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North & Eastern Ontario

Local Food Conference 2021

Local Food More Than Ever

Join us for a series of free webinars exploring diverse perspectives on local food.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique opportunities and pressures for local food systems. The current situation has demonstrated how critical these systems are, as well as exposing weaknesses that make them vulnerable. The goal of these webinars is to explore the hard-won lessons learned from a global pandemic that can help strengthen local food businesses and organizations.
Keynote speaker Dr. Evan Fraser will kick off the series on March 10th at 10 am. Dr. Fraser is a professor of geography and the Director of the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph. A passionate communicator, he has written for the Globe and Mail, the,,, the Walrus and the Ottawa Citizen, and non-fiction books about food and food security; most recently Uncertain Harvest, published in 2020.
This virtual conference will be hosted by the County of Renfrew and the Northern Ontario Farm Innovation Alliance and is brought to you with the collaboration of OMAFRA. 

March 10: Local Food More than Ever: Harvesting the Lessons of COVID-19

March 17: Navigating Agri-Tourism During a Pandemic
With a Chef-Led ‘Taste of the North’ participatory lunch at noon 

March 24: Surviving and Thriving: The Resilience of Local Food

March 31: Innovations in the Local Food Frontier: Greenhouse, Vertical Farming, Aquaculture, Aquaponics
With a Chef-Led ‘Taste of Renfrew County’ participatory lunch at noon.


Each of the webinars will start at 10 am, the virtual participatory chef led luncheons will take place at noon on March 17th & 31st . Speaker bios are available below. Thank you to our sponsors for supporting this year's conference.


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Missed a session? Recordings are now available!

March 10, 2021 - Local Food More Than Ever: Harvesting the Lessons of COVID-19

Keynote Speaker - Dr. Evan Fraser: 


Evan started thinking about agriculture and food systems while spending summers working on his grandfather’s fruit farm in Niagara.  There, he watched his stock-broker grandmother rake in an unconscionable amount of money on commissions from her clients’ investments while the farmers around were letting their crops rot because the cost of harvesting was higher than the cost of importing from the Southern US and Mexico. He decided, however, it was easier to write and talk about farming than actually try to make a living on it so passed on inheriting the family farm, opting instead for grad school.  He did degrees in forestry, anthropology and agriculture at UBC and UofT.  Since graduating, he worked in a policy institute with the Hon. Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, and began his academic career in 2003 in the UK where he worked on farming and climate change at the University of Leeds.  

Today, Evan works with large multi-disciplinary teams on developing solutions to help feed the world’s growing population while not destroying the ecosystems on which we depend for life.  

A passionate communicator, Evan has written for the Globe and Mail, the,,, the Walrus and the Ottawa Citizen, and has two popular non-fiction books about food and food security including Empires of Food: Feast, Famine and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations that was published by Simon and Schuster and shortlisted for the James Beard Food Literature Award.  He has also co-produced/co-hosted 3 1-hour radio documentaries for CBC’s premier documentary show Ideas on the future of food. 

As a researcher, Evan is a co-author on over 100 academic papers and book chapters, played a leadership role in teams that have raised over $100M in research funding, and mentored close to 50 graduate students.  

Between 2016-18 he co-convened an ad hoc working group made up of producer groups, the food industry, philanthropy and civil society to propose that the Federal Government of Canada should create a National Food Policy Advisory Council. The creation of this council was announced by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food Canada in the summer of 2019.  

Evan’s web video series on “feeding nine billion” has been watched over 500,000 times, he has self-published a graphic novel called #FoodCrisis about a fictitious food crisis that hits North America in the 2020s. Evan has also created a card game about global food security that won a gold medal at the International “Serious Play” conference. The videos, the graphic novel and the card game have been pulled together in a series of teacher-friendly high school lesson plans that are used in classrooms around the world.  

He is a full professor of Geography at the University of Guelph and helps lead the Food from Thought initiative, which is a $76.6 million research program based at the University of Guelph that explores how to use big data to reduce agriculture’s environmental footprint. 

Today, Evan is the director of the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph, which was established by a $20 million-dollar gift from the Arrell Family Foundation.  In this capacity, he co-chairs the Arrell Food Summit, and manages the Arrell Food Scholarship program as well as the Arrell Food Innovation Awards that deliver hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to groups that have made tremendous impacts on global food systems. 


Following the keynote address, a panel of diverse leaders in the local food movement will explore the lessons learned and emerging opportunities for local food, as the sector faces its second year influenced by the pandemic.


