From Farmers’ Markets to World Crops: six ways Greenbelt grants are supporting local food

Jul 29, 2015

Agriculture is an important part of Ontario’s Greenbelt. By providing us with fresh local food farmers help keep our communities healthy and our economy strong - we can all be part of this by making sure to get more local food on our tables!

Here at the Foundation, we’ve invested in agriculture by distributing over 85 agriculture grants since Ontario’s Greenbelt was created in 2005.

Below are 6 ways that the Foundation has supported local food over the past decade:

Farmers’ Markets - They let us enjoy the bounty of the region while getting to know the people who grow our food. They also directly support the local economy and reduce the carbon footprint of our food by reducing the distance it has to travel. And the best news is that with the help from the Foundation, more and more farmers’ markets are cropping up, making it easier for us to buy local food even closer to home.

From building local food awareness at the market, to strengthening local farmers’ markets by creating the Greenbelt Farmers’ Market Network - which have grown to include more than 100 markets since 2009. We’ve invested in farmers’ markets across the Greenbelt to ensure they continue to provide us with fresh locally grown produce. Our work with the Ottawa Street Farmers’ Market in Hamilton is a great example. A Foundation grant helped make the market a lasting success by providing the needed funds to recruit local farmers, to hire a market manager, and to launch a marketing campaign to attract new customers and broaden community support.

Energy Efficient Farms - Greenbelt farmers have always been stewards of the land and the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation is committed to working with Greenbelt farmers to help them develop even greener practices to help keep their land, and the Greenbelt as a whole, healthy and productive.

The Greenbelt Farm Stewardship Program is one such initiative. The program helped support over 800 farmer-led projects that helped protect water, cut chemical use and conserve wildlife habitats. Another program, the Greenbelt Green Energy Program for Agriculture, helped connect Greenbelt farmers with cost share opportunities to encourage adoption of energy-saving practices on their farms and to promote green energy generation for farm use. A participating broiler chicken operation in Durham reduced their electrical costs by 91%!

Research - Ontario’s Greenbelt has a number of natural and locational agricultural advantages that ensure we have access to a variety of fresh local produce all year round. To ensure agricultural viability the Foundation has invested in numerous research reports to determine agricultural best practices - from a report on the viability of growing different types fruits and vegetables throughout the Greenbelt to identifying barriers for local food production, distribution and sale.

World Crops - Ontario is a multi-cultural hot spot with an ever increasing number of New Canadians from around the world. In an effort to expand agricultural markets the Foundation has invested in a number of world crops projects to bring crops from across the globe to Ontario tables. From investing in research to increase the production of ethno-cultural vegetables to driving awareness and demand for the sale of these products, the Foundation has increased farm viability by expanding agricultural markets.

The Vineland Research Station, in partnership with the Foundation, conducted research and trained farmers in crop production, completed a market analysis, and developed partnerships with retailers. We have also increased the presence of world crops to the public through the promotion of world crops at Canada Blooms in Toronto, World Crop Learning Gardens in Hamilton, Markham, and Brampton, and through the distribution of ethno-cultural guides in Toronto.

Local Food Awareness - How do we make sure more food gets from Ontario farms to Ontario dinner plates? By making sure Ontarians know all about the great fresh local food Greenbelt farms produce! From partnering on culinary tours, agricultural days, and educational programs, the Foundation is committed to making sure Ontarians know how to access all the healthy local foods the Greenbelt has to offer. is one such initiative. This free online tool supports the enhancement of agriculture and economic activity in your community and the Greenbelt by helping consumers find fresh local food grown in Ontario’s protected Greenbelt. With more than 600 farmers’ markets and farms, allows consumers to search for fresh local food that is closest to their location.

Wine - The Greenbelt’s world renowned Niagara region has a total of 84 VQA wineries and 1,187 VQA approved wines - that’s a lot of wine! To support this industry the Foundation helped get VQA wines into farmers’ markets, supported the creation of a winery trail and invested in best practices for environmental stewardship. The Foundation’s also supported a wine-grape replant program, a program that help farmers covert from juice grape production to wine grape production.

– Andreea Nicoara

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