By Jim Barber – Bay of Quinte Living
All you have to do is take any of the scenic roads through the Bay of Quinte Region to see with your own eyes the significance of agriculture in the area. Rolling hills filled with fields of cash crops, grains, and vegetables; pastures dotted with livestock of many kinds, farmers selling their wares and markets or at their gate, as well as the various local products created from locally-sourced resources.
All of this points to a thriving sector that is not only a major engine in the region’s economy but is also becoming increasingly important as a way of bringing in new residents and new investment.
“Promoting the agriculture sector is part of our overall plan. And that plan is to bring more people in to visit the area, more people moving to the area and more people investing in property and business in the area. For the whole Bay of Quinte region the lifestyle we have here is not just about great events, great golf and the water, it’s a lifestyle that includes local food of all kinds grown practically in our back yard,” said Andrew Redden, Hastings County’s Economic Development Officer.
“Concepts like the ‘100-mile diet’ are of great benefit when you are marketing the lifestyle of the Bay of Quinte Region. It speaks to the overall quality of life to know that you can go just a few minutes down the road and get quality food right at the farm gate. And you can talk to the farmers and get to know who they are. So you know that when you are at home enjoying the vegetables or meat, or even maple syrup, you know where it comes from, you know the person who produces it. More and more people are looking for that sort of thing.”
And there are a number of organizations in the region that are doing what they can to promote that lifestyle. One of the more innovative is Harvest Hastings.
Back in 2008 a unique grass roots organization came together to help promote the local food growing, production and sales chain, as well as principles of food security and sustainability for the region.
You can visit Harvest Hastings at www.harvesthastings.ca
Harvest Hastings’ stated objectives include a ground-breaking “marketing and branding initiative whose principal objective is to promote local food and resource production, and educate the general public (including children) on the availability and merits of consuming local food and other agricultural commodities produced in Hastings County.”
It also seeks to develop a vibrant and innovative local food economy, create a locally-based distribution infrastructure through the supply chain, “which recognizes a strong regional food system, which supports sustainable production and broad access to health food for its population, is a significant determinant of health communities.”
Redden said his office has worked closely with Harvest Hastings, as well as the broader agriculture and agribusiness community to promote the sector as a draw for new residents and businesses.
“What Harvest Hastings is trying to do is help people find out where to go to find produce and met locally instead of just going to the grocery store. It has been a great initiative and there is always more that we can do,” he said.
“And if someone wants to come here and farm we will work with them and help them make the right connections. And we also work with the producers of the people producing the end product and the value-added agrifoods like craft brewing and cheese making, or the folks making vinaigrette or wine or even high end exotic meats and breads. We are working to market what is literally becoming a self-contained food chain, and it’s similar to the model being used in Prince Edward County with their wine tours.”
He said there is also a more concerted effort throughout Hastings County, and indeed the entire Bay of Quinte to partner local producers with local restaurants to get them to use local meats, dairy products, wines, cheeses, breads and produce.
“There are so many great products from this area and so many great restaurants. To me, it’s a natural partnership that works for everyone,” Redden said.
Statistically in Hastings County alone there is more than 120,000 acres of farmland with nearly four per cent of the entire labour force employed in the agriculture sector. Less than a decade ago, more than $65 million was generated by the sector in the county. Extrapolate those numbers into neighbouring Northumberland and Lennox & Addington Counties and you can understand the key role agriculture and agribusiness has in the economic and community development possibilities for the entirety of the Bay of Quinte region.