Rural fairs get another year of funding

Ontario agriculture and horticulture societies will get $1.1 million in provincial funding to offset revenue declines due to cancelled fairs and events.

 “We recognize Ontario’s agricultural and horticultural societies play a significant role in our communities throughout the province,” said Lisa Thompson, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). “And the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to have a negative impact on their local initiatives.”

Thompson said the fairs and events organized by agriculture and horticulture societies throughout the summer and autumn are their primary revenue generators. The government wants to safeguard future projects and events amid the provincial safe reopening plan.

“(The agricultural societies’) fairs and other local events engage and involve their communities while promoting agriculture and food awareness,” said Beth Howell-Veraecke, president of the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies. “We appreciate that OMAFRA understands our challenges during this pandemic and recognizes Agricultural Societies’ value to their communities.”

The funding will provide up to $5,000 for each eligible agricultural society and up to $1,500 for eligible horticultural societies, equal to their 2019 grants to offset membership losses, revenue and meet their immediate financial needs.

Traditionally the provincial grant program requires the societies to operate their fairs, events and activities to be eligible. However, this will replace the 2021 grant as a one-time automatic payment even if exhibits, fairs and activities were cancelled.

The funds are in addition to the $5 million investment announced in January 2021 to support societies impacted by events cancelled in 2020.

Katharine Smyth, Ontario Horticultural Association president, said the province’s support will help their 270 societies recover from pandemic affects on their operations.

“Horticultural societies have been greatly impacted by COVID-19, and this funding will go a long way to help us with our post-pandemic recovery efforts,” said Smyth. Thompson said the provincial investment would strengthen Ontario’s agri-food sector, ensure agriculture’s sustainability, and foster vibrant