Green and Growing Local Food

Published in the North Grenville Times on March 18th, 2015

Last week I attended two interesting presentations regarding Lanark, Leeds and Grenville counties; the first on Monday evening dealt with the local food movement and the second on Tuesday morning concerned community economic development.

March 9th Sustainable North Grenville welcomed Matt Brearley, General Manager of the Two Rivers Food Hub, who spoke to a full house at The Branch Restaurant and Texas Grill. Jim Beveridge, his son Andrew and I were also there to talk and answer questions about Markets on Rideau, a re-development project in the Rideau-Sanders Triangle in Old Town Kemptville.

Matt explained the goal of the Food Hub, located at The Gallipeau Centre in Smiths Falls, is to help local farmers and local food entrepreneurs increase their production by acting as an aggregation and distribution point for both produce and protein. The aim is to make local food costs affordable for consumers while helping local small scale farmers to become sustainable. Two Rivers is gearing up slowly as funds become available; its commercial kitchen space opened for business just last week. Matt also told the attentive crowd of 30 to 40 that the Hub can also provide food packaging and labeling services, and will help get products to market.

The demand for locally grown and locally processed food, free of the “ingredients” that agri-business choses to use in maximizing yields and shelf-life, far outstrips supply. Farm gate sales and farmers’ market have reached the limit of their capacity to satisfy the growing market. This offers great opportunities for rural communities that are close to large urban centres like Ottawa.

The Markets on Rideau project involves the redevelopment of 13,000 square feet of vacant commercial building space and an adjoining asphalt parking lot at 200 Sanders Street in Old Town Kemptville. MoR_LandscapeIt aims to become a centre for local food related businesses in which to establish themselves and, through branding the area as a destination, reach a larger trading area. In addition to the renovations and landscaping, a comprehensive marketing strategy will be put in place to provide marketing support for the participating businesses. In response to a question about the relationship between the two projects, I said, “Think of Markets on Rideau as the retail expression of what the Two Rivers Food Hub is trying to accomplish”.

On the morning of March 10th, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs conducted a highly informative Community Economic Development 101 workshop at the Municipal Centre. In attendance were numerous elected officials, public servants, people working in the non-profit sector and members of the general public, all interested in discussing the challenges that rural communities face in fostering economic growth.

You would think that developing the agricultural sector in Lanark, Leeds and Grenville would be a high priority with this group, instead rising Hydro rates and the prospect of further amalgamation in the area dominated. In fact, according to my notes, it was over two hours before the word “agriculture” was mentioned. This is a shame.

We often here the phrase “growth pays for growth” bandied about but usually it’s in the context of housing developments. What if we could grow good and meaningful jobs by developing the local food sector? It might give new meaning to the catch-phrase and it might even be a more sustainable activity in the long run.

As their name suggests Sustainable North Grenville is concerned with issues that threaten the viability of our community. Their Sustainability Fair happens on Sunday April 26th, for details email: info@sustainablenorthgrenville.ca. For more information on the Two Rivers Food Hub, head to: www.tworiversfoodhub.com.

Should the Municipality develop an Affordable Housing Strategy?

HFH-STL-SJR2Photo: Al Brown, owner of Al’s Used Furniture, was the special guest auctioneer for the Share the Love Art Auction. Al is synonymous with charity auctions in North Grenville and across Eastern Ontario

North Grenville is currently revising its Official Plan and while the existing Plan contains a section on Housing Policies that uses words like “appropriate”, “sufficient” and “adequate”, it doesn’t really identify a need for affordable housing in the Municipality. Do we need to conduct a needs analysis and strategy for addressing affordability housing deficiencies in our community? I think so.

Rural homelessness looks different – you don’t see it on the street but it exists. It’s hard to believe but a large number of rural families in North Grenville live below the poverty line. Whether they’re a long-term “guest” or a couch-surfer, the widow on a fixed income and the single guy between jobs are both suffering from either inadequate or insecure housing. The current Official Plan does not identify those in our community that are most vulnerable to the lack of affordable housing – youth, single parents, the elderly and low income families.

One family in Leeds and Grenville is over $1,000 closer to owning their own home through a hand up by the Share the Love Art Auction held last Thursday. The fundraiser was the culmination of a month-long exhibition of donated artwork mounted in the Geronimo Coffee House in Old Town Kemptville and flew under the Habitat for Humanity 1,000 Islands’ banner. During the month of February, the organizers asked visitors to view the art and write down their thoughts on rural poverty, insecure housing and what it means for a family to have a secure home. The comments, from people of all ages, were heart-felt and affecting.

