Agriculture Drives Norfolk Economic Development Strategy

Friday, June 21, 2019

Norfolk County Council approved a new Economic Development Strategy earlier this month, with agriculture aptly recognized as a strong economic driver.

“Agriculture is important to the economic development strategy, because food production, farming and agriculture is Norfolk County’s second largest industry sector after manufacturing, in terms of export values,” explains Clark Hoskin, Norfolk County’s Director of Tourism and Economic Development. “In the most recent Census of Agriculture, Statistics Canada calculated that gross farm receipts in Norfolk County totalled $519 million, up 43% compared to five years previous. Total farm capital amounted to $3.3 billion, up 57% compared to the last Census.”

Norfolk County has the most farms in Ontario, reporting over $2 million in income. Their farmers also employ more workers than anywhere else in Canada: 6,493 seasonal workers, 812 full-time and 314 part-time. (stats found here.)

So it’s no surprise that during the Strategy’s consultation phase, ‘agriculture and tourism’ was identified as one of Norfolk County’s key economic strengths, and ‘agriculture and food’ as a key opportunity. The final Strategy agrees.

Some of the agricultural recommendations in the Norfolk County Economic Development Strategy include:

Enhance municipal regulations, processes and communication
‣ Review municipal agriculture property taxes

Support existing growth businesses

‣ Prioritize food processing, tech-related agriculture, culinary and sustainable tourism

Attract emerging industries
‣ Prioritize food processors that value our terroir and use Norfolk County bounty
‣ Build an agri-food showcase and culinary-tourism centre
‣ Promote on-farm diversified uses of appropriate size and scale

The Norfolk County Agriculture Advisory Board was heavily involved in the Strategic Plan review, as were agriculture stakeholders at the Agriculture Round Table.

Clark Hoskin has also shared some early wins with us:

  • Council has passed farm-friendly changes to property taxes, including adopting the optional on-farm diversified uses tax class offered by the province
  • Council has also passed several changes to the zoning by-law which will allow for on-farm diversified uses on agricultural lands, meaning that only building permits will be needed for farm breweries, wineries and distilleries, as well as farm / agri-tourism experiences and on-farm accommodation

View the final approved version of the Economic Development Strategy online here.

Kudos to Norfolk County for recognizing and celebrating the significant role agriculture plays in our local economies and communities!

Curious to learn more about Norfolk County’s agriculture sector? The county is Canada’s top grower of asparagus, ginseng, peppers, pumpkins and tart cherries, and Ontario’s top grower of cabbage, rye, strawberries, squash and zucchini. Livestock production is also on the increase in Norfolk County: chicken up 23%, goat up 43%, hog up 13%, beef up 6%. Norfolk County farmers are also ranked number one in technology and automation use per acre compared to any other Census Subdivision in Canada. Learn more here.