By Stephen Dafoe
Sturgeon County – Agricultural diversity and sustainability are the objectives of a new regional food council Sturgeon County has recently joined.
Patrick Earl, Sturgeon County’s economic development officer, said the idea was incubated in the Leduc / Nisku area and has grown to include Strathcona and Sturgeon Counties.
“What the council is – it’s a collection of municipal members, subject matter experts and businesses looking at a value-added agriculture strategy for the Capital Region,” Earl said, adding that in addition to the three municipalities already on board, Parkland County is also considering becoming involved in the project.
The Sturgeon County Economic Development Officer explained the mission of the council is to create a strong, diversified and sustainable food market that will help its members by increasing access to markets, removing barriers to growth and identifying local food products that have the highest market potential. The council would support and guide the development of the group’s mission within the Capital Region.
Earl explained that a number of activities will assist the County and its partners in establishing the agricultural value chain. Farm investing, training and tech support, farm labour development, land use planning and land supply, value-added processing, warehouse distribution, public awareness and marketing and support of local food policies are all areas the council believes will make for a more sustainable agricultural picture in the Capital Region.
Thus far, the council has held a few meetings, during which the group has selected its additional representatives from each of the partner municipalities. Earl said in addition to himself, Dan Majeau of Sturgeon Valley Pork, Sturgeon County Councillor Karen Shaw and Tam Andersen of Prairie Gardens are representing Sturgeon County on the council.
“We figure with this mix of people, we can touch all aspects of the supply chain,” he said.
Additionally, the council is working on hiring a full-time coordinator to work with the council over the next two years to get things set up between the food council and the market.
Statistics Canada figures from 2006 show that more than a third of Sturgeon County’s agricultural picture is made up with oilseed and grain (34 per cent). Beef is next in line at 29 per cent; horse and other equine represents 13 per cent of the County’s agricultural use. Hay production came in at nine per cent, greenhouse and nursery at six per cent, pottery at three per cent. Hog, sheep and goat, vegetable and melon represent one per cent each, for the remaining three per cent of County agriculture activities.