Supporting Local Food Groups in Haliburton County


A conversation with…Angel Taylor, Haliburton County Farmer’s Market Association

Why did you reach out to HC Link for support?

Haliburton is sparsely populated with only about 17,000 permanent residents. It's a very poor area and much is done by volunteers and not-for-profit associations. I was significantly involved with the farmer’s market board and when we first started, we needed some focus to help with our work. I was encouraged to contact HC Link for support because one of its consultants, Lisa Tolentino, was involved with healthy communities in this area. So we called on Lisa to facilitate events and help our work.

How has HC Link made a difference to your organization, network, or others you work with?

Huge! Huge! Lisa was a facilitator for strategic planning of our Haliburton County Farmer’s Market Association. We created a framework, drawing on some resources at Lisa's suggestion and developed a plan that continued to guide the farmer's market. She helped us articulate a constitution, develop a mandate, and do future planning. We developed a logo and promotional plans that made the group more cohesive. She brought us together to function more effectively – in planning, in governance, and in working together.

The market started in 2009 and by 2016 we had grown from making less than $50,000 a year to making half a million. For a small market that's huge! Most markets affiliated with Farmer’s Market Ontario operate one or two markets, but we run three locations. That we can sustain this in such a small county is remarkable.

Studies indicate that farmers markets bring a multiplier of 2-3 to other community businesses – people that come into town to visit the market also go to the gas station, the grocery store, etc. The benefit has been that the three of the four municipalities have offered us free space because we have brought growth to local businesses.

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Lisa also acted as a resource for other organizations involved with local food in this area. She helped the Haliburton County Garlic Grower’s Association develop common goals to work together and enhance the group’s focus and definition. She also supported planning with Harvest Halliburton, a grass roots group that strives to engage the community to address community food security and work towards a sustainable food system for Haliburton. Lisa helped with the local community food assessment as a first step in creating food policy. As a result of the assessment, we produced three research reports that helped influence municipal planning to support local agriculture and food production.

Harvest Halliburton has been provincially recognized. We have been nominated for the Rural Economic Award and have been encouraged to apply for the Premier's Award of Excellence. A representative from OMAFRA has commented that Harvest Haliburton’s work is viewed as a benchmark for other communities in Ontario.

“Lisa and HC Link have been intrinsic to the growth and development of these volunteer organizations.”

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What is unique about the services that HC Link provides?

I don't know of any other service that offers this resource of community animation – bringing vibrancy, growth and healthy development to communities. HC Link definitely brought that to our community in a broad range of local food associations. I was blown away to discover that we had this free resource that was local that was acquainted with our circumstances. It made it very personal.

As a poor community, having no-cost resources is important to help organizations function and support associations as they grow. We also need support from someone local that is familiar with the dynamics of this community, not somebody that comes from outside who tries to import the vision of a larger and different community. The no-cost, local nature, accessibility, the consultant's skills, I call it a local treasure.

“I see HC Link as the lubricant, the grease that helps organization who otherwise would not have access to these kinds of resources, because of very limited funding. Lisa and HC Link were key players and we are deeply grateful.”