Monday, 20 October 2014

The need to feed

In my last post I talked about London’s thriving biotechnology sector. Now, I’d like to talk about one of London’s other economic strengths, and arguably a more widely recognized one – agriculture and food production.

London is geographically blessed in just about every way that matters to the food supply chain. When it comes to growing and producing food, processing it, distributing it, and finally, consuming it, London has everything it takes to be a hub for fresh, delicious Ontario food.

First, we have the farmland. Although most Londoners live in urban areas, London is actually over 40% rural. As The London Plan reminds us, about 90% of the land London annexed in 1993 is Class 1 agricultural land. Only 0.5% of land in Canada is Class 1 agricultural land, which means our ability to grow high-quality produce is valuable.

London is also well-positioned for food processing and food distribution. Dr. Oetker chose London for its new plant because of our skilled workforce and easy access to key markets (as well as some help from the province). We have the right people for the job. More than 6 000 Londoners are employed in the food and beverage processing sector. We’re also conveniently located on two 400-series highways, close to two of the county’s busiest border crossings, and within a day’s drive of 150 million consumers.

Finally, Londoners have a keen interest in consuming food that is locally grown or locally produced. Londoners flock to food-related festivals whenever given the chance. We have an expanding network of farmers’ markets. We have spots like the Western Fair Farmers’ Market that also acts as a start-up space and incubator for new food businesses. We also have three new craft breweries that have opened in London in the past year.

Londoners know instinctively that growing, processing, distributing, and celebrating food are things we do well. Along with medicine and other biotechnology, this is a sector London’s next council should focus on nurturing. We must also make sure that message gets out far beyond our city boundaries, so that other potential Dr. Oetkers know about our advantages. Let’s show the world all of the delicious things London has to offer!

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