Celebrating Ontario Agriculture Week
Jim joined Opposition Leader Tim Hudak and colleagues from the PC Caucus at the International Plowing Match and Rural Expo in Earlton, Ontario on September 22, 2009.(Queen's Park Report - October 5, 2009) What do road de-icers, windshield washer fluid, soap, paint, toothpaste and spark plugs all have in common? Give up? They're all spin-off products made from corn. This serves to underscore how much we continue to rely on agriculture and the products made by the agricultural industry in our daily lives. It also illustrates how seldom we realize the debt we owe to the Ontario farmer and other agricultural workers for the high quality of life based on technological advances that we enjoy.
In Ontario, we pay tribute to our farmers during Ontario Agriculture Week, held each year beginning the Monday before Thanksgiving. The week is intended to pay tribute to the entire Ontario agricultural industry and all those who work within it. This includes everyone from potato farmers in New Tecumseth, corn producers in Clearview and apple growers in Clarksburg. They all deserve special recognition and grateful acknowledgement.
Ontario's agricultural industry is among the best in the world and we should be very proud and supportive of it. We should also be better informed about it.
As our friends at the Ontario Federation of Agriculture tell us, the agri-food industry (farmers, processors, wholesalers and retailers) provided over 752,000 jobs in Ontario in 2006. This translates into 11.6 percent of Ontario's employment.
In 2006, Ontario farmers spent $7.8 billion to be able to produce food and received $8.4 billion from the marketplace for their products. Food and beverage products generated $24.1 billion in annual food store sales. In fact, more than 200 commodities are produced in Ontario including fruits, vegetables, livestock, honey, dairy, poultry, grains and oilseeds. When it comes to our agriculture industry, we definitely do have something to be thankful for!
It's not just today's prosperous Ontario that we have to thank our agricultural sector for. The very foundations of our province were established and then developed by our agricultural industry.
The first European farming community in Ontario was located at the mission fort of Ste. Marie Among the Hurons in the seventeenth century. Our province's first livestock was raised there and the first vineyard was planted there as well. Later in the eighteenth century, loyalist settlers arrived in Ontario and were settled here by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe into farming homesteads across what was then Upper Canada. The first agricultural college was established at Guelph, by a Scots loyalist.
It is no exaggeration to say that the history of Ontario is reflected exhaustively in the history of Ontario agriculture. Ontario's establishment as the economic engine of Canada today is also due, in greater part, to the Ontario agricultural industry.
Ontario Agriculture Week is a time for colourful and festive celebrations of our agricultural heritage at the local level province-wide, and designed to afford a greater emphasis for the many local harvest festivals throughout Ontario. It also offers the agricultural community an opportunity to celebrate and share its achievements with all citizens of Ontario.
So, at Thanksgiving time and during Ontario Agriculture Week, let's be thankful for all that we are blessed with here in the province of Ontario. And one of the greatest of those blessings is, in fact, the Ontario farmer.