Site visits took place on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011. Site visits were full day trips that allowed participants to experience and learn more about Ontario’s Greenbelt, and lunch was provided.
Click on the Tour titles for a full description.
Niagara Culinary Trail Tour: Welcome to Niagara, tender fruit and wine country. Most of the tender fruit and wine grapes are grown on the strip of land that bordered by Lake Ontario and the escarpment, while fiddleheads and melons nestle in the Port Colborne Bog. Apples and maple syrup can be found in the beautiful hills of Effingham and in between is an edible journey including the culinary entrepreneurs inspired by locally grown food who turn it into exciting food products such as wine curds and ice syrup. Delegates will also have the opportunity to learn about the eco-friendly initiatives and sustainable approaches to wine making.
Holland Marsh Tour: The Holland Marsh, one of two “Specialty Crop Areas” in Ontario, is one of the largest concentrations of horticultural production in North America. The Marsh, which covers approximately 18,200 acres, is a mixture of approximately 60% agricultural production and 40% wetland and is known as the “salad bowl” for Ontario. In 2006 the Marsh represented between 8% and 14% of the total annual vegetable production in Ontario. The majority of farms in the Marsh are less than 70 acres in size, and production is dominated by family owned operations.
The Marsh Growers’ Association has taken advantage of its location close to almost 5.5 million consumers and has developed a “Holland Marsh Gold” brand. To promote the brand and improve the profile of the Marsh, a marketing program has been established that profiles individual growers, providing consumers with the name and face of the farmer who grew the produce they are consuming. As well, many Holland Marsh growers have been or are in the process of having their production certified as local and sustainable by Local Food Plus (LFP).
This interesting tour of the Holland Marsh include stops at the Muck Research Station, the drainage canals led by farmer representatives of the special drainage commission, a packaging facility at LFP certified Carron Farms, and a local greenhouse facility at Riga Farms, featuring ethno-cultural crops.
Crawford Lake Iroquoian Village/Cootes to Escarpment Park System Tour: The day will begin at Crawford Lake Conservation Area which is nestled within the Niagara Escarpment, UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Crawford Lake is and a prime site for archaeological and geochemical studies. Within the 468 hectare area, delegates will step back in time for a tour of a reconstructed 15th Century Iroquoian Village, and participate in a traditional fire-starting and sampling of cornbread and sweet water.
After Crawford Lake Conservation Area, the group will travel to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington for a overview of the Cootes to Escarpment Park System during lunch. This will be followed by a walk to the Great Falls at Smokey Hollow and a tour of the park system and it’s important features. Finally, the group will go to the Royal Botanical Garden’s Arboretum for a short hike down to Cootes Paradise, highlighting lookouts of the Park system and the Niagara Escarpment.
Rice Lake Grasslands Tour: The Rice Lake Grasslands, comprised of tall grass prairies and oak savannah, are considered among the most endangered ecological communities in North America. While at this time of year there is little grass to be seen, delegates will have the opportunity to take a Spirit Walk (weather permitting) with a member of the Alderville First Nation.
With generous support from the Oak Ridges Moraine Foundation, the Nature Conservancy of Canada has been working in this area for years. They will share their experiences with a multi-year outreach initiative that made direct contact with most of the farmers and other rural landowners in the Rice Lake Plains project area, including the tools being used to conserve and care for conservation lands (both public and private), and successes on this landscape-scale collaboration
Urban Food Accessibility Tour: Debbie Field, the Executive Director of FoodShare Toronto will describe the work of FoodShare Toronto, Canada’s largest community food security organization. FoodShare’s mission is to work with communities to improve access to affordable, healthy, and sustainably produced food. FoodShare has developed a variety of programs such as the Good Food Box, the Fresh Produce Program for Schools and Agencies, and Good Food Markets that provide healthy produce at affordable prices through community outlets. Last year FoodShare sold over $2 million worth of fresh produce, 56 percent of which was from Ontario.
Following lunch, the group will head to the Stop Community Food Centre, another organization dedicate to increasing access to healthy food for everyone, using community-based approaches. The Stop’s Green Barn is located in the redeveloped historic Wychwood streetcar barns in the heart of Toronto. The Green Barn includes a year-round greenhouse, sheltered garden, bake oven, compost demonstration project, community kitchen and classrooms.