Agriculture and Agri-Food Update - October 22, 2020

In this edition:

Community News
  • Celebrating York Region Farmers
  • York Region welcomes first high-tech grocery warehouse in North America
  • Pumpkin picking in York Region
  • Governments Investing $26.6 Million to Further Protect Ontario Agri-Food Workers
  • Staying safe at work and at home
Funding Programs
  • Ontario provides small businesses with $60 million in funding
  • New energy bill relief for small businesses
  • Three new federal income benefits
  • COVID-19 business resources
Other News and Events

Celebrating York Region farmers

Earlier this month we celebrated Ontario Agriculture Week - a time to celebrate and thank the hardworking farmers across our province and in York Region.

Home to more than 700 farm-based businesses, York Region farmers produce everything from fruits, vegetables, meats and eggs to maple syrup, honey and wine. An additional 270 food and beverage manufacturers process and package locally sourced food that is sold to restaurants and retailers in York Region and beyond. 

During this week we shared stories from local farms to highlight their unique operations and how they fit into the overall sector, including Hiveshare in Georgina, Pine Farms Orchard in King and Reesor's Markets in Whitchurch-Stouffville.

Check out the spotlights

York Region welcomes first high-tech grocery warehouse in North America

York Region continues to demonstrate that it is a tech and agri-food powerhouse.

On September 18, Sobeys marked the official launch of its new distribution centre, a facility of 250,000 square feet or about the size of 15 hockey rinks. The launch comes after Empire, Sobeys' parent company, said in July it plans to spend $2.1 billion over the next three years on revamping stores and expanding its e-commerce offering.

“It’s a huge hive of 250,000 totes carrying 39,000 different products, which is the most in the world. On top of our huge hive are our robots running around picking around and optimizing.”

Read the full story

They're back, and ready to be picked

With fall comes changing colours, Halloween and of course, pumpkin picking!

There are plenty of farms to choose from, with some offering pick-you-own, curbside pickup and more. To find a patch close to you, check out the York Farm Fresh Guide Map - your guide to finding locally-grown and produced products from across York Region.

Check out the map

Governments Investing $26.6 Million to Further Protect Ontario Agri-Food Workers

The governments of Canada and Ontario are taking additional steps to help farmers better protect the health and safety of agri-food workers in the province during the COVID-19 outbreak to ensure the continued supply of locally grown food all year round.

A new agreement between Ontario and the federal government will see Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada invest an additional $11.6 million to help support efforts by Ontario producers to stop the spread of COVID-19 on their farms. Actions such as building physical barriers for worker separation, upgrading HVAC systems and enhancing hand-washing facilities will be eligible for this funding

Read the full announcement

Ontario provides small main street businesses with $60 million in funding through PPE grant

The Ontario government proposed legislation that would support small businesses. If passed, the act will remove hurdles faced by small businesses and allow them to pursue new opportunities — while maintaining or enhancing protections for public health, safety and the environment.

The plan includes:

  • A one-time grant of up to $1,000 for eligible main street small businesses to help offset the unexpected costs of personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • Ontario's Small Business COVID-19 Recovery Network, which links 47 Small Business Enterprise Centres across the province as places where small businesses can access tailored advice and information
  • Digital Main Street Squads to help small businesses grow online.
Read the full announcement

New energy bill relief for small businesses

Are you a small business struggling to pay your energy bills?

The Government of Ontario is providing $8 million to support small business and registered charity customers who are struggling to pay their energy bills as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. The COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program for Small Business (CEAP-SB) provides a one time, on-bill credit to eligible small businesses and charities to help them catch up on their energy bills and resume regular payments.

Learn more and see if you qualify

Three new federal income benefits

With the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) retired, the Government of Canada is has announced new supports for transitioning workers that are not eligible for Employment Insurance. The new programs include: 

  • A Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) of $500 per week for up to 26 weeks, to workers who are self-employed or are not eligible for EI and who still require income support.
  • A Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) of $500 per week for up to two weeks, for workers who are sick or must self-isolate for reasons related to COVID-19.
  • A Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) of $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household, for eligible Canadians unable to work because they must care for a child under the age of 12
Canadians will be able to apply for the CRB, CRSB, and CRCB through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for one year up until September 25, 2021.
Learn more about the new programs

COVID-19 business resources

We know businesses continue to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic. York Region Economic Development has compiled resources that can help you find federal and provincial funding programs, webinars, resources and more.

You can also view industry resources specially curated for the agriculture and agri-food sector.

Visit the resource page

Staying safe at work and at home

With a recent rise in new cases across York Region and a return to modified Stage 2, we're reminding all residents and businesses to follow York Region Public Health guidelines.

  • Farmers seeking information and clarification regarding temporary non-resident farm worker housing and isolation periods can contact Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 (prompt 4) to speak with a Public Health Inspector:
  • Temporary farm workers should not attend work if symptoms develop and isolate within the housing accommodation
  • If a temporary farm worker is unable to adequately isolate from other housemates, alternate arrangements must be made
  • To learn how to prevent and manage COVID-19 outbreaks on farms, read COVID-19 Guidance: On-Farm Outbreak Management, provided by the provincial government
Get more tips and resources on staying safe

Other News and Events

Selling Food to Ontario Webinar

When: November 5, 2020

This webinar will help you create new opportunities for your farm or food business by learning how to expand into new markets such as restaurants, food service, food retailers, institutions and other wholesale buyers.

Topics include:

  • market channel opportunities (who buyers are, how they purchase food and what they expect)
  • basics of food regulations
  • getting your product listed in a retail store and keeping it there
  • food packaging and labelling (different packing design types and materials and labelling requirements)
  • mega trends in the food industry – risks and opportunities
Learn more and register

Workplace Safety and Prevention Services

WSPS Safety Connection webinars can help you stay up-to-date on legislative updates, new and emerging hazards, and trending topics in health & safety. From specially-crafted COVID-19 sessions for the agriculture and agri-food sector to the latest health and safety resources, this series is the best way to stay informed.

If you need more free resources about health and safety or COVID-19 controls, please contact Bill Chen at

Learn more

Growing a Better Future

Hosted by Huron County, the virtual 2020 Municipal Agriculture Economic Development and Planning Forum is taking place from November 18 to 19. Registration details will be available shortly, but make sure you save the date. Over the next few months, check out Ontario’s West Coast to learn more about Huron’s innovative food and beverage producers and agri-tourism operators.

Learn more
Shopping local? Visiting a York Region farmers' market? Remember to use the #loveYRfood hashtag on social media - your posts may just end up on our page for all to see!
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