September 21, 2023

Eastern Ontario Agri-food Network sets the table for Cornwall funding

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The executive director of the Eastern Ontario Agri-Food Network updated Cornwall council on the organization as it enters the third year of a funding agreement with the city.

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Louis Béland told council the EOAN is seeking $25,000, the amount it received in 2021, 2022, and again when council passed the 2023 budget last month.

“Our collaboration with the city has been absolutely phenomenal,” Beland said, specifically mentioning Kat Rendek, an administrative assistant with the city.

Béland said all that’s missing in the relationship is a Cornwall council member sitting on the EOAN board; he said the last councillor to do that was Eric Bergeron.

“Since his resignation we’ve been looking to fill that, so that we have proper representation at our board for Cornwall interests,” Béland said.

The non-profit membership organization co-ordinates the development of the local agri-food sector in eastern Ontario, fostering dialogue between its members and partners. Béland said has core pillars of supporting members through marketing, capacity building, and advocacy.

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He said that currently there are 21 EOAN members in Cornwall, including Zip Grow, the Spicy Pearl, Pitt Street Garden, Melted Mayhem, Marrow and Spice, Magic Cake House, Job Zone Dave’s Chillies, Bee’s Haus, and ACC Futures.

There are close to 200 members in all, and Béland said that EOAN’s impact includes the local food map with 78 vendors and markets, a Local Food Discovery booklet with 20 vendors, and the Sample the East agritourism curated day and weekend trips, with 10 routes and more on the way.

During a short discussion period, Coun. Dean Hollingsworth asked Béland “is it logical to make the assumption that the (municipalities proving funding, including SDG and Prescott-Russell) are going to be funding this for a long time?”

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Béland said he’d defer fully addressing that until the committee he’s setting up has all municipalities represented.

“I personally believe that the municipalities do have a role in funding, not 100 per cent, but a lot of what we accomplish supports economic development, and more and more tourism,” Béland said.

Hollingsworth then suggested instead of annual requests for funding, that a memorandum of understanding or a partnership where the funding is established over a longer period of time would be a better approach. The question itself pulled from when the EOAN was first established, when the municipal funding sought from the three municipalities was pitched as startup funding, with grants and membership fees eventually covering all of the network’s operational costs.

“(That way) the respective councils can say, OK, do we want to get into this over the long term or not?’. . . It’s probably better for you, and frankly better for us if we know what our potential long-term commitment would be.”

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