Moe Garahan - Executive Director for Just Food and Project Director for Food Communities Network


Moe has been working on food and farming issues in Ottawa since 1995.  Focused on community development and community economic development approaches, she has facilitated the establishment of many ongoing community and regional food initiatives in Ottawa, while supporting provincial and national food initiatives.  Since 2004, she has been the Executive Director of Just Food, working with teams to integrate food access and food localism within the mixed urban and rural settings of the Ottawa region.  Since 2020, she has been Project Director of Food Communities Network | Réseau des communautés nourricières (FCN-RCN) focuses on the sharing of ideas, knowledge and experiences around building food resiliency and decreasing food insecurity in urban, rural and remote communities and municipalities across Indigenous Territories/Canada.   



Peggy Brekveld - President of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Member of the Agricultural Adaptation Council & Northern Ontario Dairy Farmer


Peggy Brekveld is the president of The Ontario Federation of Agriculture, serving as director-at-large, and previously serving as Northern Director. Peggy, her husband Gert, and their children operate Woodstar Farm, a 75-cow dairy operation near Thunder Bay. She is a Class 12 alumni of the Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program and involved at Agricultural Adaptation Council, Canlead Solutions and President's Council. She is a lifelong advocate for farming and food in Ontario.   

Peggy loves singing, exploring walking trails, and showing off the natural beauty of her northern region to visitors. She feels very blessed in life.  


Dr. Joseph LeBlanc - Associate Dean, Equity and Inclusion at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine,  Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security  


Dr. Joseph LeBlanc is a life-long Northern Ontarian and member of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory.  Passionate about community health and wellbeing, he has extensive experience in asset-based community development and food system change throughout the region.  

He is currently the Associate Dean, Equity and Inclusion at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. Before joining NOSM, he worked and volunteered for a diverse range of organizations, including academic institutions, charities, non-profits, and Indigenous organizations. He holds an Honours Bachelor of Environmental Studies in Forest Conservation, an Environmental Management Certificate, and a PhD in Forest Sciences from Lakehead University. Dr. LeBlanc is recognized as a leading expert in Indigenous food systems and community development in Canada. He has also received several awards including a Top 20 under 40 Northwestern Ontario Visionary Award and a Forty under 40 Northern Ontario Business Award.

March 17, 2021 - Navigating Agri-Toursim in a Pandemic

Melissa Marquardt

Melissa has been involved in the tourism industry since 1996, when she began her career working with Destination Canada’s US Leisure Market program. In 2000, she joined the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) where she was responsible for membership and event logistics for some of the industry’s prominent tourism events, such as the National Tourism Summit, Rendez-Vous Canada and GoMedia Canada Marketplace.


In 2004, Melissa moved to the Ottawa Valley with her husband to manage a family-owned fishing campground on Muskrat Lake. Melissa joined the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association in October 2006 as the Communications Coordinator and has held the position of Tourism Development Officer since 2018. Melissa is the past Chief Governing Officer for the Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization’s (RTO-11) Board of Directors.


She is also a former Board member of the Round Lake Property Owners’ Association and Renfrew County ATV Club.

When not promoting tourism, she can usually be found wandering the backcountry of Ontario, on water or land, with her husband and pooch.


Duarte Da Silva - Executive Director of Prince Edward Wine Growers Association


Duarte Da Silva is Executive Director of the Prince Edward County Winegrowers Association (PECWA), and has been in that role since 2017. With a background in financial technology, banking and technology startups, his experience is an asset to PECWA in their work to expand the reach of the PECWA in Ontario and abroad.   The Prince Edward County Winegrowers Association (PECWA) was formed in 2000 as a Not for Profit Organization. PECWA’s mission is the growth and promotion of Prince Edward County as a wine region. PECWA represents both the grape growers and wineries alike. This is achieved through advocacy, market development, special events, education and mutual support.

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Leanne Spry - Spry Farms


The Spry family (Leanne, Tyler, Waylon, and Henry) operate a small square farm in the heart of Northwestern Ontario Canada near Devlin, Ontario.  While the farm and our animals are primarily for their own enjoyment, they also offer agritourism opportunities with farm tours & petting zoos. Beekeeping is a passion of Tyler’s and has evolved from a 3-hive hobby to a 15-hive business, with further plans to expand and provide delicious local honey to our customers. Leanne has always had a passion and understanding for animals, and especially dogs. In 2021 they will be offering dog boarding and training services to the public. You can find the Spry Farm online at, on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.

