By Manotick Messenger Staff
Not only is farming the backbone of Rideau-Jock and Osgoode, but it is also a big part of the engine that drives Ontario.
Ontario Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Lisa Thompson was a guest at MPP Goldie Ghamari’s Farmers Appreciation Breakfast at the Richmond Memorial Community Centre Sat., Feb. 25. The free breakfast was attended by well over 200 people, with many from the farming communities in and around Manotick, Richmond, North Gower and Osgoode.
It was the first Farmers Appreciation Breakfast hosted by Ghamari since the COVID-19 pandemic began three years ago. Minister Thompson had an event in her riding the previous night and left Bruce County at 9 p.m. to make the long drive to rural Ottawa to join Ghamari at the event.
“We rolled into here at 2:51 a.m. so we made it!” Minister Thompson told the large crowd. “If you have to head east, it’s a good time to roll because the 401 is not very busy.”
The Minister and MPP greeted and engaged with most of the people who attended the breakfast. Minister Thompson took particular in meeting local farmers and members of agricultural families. She grew up in the 4H program and showed her first calf at the age of 11.
“It’s an honour to be here as your Ontario Minister of Agriculture,” she said as she addressed the crowd. “I have to tell you our Government at Queen’s Park truly values and gets small towns, rural areas and our agricultural sector. Agriculture always has been and always will be a cornerstone of the economy. One in 10 jobs in the province of Ontario is directly connected to the agri-sector. People around the world are looking to Ontario to produce good quality food that they can trust, and they want to build relationships with our province.”
Minister Thompson commented that she was still suffering from jet leg as she had just returned from a trade mission to Japan and VietNam. She was with an entourage that represented five of Ontario’s commodities – beef, pork, wine, ginseng and grains and oil seeds.
“It was more than just building relationships,” she said of the trip. “At the end of the day, after 10 days of non-stop meetings and events – we actually had over 100 business meetings – we signed four memorandums of understanding, and we have a number of return visits already in the hopper.”
One of those visits will be made by representatives from Costco in Japan, who will be coming to Ottawa to talk about Ontario food products.
“On the other side of the world, people want to know where their food comes from,” Minister Thompson said. “I think in Ontario sometimes we take it for granted. I was awestruck by the stories of the grocery stores in Japan and VietNam. You go in, and you visit the fish counter. There are loud speakers and there is a voice explaining each and every type of fish. There are signs in the meat counters and displays that show this cut of beef is from this part of the animal. It’s similar for pork as well.”
Thompson was surprised to see displays for beef from Conestoga, Ontario, and from Brussels, Ontario, in her own riding.
“People appreciate what we do here,” she said. “It’s our job as elected officials to remind people that Ontario’s a pretty special place in our nation. We produce 200 commodities.”
MPP Ghamari added that the diversity in commodities was particularly evident in the Carleton riding.
“We have a wide variety,” she said. “We have greenhouses, we have a vineyard, we have beer, cash crops, soy, beef, pork, cattle, dairy, chicken, eggs, produce, berries, tomatoes, apple orchards, horses – anything you can think of we have.”
Minister Thompson added that 70 per cent of Ontario produce is exported to the United States.
“We have a strong export presence and we are going to grow that as well,” she said. “I learned something today in terms of the diversity of agriculture in Carleton, and it will certainly help us showcase everything you have here.”
Ford Supports Agriculture Industry
According to Minister Thompson, Ontario Premier Doug Ford is support and appreciative of the agriculture industry and its direction.
“We are going to lead by example,” Minister Thompson said. “We created a strategy over the last 14-16 months and made it an action item called Grow Ontario. It was formed by hundreds of people through consultations and submissions. We are going to be sure that we have a secure and stable supply chain. We learned a lot through the pandemic. We need to take care of ourselves first.”
Another element of the Grow Ontario plan is to increase research and innovation.
“We’ve got strong research stations here in Eastern Ontario,” she said. “We’re going to keep pushing the envelope because the world is looking for good protein. Not only animal protein, but animal protein as well. I’ve met with the ambassador from the Netherlands and Denmark recently, and they are looking for oats. They are looking for soy. They are looking to our grains for alternate proteins.”
Retaining talent is also a key element of the plan.
“We are going to make sure people know that agriculture can provide good careers, and I would respectfully suggest careers for life for men and women,” the Minister said.
Councillors Support Agriculture
Osgoode Councillor George Darouze and Rideau-Jock Councillor David Brown were also on hand for the breakfast. Both are involved with the local agricultural community. Darouze is the Chair of Ottawa’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and has supported numerous farm and produce operations in the Osgoode Ward. Brown, who grew up as a member of the 4H Club, was a fixture with the Richmond Agricultural Society and Richmond Fair boards before running for council. He also sits on the Ottawa Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.
“Farmers work hard every day to put food on our tables,” Darouze said, who added that Ontario was very lucky to have Minister Thompson looking after the agriculture portfolio because she grew up in the industry and understands the history of agriculture in the province.
“As the Chair of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, I will be, as usual, fighting for our farmers day in and day out.”
Rideau-Jock Councillor David Brown told the crowd that Ottawa was, geographically, the largest municipality in North America.
“With 80 per cent of our land mass being rural, that really puts us in a unique position,” he said. “Fighting for the resources to make sure we are recognized as a unique community is a big struggle that Goerge and I and the rest of our rural colleagues will be pushing for in this term at council. We want to make sure we are recognized out here as being unique as having a different way of life. It’s okay to be different, and one size doesn’t fit all.”
The 4H Club and its programs were referenced frequently by all politicians and many of the breakfast’s attendees. MPP Ghamari introduced the local 4H Ambassador Rhianna Gallagher, who is also this year’s Ottawa Carleton Plowman’s Association Queen of the Furrow.
Minister Thompson was happy to see a strong contingent of 4h members, supports and alumni.
“I grew up in that program and I attribute a lot of what I do to what I learned in that program, and the friends that I made,” she said. “One thing about being Minister of Agriculture and having grown up in 4H and the Junior Farmer Program, you can pretty much go to any county in the province and know somebody, or be connected to somebody.”
Ghamari thanked Thompson and the Councillors, the attendees, and the volunteers and workers who helped make the breakfast possible.
“Agriculture is one of our backbones, and farmers support us and our government is here to support farmers,” she said.
Feature Image: Carleton MPP and Ontario Minister of Agriculture Lisa Thompson spoke to approximately 200 local residents at Ghamari’s Carleton Farmers Appreciation Breakfast held at the Richmond Memorial Community Centre Sat., Feb. 25.