MM’s first Agricultural Business Luncheon declared a success

The Mississippi Mills Agricultural Advisory Committee hosted over 100 local primary and secondary agricultural business owners along with representatives from various commodity groups and support organizations at a luncheon at the Almonte Civitan Club on Thursday March 22.

Agriculture is a significant economic driver in Ontario. 11% of Ontario jobs are related to Agriculture and Food. In Lanark County, every job in agriculture creates 9.8 jobs in related fields and every dollar in farm gate sales creates $1.92 in other local sales.  The Agriculture Advisory Sub-Committee was created in 2017 and represents the present and future of agriculture in Mississippi Mills. A municipal council sub-committee that reports to the Community & Economic Development Committee, it provides recommendations on issues of impact to the agricultural community for the benefit of the entire Municipality.

The Community and Economic Development Committee have been hosting well-attended quarterly business breakfasts for over three years. The Ag committee members felt a luncheon timeframe would work better for local farmers and the idea of a separate luncheon was developed.

Committee Chair Allan Lowry, of Penlow Farms, opened the event with a welcome and introductions. A key objective of this event was to introduce local agricultural producers to their Ag committee representatives, municipal councilors and senior staff, many of whom were in attendance.  Allan explained the process leading up to the creation of the committee and touched on some of the areas the committee has already been able to advise council on, that impact the agricultural industry.

Tiffany MacLaren, Community Economic & Cultural Coordinator for Mississippi Mills updated the group on some upcoming initiatives at the municipal, county and provincial level that are being implemented to further support the industry and encourage a strong local agricultural sector moving forward.

Scott McLellan, Chair of the Community & Economic Development Committee brought greetings from his committee and also provided an update regarding the MM2020 initiative.  MM2020 is a volunteer team of local residents who are committed to bringing broadband internet to the entire Municipality.

The Ag committee invited a short list of guest speakers to provide updates at the event. The presentations were diverse and inspiring. Keith Bean updated on some exciting progress being made towards better agricultural education for local students. Stay tuned for an announcement on this coming soon.  Terry Jones from Farm Credit Canada reminded everyone of the upcoming deadline for FCC’s AgriSpirit Fund which supports rural communities across Canada.  In 2010 the Mississippi Mills Fire Department was a recipient of the AgriSpirit Fund for their department’s Training Centre.

Omid MacDonald of Dairy Distilleries talked about his new business, opening this spring. This innovative operation will utilize milk permeate to produce high quality alcohol. Omid invited everyone to visit his new distillery currently finalizing construction on Industrial Dr. in Almonte. Arlee Sheets of Rocking Horse Farm addressed the group and expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to meet other farmers face to face, something he finds increasingly rare in today’s environment.  Arlee and Diane Sheets produce everything from soap to meat servicing a growing demand for local product.

Alan Nanne, third generation Dairy farmer at Nandale Farms, took the opportunity to talk to the attendees about his family’s progress through succession planning. He emphasized the importance of supportive planning and communication at both the municipal and provincial level to ensure family farms continue to operate successfully in our area. Alan expressed optimism with the sector outlook thanks to the creation of Mississippi Mills Agricultural Advisory and work behind the day’s event. Grant Martin was given the floor to introduce himself.  He and his wife Pam (nee Deugo) are the new owners of the Cedar Hill Christmas Tree Farm. Grant grew up in southern Ontario and was a dairy farmer prior to purchasing the tree farm.

Jim and Jacob Davies of Farmgate Cider provided an update on their progress with the recent purchase of a third farm on Comba Lane, Pakenham. Demand for their cider has continually exceeded production and they continue to look for new ways to increase productivity; including a recently successful tree share initiative that has them “borrowing” trees across the municipality, increasing productivity and providing apples or cider to the property owner in return.

Andre Rieux and Dean Bowes approached the podium together. Andre is the owner of successful Pakenham Brewery Cartwright Springs. Dean of Bowes Family Farms is in the process of investigating the opportunity to cultivate hops barley to meet our region’s growing demand. This potential partnership demonstrates a need the Agricultural Advisory Committee hopes to address: linking farmers to regional opportunities.

Almonte Civitan staff served a delicious hot lunch. This inaugural event was offered free of charge to attendees thanks to local sponsors: Bean Chevrolet, Bank of Montreal, Cochran Seeds Almonte, Cochran Business Solutions, Almonte Veterinary Services, Farm Credit Canada, and M&P  Equipment Sales

Overall the feeling across the event was one of optimism and anticipation. Committee members were encouraged by the turnout and reception. Watch for updates on their next event.  If you would like to be added to the invitation list please contact Tiffany MacLaren at 613-256-1077 or tmaclaren@mississippimills.ca.