Immigrants to farm ethnic crops with $400,000 grant



    TORONTO, Sept. 6 /CNW/ - Thanks to a $400,000 grant from the Friends of
the Greenbelt Foundation, immigrants to Canada will soon be farming bitter
melon, okra, green chilies and sweet potatoes and other ethnic foods in
Ontario's Greenbelt.
    The grant to the University of Guelph's Centre for Land and Water
Stewardship program will establish a new training farm on the Greenbelt for
immigrants and young people. The farm will also test new ethnic crops and
includes a support program to help graduates own their own farms.
    The program is based on research undertaken by the University of Guelph
and published in its report, "Planting the First Seed: Creating Opportunities
for Ethnic Farmers and Young Farmers in the Greenbelt." Consultations with
Chinese, South Asian, Pakistani, Korean, African, and Hispanic immigrant
communities and young people revealed a strong interest in farming, but cited
major barriers such as a lack of access to capital and credit, no access to
farmland, and little connection to Ontario's existing and aging agricultural
community.
    The report, which was released today, was funded by a $62,000 grant from
the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation to the University of Guelph a year
ago.
    "As our farmers retire we need to keep lands productive and ensure we are
securing a local food supply in the Greenbelt region. This area is more
diverse than ever and this should be reflected in the food we grow," says
Burkhard Mausberg, President of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation. "With
this grant, steps can be taken to ensure that the immigrants living in this
area have the opportunity to farm and the chance to buy locally grown ethnic
food."
    The Greenbelt spans 1.8 million acres across Southern Ontario. The area
stretches from Niagara Falls to Tobermory to Peterborough and encompasses
farmland, rural communities and green space such as forests, wetlands and
watersheds.
    "With the number of farms, farmland and farmers declining, the importance
of creating opportunities for a new generation of ethnically diverse farmers
and young farmers becomes extremely important," says Dr. Stewart Hilts of the
University of Guelph. "We are confident that with the support of the Greenbelt
Foundation, we will provide these opportunities with the help of a training
farm."
    A recent public opinion poll conducted by Environics for the Greenbelt
Foundation found that one-third of Ontarians say their consumption of ethnic
or multicultural foods has increased over the past five years. The poll showed
57% prefer that ethnic foods come from local farms.
    "Many immigrants arrive in Ontario with education and experience in
agriculture, but they are settled in cities where they have no connections
with the farming sector of Ontario," says Iffat Zehra, Director of Community
Economic Development for Immigrant Women. "On the other hand, the immigrant
families are buying imported vegetables, spices and herbs in Toronto, which
can be grown here. This grant helps provide immigrants interested in farming
with what they need to become successful farmers. That means land, knowledge
of local soil and weather and equipment."
    Collaborators on the report include CEDIW, FarmStart, Toronto and Region
Conservation Authority, Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training
(CRAFT).

    The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation began its work in June 2005 as an
independent, charitable foundation with a mandate to fund not-for-profit
organizations in support of farming, the environment and rural communities
located in Ontario's Greenbelt. To date, the Foundation has announced grants
of nearly $10 million. Polls show over 90% public support to protect the
Greenbelt land.

    For a copy of the report and the Environics poll results as well as any
further information, please visit www.OurGreenbelt.ca

    Description of CRAFT and CEDIW:

    Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) - provides
training to would-be-new farmers in organic agriculture through season-long,
on-farm internships.
    Community Economic Development for Immigrant Women (CEDIW) - an
Ajax-based organization that creates social and economic opportunities for
those who might otherwise be restricted from fully participating in the
economic life of the community.




For further information:

For further information: Jennifer Asselin, Friends of the Greenbelt
Foundation, (416) 960-0001, jasselin@ourgreenbelt.ca; Dr. Stewart Hilts,
University of Guelph, (519) 836-7657, stew_hilts@uoguelph.ca

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Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation

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