Agriculture and Agri-Food Update - August 12, 2020

Welcome to the first edition of York Region's Agriculture and Agri-Food Newsletter! From the latest stories, news, community initiatives and more, this newsletter aims to keep you in the loop of all things agriculture and agri-food in York Region.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of our agriculture and agri-food sector is even more critical in maintaining York Region’s strong, caring and safe communities. 

We're proud to support our vibrant sector and are pleased to introduce this newsletter. If you have feedback or ideas on what you'd like to see, reach out to us. We'd love to hear from you.

-York Region Economic Strategy

In this edition:

Industry Programs and Initiatives
  • York Farm Fresh 2020 Guide Map
  • York Region Food Accelerator Program
  • Have Your Say in Agricultural Planning
  • Feeding Your Future Project
  • Calling All Agri-Food Tech Innovators!
Overview of COVID-19 Business Resources
Funding Programs
  • York Region Entrepreneurship and Innovation Fund
  • Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program
  • WSIB Health and Safety Excellence Program
  • Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program for Provincially Licensed meat Processors
  • Local Food Infrastructure Fund Phase 2
Other News and Events

York Farm Fresh 2020 Guide Map is Here!

It's back!

The York Farm Fresh Guide Map serves as a guide to finding locally-grown and produced products from across York Region. It lists more than 30 farms and six farmers’ markets to help you find locally-produced products. The map also includes a seasonal availability guide so you always know what fruits and vegetables are in season (hint: potatoes and corn are ready to enjoy).

Passport to Fresh Contest

The popular Passport to Fresh contest has also returned but in a new way due to COVID-19. Rather than walk into a physical location, this year York Farm Fresh has developed five self-guided Passport Routes. At each stop, you simply need to take a photo of the farm you are visiting, share on social media using the #PassportToFresh hashtag to receive a virtual stamp.

Check out the map

York Region Food Acclerator Program

York Region worked closely with York University’s Innovation Hub, YSpace, with support from the Cities of Markham, Vaughan, and Richmond Hill to secure funding from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. The funding has helped establish the first York Region Food and Beverage Accelerator Program based on success from the pilot program led by YSpace in Fall of 2019.

The goal of this program is to engage 18 new food and beverage companies over two years, with the first session scheduled to start this month. The program will be delivered by YSpace and help food companies grow nationally with a focus on business strategy and infrastructure, financial modelling and investments, operational efficiencies, and marketing and sales.

Learn more

Have Your Say in Agricultural Planning

As part of the review of the Regional Official Plan, York Region is undertaking engagement on various topics. A virtual engagement campaign on the Agricultural and Natural Heritage System mapping will be launched shortly.

The Province introduced the Agricultural System in 2017 requiring municipalities to implement this system into their official plans. Part of this system involves growing the prime agricultural land base. There are a number of areas being considered for a change from a Rural to an Agricultural land use designation. Input from the comments on the digital story map will be used to inform the development of a draft agricultural system and natural heritage system maps for York Region Council as part of the update to the Official Plan in 2021.

Have your say!

Feeding Your Future: Connecting Ontario’s Agri-Food Workforce

This Ontario Federation of Agriculture project, funded by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, needs your help to reach agriculture and food employers and job seekers! This project is geared towards attracting new candidates to fill labour gaps in the agri-food industry, and streamline the process of connecting employers with potential employees during COVID-19 and beyond.

Learn more

Calling All Agri-Food Innovators!

There is no shortage of innovators in York Region. Local technology companies have demonstrated their capabilities in a range of industries including agriculture and agri-food. Examples of these companies include:

Do you own an innovative agri-food business? Do you know of one? Reach out to us! We want to highlight and feature these businesses from around York Region.
Get in touch with us

COVID-19 Business Resources

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

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

Visit the resource page

Looking for funding? Apply to the EIF!

The Regional Municipality of York and ventureLAB have launched the latest round of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Fund (EIF). This annual $100,000 fund supports promising early-stage start-ups, accelerators, incubators and community partners by encouraging innovation and supporting business continuity and recovery efforts. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the fund will help support businesses and non-profits across York Region at a time when they need it the most.  
  • Stream One of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Fund program provides qualified community partners with up to $10,000 in funding
  • Stream Two of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Fund program provides qualified small businesses and entrepreneurs with up to $15,000 in funding
Learn more and apply

Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program

OMAFRA has partnered with Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS) to offer the Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program. The program offers information, resources, tools and consulting services to help ensure the safety of employees and farm operations.
Learn more

Emergency Processing Fund

The Emergency Processing Fund (EPF) is a one-time, federal investment of up to $77.5 million to help companies implement changes to safeguard the health and safety of workers and their families due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund also aims to aid companies to invest to improve, automate and modernize facilities needed to increase Canada’s food supply capacity. The fund is one part of the greater Government of Canada response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The EPF will provide up to $5 million per recipient in non-repayable funding for emergency COVID response activities and/or repayable funding for strategic investments.

Learn more and apply

Other Funding Programs

  • WSIB Health and Safety Excellence ProgramThe WSIB Health and Safety Excellence program is a performance-based incentive program, combining the strengths of past WSIB incentive programs and providing a clear path for Ontario businesses to improve their workplace health and safety. 
  • Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program for Provincially-Licensed Meat ProcessorsThrough the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, the Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program will provide funding for Provincially Licensed Meat Processors to implement COVID-19 measures to maintain a safe workplace.
  • Local Food Infrastructure Fund Phase 2: The Local Food Infrastructure Fund (LFIF) is a five-year, $50 million initiative ending March 31, 2024. The LFIF objective is to strengthen food systems and to facilitate access to safe and nutritious food for at-risk populations.

Keep Your Workplace Safe

Effective Friday, July 17, 2020 anyone visiting enclosed public spaces must wear a face mask or covering to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Instructions have been issued in York Region requiring operators of enclosed public spaces to have a policy in place that prohibits persons from entering premises of the establishment if the person is not wearing a face mask or covering.

Tips For Farm Operators:
  • Wherever possible, beds in accommodation units should be kept at least 2 metres apart and only one bunk of bunk beds should be used to facilitate distancing
  • Cleaning and disinfecting schedules are recommended with thorough cleaning and disinfecting occurring at least twice daily
  • Handwashing is still important and the best method to clean hands in farming operations.
  • It’s still a good idea to limit non-essential trips where possible and to monitor who comes and goes from your business/farm
Other Resources

Other News and Events

York Region Agri-Food Webinar Series

York Region has developed a series of webinars to support the agriculture and agri-food sector. The latest webinar, COVID-19 Health & Safety Measures for Farm Operations, features information on keeping your farm business safe. Coming in September, the next webinar will focus on helping companies implement recovery strategies and address the most pressing challenges faced by agri-food companies due to COVID-19.

View the latest webinar

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

PROFIT: New-to-Exporting Virtual Webinar Series

When: Throughout September

Are you ready to enter the US market? Have you entered the US market but are encountering challenges with border regulations, access to distributors or understanding the market? If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of these questions, OMAFRA’s highly regarded, new-to-exporting seminar may be right for you! 

Register now

Get a FREE custom online storefront made just for you

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of having an online presence to sell goods and services. If you own a small business in York Region, you can apply for a free online storefront designed by your own personal designer as part of the shopHERE powered by Google initiative. Through this program, eligible businesses can receive assistance in setting up a Shopify store. 
Learn more

Always in Season: A Toolkit for Local Food Practitioners

When: Thursday August 20, 2020

The Agriculture Economic Development and Planning Community of Practice invite you to join a webinar to learn more about the Always in Season Toolkit and how you can support and celebrate your local agri-food sector.

Register now
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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