opening New Location in Richmond Hill


Residents of Richmond Hill and York Region will soon have another grocery shopping option. Farm Boy announced it will be opening its 37th store on April 8 in Richmond Hill.

“Customer shopping has definitely changed throughout the pandemic,” said Jean-Louis Bellemare, president and general manager of Farm Boy. “We’ve upgraded our meal-ready solutions in store with new full-service salad and hot bars, along with a variety of to-go options that are convenient and nutritious. We are excited to show Richmond Hill the Farm Boy experience — rooted in fresh, wholesome food, along with exceptional customer service.”


York Region Companies Turning to Online World to Cope With COVID-19

Sandra Hutchings ordinarily would not have opted to take her Georgina farm – Hutchings Farm high-tech. But after the pandemic hit, she knew she had to do something to help her business. She turned to TakuLabs, which has piloted its e-commerce solution in York Region. This new solution was recently launched with assistance from the Digital Main Street Lab program, in partnership with ventureLAB.


The 2021 Census of Agriculture Is Now Faster and Easier to Complete

The Census of Agriculture is an important tool for gathering valuable information for farm communities and decision-makers. It gives an up-to-date picture of the Canadian agriculture sector by identifying trends, opportunities and challenges that have an impact on the industry.

This spring, all Canadian farm operators will be asked to complete the Census of Agriculture 2021 questionnaire.


Farm Income Projected to Increase

During a period when numerous routines have been disrupted, Canada’s overall farm income picture has never looked stronger. The Farm Income Forecast — a tool for monitoring income in the farm sector and understanding the short-term outlook for primary agriculture – indicates that the economic situation for many farmers and farm families has remained positive. The sector is shown to be weathering impacts on the food-supply chain well, and farming decisions have been adjusted accordingly.


Town of Georgina Wins Festivals and Events Ontario Award


The Town of Georgina has won a Festivals and Events Ontario (FEO) Achievement Award for its Field to Table Farm Tour. The virtual event, which took viewers to eight local farms, was broadcast live through Facebook on July 25, 2020. Viewers were given virtual tours, received behind the scenes access, listened to educational talks and learned about local products available for purchase.


Members Appointed to Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council


The Government of Canada has announced the membership of the Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council, a central component of the Food Policy for Canada. The Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council’s 23 members bring together diverse expertise and perspectives from across the food system, including the agriculture and food sector, health professionals, academics, and non-profit organizations. Members also represent Canada’s geographic and demographic diversity.

The Council will advise the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food on current and emerging food-related issues that matter to Canadians.


Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame


Seven agricultural leaders will be inducted into Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame in a virtual ceremony later this year.

This year’s inductees include York Region resident Terry O’Connor, Stan Eby, Roger George, Herbert Norry, Delbert O’Brien, Dr. Peter Sikkema and Doug Williams. Each are being recognized for their life-long contributions to Ontario’s agriculture sector.

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Ontario Budget: Supports for the Agriculture and Agri-Food Sector

The Ontario Government released the 2021 Ontario Budget, Ontario's Action Plan: Protecting People's Health and Our Economy, on March 24. Focused on economic recovery and supporting public health measures, the budget also included new supports for the agriculture and agri-food sector and extending previous programs. While many federal and provincial funding programs apply to all sectors and can be utilized by farms, food producers and many others, the new budget includes the following investments:
  • Enhanced Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program: The program is being extended by one year through an additional $10 million investment. This will support the implementation of measures to prevent and control COVID‑19 and to address unforeseen worker health and safety issues.
  • Supporting Livestock and Processing Capacity: An investment of up to $5 million for a one-year extension for AgriRecovery initiatives to respond to Pandemic-related challenges have resulted in disruptions in some meat processing facilities and backup of livestock on farms.
  • Supporting Local Alcohol Producers: A one‑time $10 million grant in 2021 to help wineries and cideries impacted by lockdown measures, and help ensure that agricultural production and local jobs are maintained in Ontario’s rural communities.
  • Increasing funding for the Small Distillery Support Program by an additional $1.2 million in 2021–22 to help small distillers recover from the impacts of the COVID‑19 pandemic.
  • Permanently allowing licensed restaurants and bars to include alcohol with food as part of a takeout or delivery order to help restaurants, bars, breweries, wineries and distilleries rebuild and recover.


Canada Emergency Business Account Extended

The deadline for new Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) applications is being extended from March 31 to June 30, 2021. CEBA provides interest-free loans of up to $60,000 to small businesses, to help cover their operating costs—such as rent, utilities and insurance—during a period where their revenues have been temporarily reduced

The extension will allow more businesses to access the support they need as Canada’s economy continues to deal with localized public health restrictions and, for a number of businesses, reduced opening hours or reduced demand for services. Extending the application deadline to June 2021 also aligns CEBA with the timelines of other federal government support programs for business.


COVID-19 Business Resources and Funding Programs Overview 

To help you make sense of all the available funding programs and resources, we continue to update our COVID-19 Business Resource page that contains information on supports announced by the federal, provincial, and municipal governments, as well as, events, and other pertinent information to impacted businesses. 

Primary Funding Support Programs:

View More COVID-19 Business Resources
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How An Online Store Can Boost Your Business: Free Ontario Program

Thursday April 15, 2021

Having an online storefront can be a major boost for your business, and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted this even further. ShopHERE provides independent small businesses and artists with a quick, easy and no-cost way to get selling online right away. The goal of ShopHERE Powered By Google is to build and optimize online stores for small independent businesses and artists in just a matter of days. With ShopHERE, businesses get to expand their selling opportunities into the online market.


Government Funding for Hiring & Training

Thursday April 15, 2021

Targeted hiring and training programs can help Canadian companies scale operations and reduce talent gaps. But despite the clear benefits of workforce development, few companies allocate enough capital to attracting and nurturing world-class talent.

During the Government Funding for Hiring & Training webinar, attendees will learn about the top government funding programs that can offset a portion of hiring and training costs by up to 50-83%.


EMC Food and Beverage Sector Event

June 3, 2021

The Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium (EMC) of Canada is hosting a special Food, Beverage, Bio and Ag Sector Networking Event  that will focus on "Change Management - Overcoming Resistance, Building Buy-In and Getting Real Results"!

The event will examine: 
  • Controlling the narrative over change
  • Learnings from a challenging change journey case study
  • Creating the case for change and the rally cry for others to fully engage
  • Building resiliency and driving results during times of personal and professional adversity

Recap: All About Specialty Crops Workshop Series

Throughout the month of January and early February, an All About Specialty Crops Workshop Series was offered virtually in partnership with Durham Farm Fresh, York Region, York Farm Fresh and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs. If you missed out and are interested in learning more about specialty crop production, hops, cannabis, hemp, specialty fruit and nuts, specialty herbs and or specialty vegetables, recordings are available online:
View all Business Events
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The York Link team is here to help and are committed to supporting local businesses. We are still providing business advisory and consultation services, information on business resources, support for startups, and more in a virtual capacity at this time.

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