NORTHERN PENINSULA, NL – St. Barbe- L’Anse au Meadows MHA Christopher Mitchelmore sees great opportunity to expand agriculture on the Northern Peninsula.
On Oct. 23, the provincial government announced it is undertaking 43 actions to double Newfoundland and Labrador’s food self-sufficiency and the number of people directly employed in agriculture.
All actions outlined in the plan are to be in place within 24 months.
Mitchelmore believes the Northern Peninsula has the means to benefit from the plan as there are already a number of successful ventures in agriculture underway in the region.
Mitchelmore points out that Brophy’s Dairy Farm in Daniel’s Harbour is the second-largest dairy farm in the province.
There are many roadside gardens on the Northern Peninsula, as well as sheep farming, vegetable farming, and a number of hobby farmers.
Dark Tickle, based out of St. Lunaire-Griquet, has been providing its berries for a distillery in Clarke’s Beach.
“In Roddickton in one greenhouse, there’s been at times summer squash, grapes growing, and there are people who make their own teas,” Mitchelmore told the Northern Pen.
While these initiatives are evidence of potential, Mitchelmore believes more can be done to tap into it.
“We’re seeing tremendous opportunities to look at our local products,” he said. “I think on the Northern Peninsula we’ve got a lot of potential, we’re just not tapping into it.”
He’s optimistic the province’s initiatives will help locals avail of the region’s land potential.
“There are some agricultural zones that have been around for a very long time that have not come into play,” said Mitchelmore.
He cites the province’s healthy bee population as another opportunity.
And he would love to see craft brewery on the Northern Peninsula. For these products, ingredients like malt and barley have to be grown.
When Newfoundlanders and Labradorians – young and old – are looking for employment, he believes agriculture is an option.
Mitchelmore’s sentiments echo those of Richard May, executive director of CBDC Nortip, reported last week in the Northern Pen.
A report commissioned by Nortip encourages more agriculture development on the Northern Peninsula, specifically for residents to produce their own food so they’re not as dependent on food imports.
Both Mitchelmore and May highlighted the possibility of using hydroponic gardens to grow fresh produce indoors for 12 months of the year.
“Hydroponics provide a great opportunity, particularly for rural and northern and more isolated communities, where the cost of fresh produce can be quite high,” said Mitchelmore.
Preparing to compete
Another reason agriculture self-sufficiency is important to Mitchelmore involves population growth in the Asian Pacific Rim.
According to the MHA, the province has to be prepared for this.
He explains that by 2036, the Asian Pacific Rim will have more people than in the rest of the world.
In these countries, demand for fresh food and produce is increasing with the growing number of middle-income people. The increase in demand will increase prices for these foods.
Meanwhile, Newfoundland and Labrador currently imports 90 per cent of its produce.
Mitchelmore believes the province should grow whatever it can to become self-sufficient and less sensitive to market fluctuations.
“As a government we have to be very proactive to take steps now so we can plan, get our production up, so we can meet demands locally and have less sensitivities to price increases,” he said.
As minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation, Mitchelmore said his department will work on market access and development, and carving out enterprises for niche products such as partridgeberries, blueberries and saltwater lam.
As part of his department’s mandate, there is also a regional innovations assistance pilot project on the west coast to facilitate greater collaboration between the College of the North Atlantic, the Grenfell Campus of Memorial University, and businesses.
Actions launched on Oct. 23 included:
- Addressing human resource needs of the industry with tailored labour market supports, immigration attraction, and efforts to help attract people to opportunities in agriculture;
- Supporting industry’s ability to leverage its global competitive advantages;
- Advancing education and innovation opportunities via institutions including Memorial University’s Grenfell Campus, the College of the North Atlantic and Innovate NL;
- Increasing demand for fresh produce by creating new opportunities for local growers to supply health facilities;
- Fostering increased agricultural activity in Labrador; and
- Promoting growth of secondary processing companies in Newfoundland and Labrador.