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February 26, 2024

As a provincial organization representing growers, the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) has long focused the bulk of its advocacy efforts on the Ontario government. We regularly engage and meet with elected officials, political staff and bureaucrats with respect to files and issues that affect fruit and vegetable growers right across our province.


Many of those issues, such as labour, crop protection and even safety nets, are national in nature and although the provincial government has a role to play, ultimate jurisdiction lies with the federal government. We’ve always relied on and supported the efforts of our national organization, Fruit & Vegetable Growers of Canada (FVGC), but in recent years, we’ve also increasingly been initiating federal government outreach as pressure on growers continues to increase.


There is a third pillar of government that also affects growers and their businesses, and that’s the municipal level. It was during the COVID-19 pandemic when pandemic-related rules and restrictions at times varied widely between jurisdictions that our sector first got a true picture of the significant impact local governments and agencies can have on fruit and vegetable operations.


Municipalities also govern a wide range of other issues, policies and regulations ranging from storm water management to approval for worker housing and more. The province is a patchwork of inconsistent approaches, and agriculture and food production aren’t officially part of many municipal policies and plans. That’s even though the majority of Ontario’s 444 municipalities are either rural or border on rural communities.


The Ontario fruit and vegetable sector grows 125 different crops, generates more than $4.2 billion in annual economic activity, including more than one third of Canada’s total fruit and vegetable production, and supports almost 100,000 direct and indirect jobs.


Despite that, even fewer local jurisdictions are aware of the unique needs of the fruit and vegetable businesses in their communities, particularly related to the seasonal and temporary foreign workers that are an integral part of so much local production.


This leaves growers frustrated and unable to expand their businesses or move ahead with improvement projects or forced to incur additional costs to meet municipal requirements – and they’ve increasingly been reaching out to OFVGA with their concerns.


Although OFVGA does not become involved in local or regional issues – as an organization we work on issues that affect all fruit and vegetable growers regardless of geography or commodity – there is a role for us to play in building relationships with municipal stakeholders and raising awareness of the unique needs of our sector.


After participating in the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference last summer, OFVGA for the first time in January 2024 had a booth at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA). The goal: starting to navigate how to interact with this new audience.


These conferences provide a unique opportunity to introduce delegates to the OFVGA, help raise awareness of the sector and its needs and opportunities, and build relationships with municipal stakeholders to help shine a light on the issues impacting growers.


Our team had a steady stream of interested visitors pass by our booth during the two-day trade show, and we took every opportunity to engage with those visitors about our sector, what we grow, where our production is located, and how municipalities and growers can work together for mutual benefit.


There was also significant interest in our More Than A Migrant Worker initiative. Seasonal and temporary foreign workers have a significant presence in various Ontario municipalities, and this was an opportunity to highlight their contributions as well as draw attention to the many benefits of the program, its local economic impacts and ongoing work by industry and government to increase worker benefits and protections and address myths and misconceptions.


Our ROMA participation was a valuable introduction for our team into the world of municipal government and administration and we look forward to continuing that engagement and building new relationships as we move forward.

Alison Robertson, Executive Director

Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers' Association 


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Submitted by Karen Davidson on 26 February 2024