HFH-STL-SJR1Photo: Bits of paper, posted by from the viewing public between the artwork, reflected a wide range of thoughts about insecure housing and its impact on both the individual and the community

Leigh Bursey, recently re-elected for a second term as a municipal councillor in Brockville, was the special guest speaker on Thursday night. Leigh recently wrote a book on housing and homelessness advocacy called “More Than a Number”. He reminded the audience that by providing affordable housing, the cycle of poverty from one generation to the next is broken; that having a mix of housing stock strengthens communities, reduces public costs and improves the economy.

Secure and affordable housing are issues of primary importance for a growing rural population. The new housing stock being built in North Grenville may satisfy a certain market but does it satisfy the needs of the existing population in terms of affordability? Will the new planned developments provide a mix of housing; homes and rental units that will fit the budgets of moderate and low-income families?

Single income families; the under-employed, seniors on fixed incomes and youth all strain to spend less than 30% of their gross income on adequate housing. That’s the definition of affordable home ownership or affordable rental housing in Ontario – spending less than 30% of your gross annual household income on housing. For a household earning $35,000 a year that means spending $ 875 a month in rent or mortgage payments (before utilities). As a community are we doing enough to create the conditions that will stimulate more affordable housing coming on-stream?

A thousand dollars is a very small step towards an affordable housing solution for a single deserving family. Here’s hoping that events like Share the Love will help raise awareness of the need for more of a housing mix in new developments and that will, in turn, help create the local political will to do something to make that happen. Commenting on the funds raised Heather Sansom, head of the organising committee, said “We have had a much bigger impact in raising awareness.  Awareness has ripple effects that are hard to measure, but sometimes are more meaningful.”

I believe it’s time the Municipality develops a realistic and actionable Affordable Housing Strategy. You can play a part in the process by participating in the Official Plan public consultation scheduled for March 18th at the Municipal Centre.

 

Have the happiest of holidays!

Merry Christmas everyone! Have a safe and healthy holiday.

Prepared to Make Difficult Decisions (NG Times – Oct. 22, 2014)

My name is John Barclay, I live in Oxford Mills and I understand the economic and social realities of North Grenville.

We need to maintain our infrastructure and manage growth. I’m prepared to make the difficult decisions over the next four critical years to prioritize our investments so that we are balanced in our spending but can maintain, if not expand, our services in the face of declining grants from the Province. I promise to make those decisions based on facts and evidence instead of ideology and through community engagement find the best “Made in North Grenville” solutions. My professional life has been spent producing effective communications so I’m confident I’ll be able to clearly inform and engage citizens as tough decisions are made.

One of the themes of my campaign for Mayor is building community to strengthen the ties that bind us both literally and figuratively. As a community we need more places and events to meet our neighbours and form the connections that create a dynamic, safe and friendly community. Council must work with and support community groups to find creative and sustainable solutions for new recreational opportunities as participation and demand surpass our current capacity. Building physical connections such as sidewalks, trails and bike lanes will allow for more opportunities to connect citizens and ensure safety and security. I will ensure the Municipality plays a leading role within the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville in the creation of a coordinated rural transportation network in order to literally bring us together and help us get things done. Whether it’s a commuter connecting more easily to the OC Transpo network, a senior getting to the doctor’s office or the Library, a youth who wants to attend a program at the Youth Centre, someone who wants to get to a local job but can’t afford to run a car or simply a young family that doesn’t want to own a second car, this transportation network will benefit us all.

As Mayor, I want to focus on helping create well-paid meaningful work for residents right here in North Grenville. The more people work here, the stronger our local economy will be. I will be working to create the conditions to foster local business expansion.   As a rural resident, I understand that agriculture is currently the largest sector of our local economy, and I will work hard to support it through the expansion of local food initiatives and the retention of Kemptville College, our premiere agricultural education facility.

I’ve been an entrepreneur for 30 years; building an award winning educational film company that has raised both private and public investments to create effective media. I’ve been through the ups and downs in the economy and have come out on the other side. I’ve learned that you absolutely need to save money for a rainy day while at the same time identifying the right time to invest and seize the opportunities to collaborate with others. As a small businessman, I’m naturally fiscally conservative and very strategic in my spending. Last year I worked closely with the merchants of Old Town Kemptville, as their BIA Coordinator, to promote downtown at a critical time during road and bridge closures. I’m currently working with the Beveridge family to re-develop the former Giant Tiger building and surrounding parking lot as a new commercial and social hub in Old Town. Finally, I’ve recently been nominated for the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville Bill Thake Memorial Award, given for Economic Development Leadership.