Mitch Deschetalets - Leisure Farms


Leisure Farms has been a family owned and operated business since 1981. Their farm is situated in the vibrant small community of Sturgeon Falls (West Nipissing) and stretches alongside the serene Sturgeon river. Leisure Farms produces fresh strawberries, raspberries, corn and pumpkins. For over 40 years, meticulous care has been taken to ensure that the produce that is grown and cultivated on the farm meets the highest of quality, freshness and taste. Their family farm is not only a place to pick and buy fresh local produce but also a place for everyone to meet and take part in various family activities such as enjoying a picnic, a wagon ride and/or roast marsh mellows on the bonfire.  Leisure Farms also offers daily, fresh baked pastries such as homemade fruit pies, breads and award-winning jams and jellies. Their family farm gives the opportunity for everyone to enjoy fresh air, view beautiful fields full of sweet red berries and the chance to connect with local or newcomers alike. You will find Leisure Farms online at, their online shop, or on their  Facebook page. 

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March 17, 2021 - "Taste of the North" Chef-Led Lunch

Pamela Hamel - Foods by Nature

Pamela Hamel is often referred to as “Martha Stewart of the North”, having her roots in catering, gardening and table design she brings fresh, bold and playful ideas to everyday entertaining and culinary events.

As founder of Foods By Nature she is Creative Director, food stylist, sales savvy and cheerleader for Northeastern Ontario, a rising star in the Ontario culinary tourism scene.  Pamela is known best for curating taste of terroir experiences, hosting 2000+ person charcuturie tables and story telling with the Temiskaming terroir as her palette. 


Pamela’s education in health promotion, work in community gardening with marginalized women have formed the basis of a simple living mindfulness. The values of sustainability, as she puts it can be tasty, adventurous and stylish.  She can be found with husband Neil on the shores of Haileybury welcoming guests at The Pillars, their latest pursuit, a historical guest house and event space set to open in 2021 with a slow living persona or in their west-end Toronto studio hosting friends and family.

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March 24, 2021 - Surviving and Thriving: The Resilience of Local Food

Danielle Collins - Policy Analyst with Ontario Federation of Agriculture


Danielle Collins is a Policy Analyst specializing in rural economic development, on-farm diversification and value-added agriculture, local and regional food systems, municipal engagement, and agricultural innovation at the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. Growing up in the Niagara Region, Danielle holds a Master of Applied Environmental Studies degree in Local Economic Development from the University of Waterloo and a Bachelor of Science honours degree from the University of Guelph. She utilizes her Certified Economic Developer’s designation from the Economic Developers’ Association of Canada to develop innovative tools and resources for municipalities engaging with their agri-food sector. To learn more and connect, follow her on twitter @letsgrowfood.

Kevin Belluz - Superior Seasons


After completing a B.Sc. (Hons) in Plant Biology at Guelph as a President's Scholar, Kevin worked in Alberta and England for a greenhouse and horticultural supply company before settling down on the family farm in Thunder Bay as the third-generation owner in 2001. The 140 ha farm employs over 50 all local staff in the peak summer months to produce 10 ha of strawberries, 6 ha of sweet corn, 6 ha of root crops and cabbage, 3 ha of pumpkins and a broad range of market garden vegetables and rotation crops. They have a small, modern 700m2 gutter-connect greenhouse heated primarily with a 150-kW woodchip boiler growing vegetable transplants, salad greens, tomatoes and cucumbers grown in organic soil. The farm production is managed sustainably using new technology and information together with traditional techniques to maximize biodiversity, soil health, and the long-term viability of the business. Belluz Farms markets roughly 90% of their product direct to the public on farm, at farmers markets and through the online food hub they co-founded in 2010, Superior Seasons which now includes over 150 producers. The remaining product is sold wholesale to local grocers and distributors. Kevin's partner in business and life is Jodi Belluz and they have 2 children.

Chris Penton - President of Beechwood Market Inc. 


Chris has been running farmers markets in Ottawa for over ten years. Keen on encouraging a 'true' local food movement, he sees local food as a means to creating a new bind for Ottawa's economy. His plan to create a variety of distribution points, he sees a future of small local markets throughout the City accompanied by an online component. A community builder, he is a former President of his community association, current director of his Business Improvement Area (BIA) and ran for municipal office in 2019. A single father of an 11-year-old boy, his son has no choice but to help with the family business.

