Rainy River agri-food study gets green light from province

Natali Trivuncic
Staff Writer

In early December, the Ontario government announced that it is providing $16,500 to help the town of Rainy River conduct a greenhouse feasibility study.

This study will support a growing agri-food sector in the north and is the first step in developing sustainable, healthy and cost-effective locally grown food sources, while generating economic prosperity and job creation.

Deborah Ewald, Mayor of the Town of Rainy River, said they are in the preliminary stages of the study. Ewald said the idea came up around four or five years ago and now they are hashing out the details.

“We’re looking at green energy sources to run the greenhouse,” Ewald said. “This way if we can grow food for even just northwestern Ontario, the carbon footprint will be much less.”

Ewald said they will know more about the next step of the study in January 2021.

The project will involve the Township of Rainy River, Dawson Township and Lake of the Woods Township.

The study is said to help identify the infrastructure required for a greenhouse facility, as well as consider the advantages of the greenhouse industry. Such advantages include increased variety and availability of produce, longer growing seasons, lower produce prices and reduced transportation costs.

The funding is being delivered through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC). The Corporation promotes economic development across Northern Ontario by providing financial assistance to projects whether they are big and small or rural and urban, that stimulate job creation and skills development.

Since June 2018, the NOHFC has invested more than $225 million in 1,492 projects in Northern Ontario, resulting in more than $991 million in investment and creating or sustaining 4,298 jobs.

In January 2021, the Ontario government will launch a new and improved NOHFC that will target existing and emerging market opportunities and provide more work opportunities for Indigenous people and address the skills labor shortage in the north.

Ewald said the study is an exciting opportunity and she hopes that it will result in a viable business.

“I think it would be really good for this area job wise, health wise and I think when you have fresher food it’s always better,” Ewald said. “There’s a lot of First Nations in the Northwest that would probably benefit from less expensive groceries.”

Ewald adds that she also sees many jobs stemming from the creation of the greenhouse such as transportation that would be needed to transport the goods.

“It’s a new avenue of agriculture for the district and hopefully something can come out of it,” Ewald said.