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DFM Farm Summit Notes

- by Leanne Fenez

Farm Policy Summit

Farm and Food Discovery Centre

Dec 15, 2017

Twenty six producers, market coordinators and/or other interested parties came together to discuss issues of mutual concern or interest related to small scale farming in Manitoba. The purpose of the gathering was to create an opportunity for networking, gather information from producers and provide feedback and direction to the board of directors of DFM on the issues that members of the organization are most interested in and would like the board to work towards resolution.

Members had been invited to submit topics of interest in advance or bring them to the discussion:

The following topics were discussed during the summit:

  1. Recent changes in practice and expectations of MB Health for vendors selling at Farmers’ Markets
  2. Broiler Chicken production and recent successful appeal of MB Chicken Producers decisions regarding Specialty Quota Programs for exemption holders.
  3. Opportunities for egg grading to open up new markets and issues of selling eggs at Farmers Markets
  4. Organic Potatoes, exemption limits and access to markets
  5. Mentorship for new/young farmers
  6. Designation/definition of Farmers Markets and the impact of brands co-opting the term.

Each issue was discussed in detail and possible next steps were identified to gain clarity or resolution on the item. At the end of the summit, participants were polled on the issues that were most important/relevant to them and that they wished DFM would work towards.

Below is a high level overview of the issue as it was raised as well as next steps explored during the event:

Manitoba Health expectations of vendors selling at Farmer’s Markets

Issue: Recently some markets and vendors have been told that new requirements regarding labels (gaining approval for every different product) are being implemented. This was also being required for all meat products (i.e. whole chicken, cuts of meat). In response to DFM’s initial concern, the Director indicated that while their goal was to reduce duplication of inspections at each market, there may have been mis-interpretation by his inspectors. They are meeting in January and will get back to DFM.

Next Steps: Await outcome of meeting. Advocate for better communication and process.

Broiler Chicken & update on appeal:

Issue: While the appeal that DFM assisted/supported by exemption permit holders against the MB Chicken Producers was successful, this did very little for producers raising meat birds under the 999 limit. In addition, very few if any producers have applied for the new Specialty Quota program. The jump from 999 to 3500 which the new program requires is quite large. The requirements of the new program are prohibitive and it is unclear how flexible MB Chicken Producers would be. If members applied and were denied based on trivial issues then we could step in and appeal.

Next Steps: One member present was/is considering applying.

Egg Grading and selling at Farmer’s Markets

Issue: Cypress River Egg Grading gave a presentation on what they are trying to create. DFM has offered to assist with meeting with the Manitoba Egg Producers with Cypress River as next step. There was some discussion on whether we wanted to try to get MB Health to allow ungraded eggs into Farmers Markets but the consensus of the group was that increasing access to egg grading stations opened up several more markets for producers. There was some discussion of the new rules coming down - SFFC: Safe Food for Canadians Act. 2018. Check it out online. Could make things harder.

Next Steps: Meeting with MB Egg Producers

Organic Potatoes – not able to access wholesale market

Issue: A member raised the issue that they produce organic potatoes and are not able to sell them to wholesale markets as Peak exclusively sources them from a Peak producer. This member is within the acreage limits that Peak requires. While this member did not want the acreage limits raised there was some discussion about that. We found we had more questions than answers around the table.

Next Steps: Educate ourselves about the limitations/rules that are identified in the regulations and communicate those so that people are better informed and the problem can be better defined.

Mentorship opportunities for new/young farmers:

Issue: There was much interest expressed for an increase in opportunities (types, frequency, intensity) for mentorship, learning experiences for new farmers.

Next Steps: DFM to explore grant funding for more mentorship coordination/programming, workshops, farm tours, etc.

Farmers Market’s Designation/Definition:

Issue: The concern was raised that commercial/corporate brands are co-opting the Farmer’s Market terminology and diffusing and confusing the image and brand of true farmers markets out there.

Next Steps: Can DFM help to develop regulations around the words ‘farmers’ market’ and what is means (now grocery stores are even using it). We could look at the ways the word organic worked. Publicity may be effective.

While there was most interest and passion for the opportunities under mentorship, there was interest in all areas along with a willingness to help out.

Thanks everyone for coming out!!