My track record of work with many diverse groups in North Grenville has made me sensitive to the needs of both youth and seniors. I clearly understand the tremendous value of our history and heritage and our leading role in the agricultural sector. My experiences in North Grenville have made me a champion of the local food movement and a firm believer of the economic benefits of shopping locally as much as possible. I’ve developed relationships with many people and gained an understanding of the different and often conflicting interests in North Grenville. It’s led me to believe you can’t have social development without economic development and that you shouldn’t have economic development without social development.

People recognize me as someone who can listen to often competing or conflicting interests and help groups of individuals to work as a team to resolve their differences. I’m engaged in the issues. I’m always prepared to ask the right questions and to press for satisfactory answers. I want to bring my experience and skills to the role of Mayor. I need your vote to make that happen. Vote John Barclay for Mayor. Thank you.

52 Weeks in North Grenville – Meet the Candidate: John Barclay

Click on this link to view the original post in 52 Weeks in North Grenville:   Meet the Candidate: John Barclay

52WeeksNG: What do you love about North Grenville?

John Barclay: Besides seeing the stars at night, I love the independence, self-reliance and generous spirit of the people who call North Grenville home. I love Carey’s handshake, Fran’s smile and the way Jim sighs when he’s a bit frustrated.

52WeeksNG: Can you share a hidden treasure in your corner of NG?

John Barclay: Not so much hidden, as under-utilized – Maplewood Park, Maplewood Hall and the former Oxford-on-Rideau Township Hall. They are all historic “jewels” located in Oxford Mills, the heart (and soul) of North Grenville.

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52WeeksNG: What are 3 – 5 issues that you would tackle if you were elected?

John Barclay: The issues I’d like to tackle are:

  • How do we best to handle growth while maintaining a strong sense of community?
  • How do we improve fiscal responsibility, accountability and transparency?
  • How can we have a stronger voice at County Council and at the other levels of government in Toronto and Ottawa?
  • How can we implement the 2013 Community Strategic Plan more effectively and on a faster timeline?
  • Finally, how do we improve job opportunities and recreational options for North Grenville’s many young families? ?

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52WeeksNG: Why is it important to vote in municipal elections?

John Barclay: How else do you earn the right to complain?

52WeeksNG: How do you like to spend your spare time?

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John Barclay: Sailing, vegetable gardening (beets for pickling), reading (non-fiction mostly) and building community through volunteering.

52WeeksNG: What is one thing the people of NG might be surprised to learn about you?

John Barclay: I’m the Producer of “Resolving Conflict Creatively” an educational video series on conflict resolution that has been acclaimed and sold worldwide to schools, libraries, college and community centres. One popular episode entitled “Healing Circles” is used as an Anti-Bullying Resource.

52WeeksNG: What would you like to say to the people of NG?

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John Barclay:  Economic development and social development are inextricably linked together. We need to strengthen the ties that bind us together including an appreciation and respect for nature, an interest in growing local business opportunities and support for our volunteer organizations and faith communities. I understand the economic and political realities of North Grenville – we need to maintain our infrastructure and manage growth. I’m prepared to make the difficult decisions that need to be made over the next four critical years and to communicate effectively the reasons why. I will be an effective voice for North Grenville at both the County and at Federal and Provincial levels of government.

Opening Remarks – First All Candidates Meeting (October 7, 2014)

Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to the 2014 North Grenville Municipal Elections.

My name is John Barclay, I’m 58 years old and I live in Oxford Mills. I want to live in a community where reasonable people can get together, discuss things, work them out and get things done.

Before I go on, I’d like to take a moment to recognize the organizers, Wendy Chapman and the Chamber of Commerce and the other candidates up here with me – I’ve had the opportunity to meet and speak with each and everyone of them. Whether they are relatively new to the community or long time residents of North Grenville, they’re demonstrating great dedication to the community, as well as personal courage, in running for office. No matter what the results of the election are, we’re lucky to have people like these in our community (pause)

We need a Mayor who is engaged in the issues. We need a Mayor prepared to ask the right questions and to press for satisfactory answers. We need a stronger voice at the County, Provincial and Federal level. We need a Mayor with a proven track record of bringing people together from diverse backgrounds and interests to make great things happen.

One of the themes of my campaign is building community, strengthening the ties that bind us both literally and figuratively. As a community we need more places and events to interact and form the connections that create community cohesion and a feeling of interdependence. Along with building these opportunities, it is essential that we build physical connections, too – roads, sidewalks, trails, and bike lanes. For example, supporting a coordinated rural transportation network would be one way to literally bring us together and to help us get things done.

I will be focused during my term to ensure growth is smart and sustainable. To achieve this we need to effectively implement the Community Strategic Plan, in order to accommodate growth while maintaining the small town, rural charm of North Grenville. We need to support the expansion of local businesses, local food initiatives and agricultural education in order to achieve economic and environmental self-sustainability.