Sue Feddema - Round the Bend Farm


Sue Feddema is an experience farmer from Round The Bend Farm located in Kettleby. Sue and Brian own a mixed farm. They sell fresh, naturally grown turkeys. They grow 30 acres of vegetables and have 3 greenhouses. Vegetables are sold at their on-farm market and they run a CSA vegetable bin program for 22 weeks of the growing season.  They have done school tours and organized Easter and Fall farm events. During Covid last year, they conducted quick changes to meet the customers needs.

Ryan Spence - Field Good Farm


Ryan Spence is the co-owner and operator of Field Good Farms/Ferme j’me champ bien, a small-scale ecological fruit and vegetable farm. Field Good Farms has been operating since 2011 focusing primarily on a Community Supported Agriculture program. Ryan’s current interests in farming are no-till vegetable growing, year-round vegetable production, farmer-led research, holistic farm systems, and development of on-farm biodiversity. Ryan farms alongside Isabelle Spence-Legault in Cache Bay, Ontario.

Lucas Cleveland - At the Market and SMOR


Lucas Cleveland's extensive 20 year career has been centered around eliminating workflow inefficiencies across an array of industries. After starting a restaurant consulting business in his early 20's he eventually took his workplace efficiency modelling around the world and spent over 3 years consulting for a number of companies across Europe and Australia. He returned to Alberta and spent over a decade in the Oil and Gas sector working to streamline production and build a healthy workplace culture on the rigs that he was assigned. After the birth of his son, he and his partner moved to the town of Cobourg to utilize their varied professional experiences to set up a much needed green grocer. By reimagining how a local grocery store business could and should operate, by approaching the traditional grocery store model utilizing efficiencies and eliminating needless waste they have been able to build a one of a kind business model.  

March 31, 2021 - Innovations in the Local Food Frontier: Greenhouse, Vertical Farming, Aquaculture, Aquaponics

Dr. Fadi Al-Daoud


Fadi received his Ph.D. from the Department of Biology at McMaster University with a specialization in molecular plant pathology. Fadi subsequently worked at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and in the Department of Plant Agriculture at the University of Guelph in Ontario. As OMAFRA’s Greenhouse Vegetable Specialist, his portfolio includes vegetables grown in greenhouse and vertical farms, as well as greenhouse and indoor cannabis production. He works in collaboration with producers, researchers and industry partners to advance controlled environment agriculture in Ontario.


Michael McQuire


Michael McQuire is an Aquaculture & Aquaponics specialist working for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) in Guelph, Ontario. Michael has a broad range of aquaculture experience working with land-based recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) and open water net pen systems. He has travelled throughout much of Canada working in the commercial aquaculture industry, for provincial enhancement aquaculture programs and with post secondary aquaculture education and training.

March 31, 2021 - "Taste of Renfrew County" Chef-Led Lunch

Tristan Hertzog - From the Ground Up Culinary


Tristan Hertzog is no stranger to the hospitality and food industry with 18 years of experience under his hat. As a journeyman Red Seal from SIAST and a member of The International Sommelier Guild holding the advanced level 2, Tristan has traveled and worked in many of the top restaurants in the world, one of the top three wineries in the world and has privately worked for the Royal Family and the Rockefeller’s. Through his business, From The Ground Up Culinary, Tristan creates a powerhouse experience with his knowledge of agri-tourism, nature and local food.

Taking his love for the outdoors and fine dining, Tristan is bridging the gap between food, nature and table and has begun to share that passion by teaching students going to Fellowes High School in Pembroke about how to fuel their love for good food. Students are set with a full running food processing station, greenhouse, kitchen and restaurant.


Tristan’s business, From the Ground Up, offers some amazing experiences from culinary classes to pop up services. From The Ground Up melds his love for good quality dining and being outdoors in nature. The premise of the business is to showcase private dining with high quality restaurant style food and service, to any location, outside in a natural setting. He is equipped with a fully functioning outdoor solar powered kitchen and the main focus of the dining experience is locally sourced or wild foraged foods and products. The whole heart of the business is to bridge the gap between the farm and the consumer. “If one dish from me sends the client to the farm then that’s good for me. Nine times out of ten what makes a great dish is the freshness and quality of the ingredients and not the chef who cooked it.


“Covert Culinary Parties” are the most popular service offered, “a surprise dining experience focused on beautiful outdoor landscapes and food paired dining to match.” The catch is clients don’t know the location of where or what they will be eating until the day of the event. Details are sent out so that when clients arrive, they find out what the evening holds (dining is always outdoors). It is a lot of fun as the dining is mostly family style and you are encouraged to get social and enjoy the beauty of people, nature, and food. The 3 best things in life!


Check out Tristan’s website:


Catch Tristan at the Calabogie Summer Market:




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