Institute of Agri-Food Policy Innovation

Institute of Agri-Food Policy Innovation

March 16, 2007 09:00 ET

Institute of Agri-Food Policy Innovation: Rural Policy Must Support Urban Investment

Rural Ontario needs policies and services to attract urban interest, says report

GUELPH, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - March 16, 2007) - Urban Ontarians and those living in buffer regions between cities and farms have become the new lifeblood for rural Ontario jobs, says a new report from Guelph's Institute of Agri-Food Policy Innovation.

In Services and Cities - Driving Change in Ontario's Rural Business Landscape, authors David Sparling and Delia Bucknell say government support for rural Ontario must focus less on farming and more on urban and buffer region investment. Statistics Canada said earlier this week that's where the population is growing, and likewise, that's where the jobs are.

"Farming isn't creating jobs," says Sparling. "Farms are growing in productivity and size, but shrinking in number. So while farming is still big business, jobs are moving out of production agriculture."

Instead, he says, they're being created in services, such as accommodations, entertainment and recreation. Those services mostly cater to urban people who travel to rural Ontario for casinos, golf and other attractions.

"Attracting and servicing people from cities is how rural Ontario is growing," says Sparling. "Agriculture's new role is as a partner in the rural economy, not the sole driver."

In 2005, more than half of all rural jobs were in services, and growing. Much of the growth in rural services jobs was in the golf industry. Golf course and country club employment jumped by 1,400 jobs between 2001-2005 in rural regions.

By comparison, production and agriculture jobs accounted for less than a fifth of rural Ontario jobs.

Although the fastest growth in both population and jobs is in the cities, employment is strong in an emerging zone Sparling calls the buffer region between urban and rural Ontario.

As cities have spread out and become closer to the country, the buffer region's influence has skyrocketed. It serves both farmers and non-farmers -- in fact, agricultural services in the buffer region is one of the fastest growing sectors in Ontario, with farmers specializing and outsourcing more activities, such as veterinary services, soil testing and production assistance.

Likewise, significant job growth is taking place in buffer regions for industries such as greenhouses and fruit and vegetable vending, which caters primarily to urban buyers.

Sparling is calling on farm leaders to help their members adapt to this change and find ways to serve urban Ontario. Off-farm jobs are the key to survival for Ontario's small farms, which make up the majority of Ontario farms.

"Rural Ontario used to depend on farmers taking their food to the cities." says Sparling. "That's still important, but now the job opportunities lie in attracting city dwellers to rural regions. We need them to spend their money and create jobs."

Full Reports:

Services and Cities - Driving Change in the Rural Business Landscape http://www.iafpi.ca/pdfs/Services_and_Cities.pdf

Where are the Jobs? Job patterns across rural Ontario regions and sectors. http://www.iafpi.ca/pdfs/Where are the Jobs.pdf

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