HALIBURTON COUNTY, ON – A recent forum has led to ideas to “enhance Haliburton’s food system”.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit sent out a press release yesterday detailing the findings of Harvest Haliburton after a food forum in March.

According to the health unit, a consultant, Melissa Johnston wrote a report that summarized the “key findings” to come out of the forum.

The six key points that Johnstone highlights as possible enhancements includes the creation of a “taste of the county” brand to highlight local food to residents and visitors, building an online information hub that allows people to easily access locally made food, reviewing current policies and regulations that might hinder food production, explore if its feasible to create a local food distribution model, set up an Agricultural Economic Development Advisory Committee for Haliburton County, and finally put climate change and food security at the forefront of all food-related initiatives.

“Food is central to our lives, and for Haliburton County, it is equally critical to seize on opportunities with its own local food system,” Johnston explains. “The economic development opportunities are abundant.”

A case in point, she notes, is creating a Taste of Haliburton brand for its food system, be it crops, products, experiences or businesses. “Let’s capitalize on this area being a tourist destination and make a Taste of Haliburton central to the experience given to visitors,” Johnston says. “It’s really a no-brainer.”

Going hand-in-hand with this branding initiative is the potential for an online hub where residents and visitors could get information on local food. “It would be one centralized place where people can go to get information,” Johnston says. “The site could also map out locations for growers, restaurants, farmers’ markets and the like.”

Elsie Azevedo Perry, a Public Health Nutritionist with the health unit, is excited by what lies ahead to support and grow the local food system in Haliburton County. “Eating local benefits all of us is good for our community and is great for the environment and local economy,” she says. “In general, local food tends to be fresher, more flavourful and full of nutrients, and does not need to travel great distances to get here.”

Harvest Haliburton will share the report’s findings with forum attendees to spark discussion and will present the report to municipal councils in Fall 2019. In the near future, a roundtable of key stakeholders will also be held to develop action plans for each priority area. “We want to move beyond talk into action,” Johnston says, “and come out of the forum with tangible results that can be discussed and explored further by the community.”