February 23, 2024

Agri-food Network promises growth in Cornwall, asks for more money

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This article has been edited to clarify when the EOAN intends to formally request funding for 2024, noting it had mentioned the expected amounts in a presentation to SDG council late last year.

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A non-profit organization which supports the development, growth, and sustainability of local farming and food initiatives will look for increased funding from Cornwall.

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Eastern Ontario Agri-Food Network executive director Louis Béland, addressing Cornwall council on Monday night, didn’t directly say during his 2023 update that the ask for 2024 would $35,000, up from $25,000 over each of the last three years, but mentioned the amounts when he visited with SDG council and with Prescott-Russell with the hope of receiving the increased amount from all three municipalities.

“(Through previous funding support) we’ve done some absolutely amazing work that I look forward to telling you about tonight,” Béland said early in his presentation.

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The network exists to be a stronger voice for local producers, and give them wider reach. It improves availability and access to fresh, locally-produced foods, and contributes to the success of local entrepreneurs, among other benefits. Objectives for 2024 include increasing reach and impact of digital platforms to amplify local producer promotions and marketing power, and increase participation in notable local events to promote members and their products.

EOAN presentation
Eastern Ontario Agri-Food Network graphic as part of the presentation to Cornwall council on Monday night. Handout/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder/Postmedia Network Supplied

During a question period after the presentation, Béland told Coun. Fred Ngoundjo that, yes, developing more partnerships in Cornwall, including grocery retailers, is a goal, and that one being worked on is with the Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce.

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“(That would help) grow our membership base, and have access to larger businesses that can leverage that,” he said.

When it was initially founded, the EOAN sought municipal funding support to seed its launch, but its then-executive told councils the goal would be to move the network towards sustainability through membership fees and program grants available from other levels of government. It has returned each year since its founding to ask for cash from Prescott-Russell, SDG, and Cornwall.

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Béland acknowledged partnerships with larger food chains and grocery stores are “a little bit tricky – it can depend on the franchise owner (and other factors). . . I’m not from Cornwall, I’m not 100 per cent familiar with all of the grocery stores here, but we do have a few partnerships with the Metros, the Foodlands, those types of stores, so that’s something we would look at.”

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Béland in a slide presentation said in spring, summer and fall of 2023, the network had 155 active members across four regions, that 10 EOAN events were held, there were 17 partner events, over 2,500 people reached, there are 82 SavourEastOn.ca profiles with over 28,000 visits, and over $130,000 was reinvested in the community.

Coun. Sarah Good, an EOAN board member for the past year, said membership is growing in Cornwall, and as an urban dweller she’s pleased the organization is transitioning to be more involved with restaurants and grocery stores.

“We’ll be able to see a greater benefit of what this (membership/partnership) really can offer us,” Good said.

The formal funding request will be part of upcoming Cornwall 2024 budget deliberations.

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