Sudbury's Collège Boréal has partnered with multiple non-profit organizations across northern Ontario to identify the barriers to local food production.
The study is supported through more than $350,000 in federal funding through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
In addition to the college, the Northern Ontario Farm Innovation Alliance, the Rural Agri-Innovation Network (RAIN), the Greater Sudbury Food Policy Council, and the Thunder Bay + Area Food Strategy have partnered on the project.
Boréal has been working in the agricultural research industry since 2018 and noticed the same concerns kept coming up when researchers were working with non-profit organizations.
"We noticed one of the topics that kept coming back was food security and local food procurement in the north," said Sabine Bouchard, the college’s manager of research and innovation.
"As we know in northern Ontario, food costs tend to be higher than southern Ontario due to transportation costs, but also because of the barriers and misconceptions around local food procurement."
Bouchard told CTV News that one goal of the project is to look at what is happening and understand what the barriers are on each level.
"So the producers, processors and consumers and try to see – can we connect them, is their issues in connecting them together? How can we really improve the local food procurement in northern Ontario?" she said.
The three-year project will include professors and students in the agricultural program, analyzing data collection. Questions will be answered regarding small and large consumers.
"Where do they get their food? Are they looking at local food, if not, why not? And can we help address that? Do we have the capacity to produce for ourselves and if yes what would that look like?" said Bouchard.
David Thompson, director of the RAIN said the project is exciting. RAIN focuses on building resilience in the agricultural sector in Algoma.
"So our project really aims at allowing northern producers to scale up, to the wider wholesale market for greater food security in our region, which is pretty big," he said.
Thompson told CTV News it is challenging for producers in the north to get food to market.
"Getting local food to market is tougher for producers in a region that’s three times larger than the United Kingdom," he said.
"Through the project, we see a lot of value in enhancing supply networks which we're seeing new innovations every day that can help get food to market more efficiently as well as more effectively."
While the project is still in its early stages, Thompson said the work has been successful so far.
"With the project and the growth of local food optimism, we're already starting to see some results from some producers and we're seeing some markets expanding," he said.
"We've already gotten to know producers who are successful entering the wholesale market."
The project will run until May 2026.
View the original article on CTV News Northern Ontario here.
Header image credit to
Amanda Hicks/CTV News, 2023.