Bluewater focuses on growing specialty products from the farm

Mark Cassidy, economic development co-ordinator for the Municipality of Bluewater.

Mark Cassidy, economic development co-ordinator for the Municipality of Bluewater.

HEATHER BOA Bullet News VARNA – Family farming operations that produce specialty products along with restaurants and retail outlets that celebrate local food have potential to become a bigger part of the economy in the Municipality of Bluewater, according to a recent survey.

There are 250 farms over 90,000 acres of farmland in this municipality that borders the southern shoreline of Lake Huron in Huron County. More than 50 per cent of those farms have less than 50 acres. Of those farms surveyed, more than half had less than four employees and the majority marketed their products locally.

“This is the type of farm business the municipality can influence. We can put some things in place that are locally controlled that we can have an influence on,” said Mark Cassidy, who is the municipality’s economic development co-ordinator, when the survey results were unveiled at a public meeting recently.

“We’ll leave the bigger issues to the province and the federal government,” he said.

Cassidy also said family farms are an essential part of rural communities and need to be preserved. The decline in labour-intensive family farms has caused, in part, the closure of schools, banks, gas stations and other businesses in rural communities.

The 25 farms and businesses that took part in 90-minute interviews by the municipality’s economic development department said they expect to grow 10 per cent in the next year and keep growing in the years after that but see a few roadblocks, including limited availability of small parcels of land, red tape in government regulations, poor marketing, and lack of skilled labour in a municipality that has experienced an out-migration of working age people in recent years.

Paul Klopp, councillor for the Municipality of Bluewater.

Paul Klopp, councillor for the Municipality of Bluewater.

The results of the survey give the municipality’s economic development department a gauge of local value-added agricultural business – like farms that sell heirloom vegetables or pork high in Omega 3, and offer sugar bush tours or restaurants that feature local products on their menus – and what can be done by the municipality and the province to help them grow, said Paul Klopp, who is a councillor in Bluewater and a member of the steering committee established to undertake the survey.

The steering committee developed five action items that will be implemented before the end of 2014 to help foster value-added agriculture in Bluewater.

They include: support marketing of local food in Bluewater; strengthen the value chain for value-added farm products and services; increase participation in regional culinary tourism event and activities; connect Bluewater businesses to information and supports for regulatory navigation, access to capital, marketing and training; and implement a business and product improvement survey.

“Most of the actions that have been rising through this process come onto my plate, with your help,” Cassidy said. Many of the actions involve partnerships with the Huron Economic Development Committee, Huron Business Development Corporation, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and agricultural organizations.

For more information, please read the full document.

Written by on March 18, 2013 in Bluewater - No comments

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