Finding value-added opportunities in a pandemic – creating diverse and profitable alternatives

Submitted by: Tracy Myers, Eastern Valley Regional Communication Coordinator

It is no secret that the past few months have been some of the most challenging for the agricultural industry. Changing consumer habits and the lack of resources have put everyone in the daunting position of creating viable alternatives in order to sustain some degree of profitability. Farmers have had to look at various marketing alternatives that fall outside of the traditional way of doing business.

Soybean production in Ontario, is one area where creative opportunities exist. It has been recognized that Japan has lauded our product because of its high quality for tofu production. By investing in equipment to manufacture tofu in Ontario, and create an export market directly to Japan, soybean producers have the potential to create a profitable alternative that will ultimately enhance their operation.

More than ever we are focusing on buying local products. Consumers want to know that what they are purchasing is fresh and is helping to support their local farming businesses. Many larger market gardens are offering enhanced delivery options along with contactless payment options. As a result there has been an upsurge in these purchases. Both consumers and producers are seeing the extended benefits of these alternatives; people will continue to purchase safe and healthy products and support their local “neighbours”.

Agri-tourism opportunities have always existed but a new twist on this industry has evolved. “Virtual” wine tastings have begun where local wine producers are still able to promote and showcase their products and offer a convenient way for potential customers to explore what Ontario has to offer. Along with this, many vineyards are creating partnerships to enhance their limited in-person visitations. Yoga classes, along with wine tastings are some of the unique ways that these local businesses are adapting to the changing times, while respecting the “social distancing” rules.

It is important to remember that although a crisis such as COVID-19 has created challenges for the agricultural industry it has also presented many opportunities for diversification and solutions. Images from early in the pandemic of farmers dumping milk, plowing down crops and empty store shelves, have now been replaced by new and exciting ways to be creative and sustainable. As many markets move online to sell their products, we are noticing that the community is rallying to support the industry. It has also allowed farmers to create websites that provide a virtual storefront of their goods and services while, at the same time, engaging consumers. Farmers are adapting very quickly to a new way of doing business.

One thriving family operation is well aware how quickly things can change. Originally started in 1855, this multi- generational farm operation has evolved to offer their pork products to local markets, offer a delivery service and on-farm shop…. all positive signs of the time, even during a pandemic.

It is crucial to remain creative and positive, even during this challenging time in agriculture. When we work together amazing things happen!

 

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will, in the end, contribute most to real wealth, good morals and happiness”

Thomas Jefferson

 

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