AS GUESTS LINED up for Farm and Food Care Ontario’s (FFCO) ‘Breakfast from the Farm’ on August 27 at the Grand River Raceway in Elora, FFCO’s executive director, Kelly Daynard, had one of her “I love my job moments.” After two years of pandemic-related cancellation, postponement, and adaption of FFCO events and programs, seeing the smiling faces of families eager to learn more about Ontario agriculture was a welcome sight.
“This is what FFCO is all about, people getting out and learning about farming,” says Daynard. The organization, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2022, is an amalgamation of the former Ontario Farm Animal Council and AgCare. With a mandate to build public trust in food and farming in Ontario, the popular Breakfast on the Farm program has hosted thousands of consumers over the years for an all-Ontario breakfast and allowed them to see farms of all types from across Ontario up close and personal. That all came screeching to a halt in 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic health restrictions meant that crowds could no longer gather for events like Breakfast on the Farm.
After cancelling the 2020 events, in 2021, Daynard and her team brainstormed ways to keep up the momentum they had built with the Breakfast on the Farm events while allowing for social distancing and keeping pandemic-related health restrictions in mind. That’s where the Breakfast from the Farm concept originated — instead of visitors gathering in large crowds to eat breakfast and view the farm and educational displays up close, they initiated a drive-thru format. By partnering with agricultural societies, like the Grand River Agricultural Society (GRAS, which operates the Elora Raceway), to host drive-thru events featuring agricultural displays and socially distanced, fully-masked but smiling volunteers, visitors were still able to learn more about how their food is produced on Ontario farms. And they still got breakfast — a goodie bag was sent home with each vehicle with an assortment of Ontario-produced items to prepare a delicious breakfast at home.
GATHERING IN PERSON
As pandemic-related restrictions eased, the popular event has inched closer to normal, with 2022 events at the Paris fairgrounds and the Raceway allowing visitors to get out of their cars and walk the showgrounds and talk to farmers and volunteers about food and farming. At the Elora event, which GRAS and the Fergus Fall Fair co-hosted, Steve Lake, Grain Farmers of Ontario Region 10 Director (Grey, Bruce, Wellington), who is also an FFCO board member, was on hand to volunteer. Lake organized a large display of agricultural equipment from his own farm and local dealerships, including tractors, sprayers, and combines. In the spirit of the family-friendly event, Lake’s son, 11-year-old Callum, was excited to have an opportunity to share his passion and enthusiasm for farming, eagerly giving attendees a run-down of how the tractor and planter work to plant Ontario crops.
“It’s great to see so many from the local area come out,” says Lake. “People don’t always get a chance to see these things up close like this.”
Fergus Agricultural Society president Jennifer Craig agrees. “Like fairs, events like this give consumers an opportunity to learn more about where their food comes from,” she says.
BACK TO THE FARM
While Daynard has been encouraged by the level of participation and enthusiasm for the Breakfast from the Farm events, she says everyone is excited for 2023, when the events will return to an on-farm format. Planning is underway to welcome the public back to farms where they can see first-hand where their food comes from and how farmers care for animals, crops, and the environment.
In the meantime, FFCO staff and volunteers are gearing up for one last Breakfast from the Farm event for 2022 — with an event planned for the Milton Fairgrounds on Thanksgiving weekend. For more information or tickets for the Breakfast from the Farm, or to learn more about FFCO and its programs and events, visit www.farmfoodcareon.org. •