Another theme of my campaign is accountability and transparency. Consultation and effective communication with citizens must be paramount in the day-to-day operations of Council. I’ll promise to make decisions based on facts and evidence instead of ideology.

Ultimately, people recognize me as someone who listens. I’m approachable. I make decisions based on what’s best for the community. I have a proven track record for working effectively within a group to find the best ideas. I want to bring these skills to the role of Mayor. I need your vote to make that happen. Thank you.

Building and Sustaining Community

(Published in the North Grenville Times, Sept., 2014)

In a recent issue Peter Johnston bid a fond farewell to one of our community’s tireless animators, Doug Hendry. Peter gave him deserved praise for his civic involvement, volunteerism and contribution to the local music scene. Having worked with Doug on many events hosted by the Oxford Mills Community Association in Maplewood Hall, I can tell you he was the kind of volunteer who was often the last one to leave, turning out the lights and locking up, after having swept the Hall thoroughly. Quiet and unsung for the most part until Peter’s warm tribute.

When I think of Doug’s departure, I immediately think of other community builders like Brent Kelaher, who left for greener pastures over a year ago and Bradley Scissons who left more recently in August. They all left North Grenville because the work they or their partners wanted either disappeared or never arrived. How can we develop as a community unless we develop the kind of jobs that keep people like Doug, Brent and Bradley rooted here? We have to create the right conditions to both attract investment and to build connections with one another in order to maintain the community we all cherish. In my mind, social development and economic development go hand in hand and should feed off each other. We can’t have one without the other.

I believe generousity is a defining feature of the community in Kemptville and the surrounding area. It’s a result of the sense of interdependence people feel and that is fostered by making connections with each other. Great things happen when people get together and get to know one another. For that to happen we need places and spaces to rub shoulders – we need sports facilities, festivals, parks and institutions like the Farmers’ Market – walkable, pedestrian- friendly, bike-friendly places. We also need cafes and restaurants where people can meet and do a bit of business together. I’d venture to say that more small business deals have been concluded in places like Geronimo’s or Butler’s Victorian Pantry than anywhere else in North Grenville.

I’m sure small town or rural connectedness is part of the attraction to people who are looking for a place to live, start a family and/or retire. It’s not just the price of homes compared to Ottawa. If we build homes without building and maintaining community; if we fail to create local jobs here in North Grenville, we’ll lose. We’ll lose more civic-minded people like Doug Hendry, Brent Kelaher and Bradley Scissions and that would be a shame.

Thank you for being a Friend

(Originally published in the North Grenville Times, September, 2013)

They say a person is known by the company they keep. Personally, I find the friends I have are people who share my interests and values. What can we say about Old Town Kemptville? Who are the friends of downtown ? Well, put simply, they are a close-knit group of businesspeople, service club volunteers and residents with a strong sense of community and a history of working together to make the downtown a special place in North Grenville.

The first friends of downtown Kemptville that come to mind are the local media. Old Town Kemptville enjoys the support of Juice FM 97.5, The Kemptville Advance/EMC and the North Grenville Times; all faithfully cover our events downtown. The North Grenville Times has been a true friend indeed by arranging a featured BIA page, so we can have a voice in the greater community of North Grenville once a month.

Partners in almost every initiative to retain and attract business downtown are the Municipality’s Economic Development Department and the North Grenville Chamber of Commerce. Every BIA should have friends like these. Old Town Kemptville also works closely with the Kemptville Farmers’ Market, the Kemptville Youth Centre, the North Grenville Historical Society and the North Grenville Public Library; we support each others programs.

Organizers of entertainment and sports events at Riverside Park, such as the Dandelion Festival or the Ontario Little League Minor Division Championships continue to reach out to the merchants downtown and make sure their visitors know where to shop and dine when they attend their events. We even count as friends the community minded businesses in Colonnade who promote the events that the BIA sponsors in Old Town.

Last but not least, we’re we’re truly thankful to count as friends our loyal customers, many of whom are known on a first name basis. It’s these friends that stuck by the merchants when it became difficult to navigate the construction on Clothier Street or take the long detour around the bridge construction County Road 44. The BIA hopes to see as many of those friends of downtown at our Customer Appreciation BBQ (free hotdogs and hamburgers), September 26th (2013) in Rotary Park (noon to 2pm). Don’t forget to circle the date. What do we know about Old Town Kemptville ? It has loyal supportive friends that value having a walkable, family-friendly cultural and business centre in their community

Volunteering is Not for You

(Published in the North Grenville Times, Nov., 2013)

As the Christmas season begins to gear up, why would you want to spend your quickly evaporating spare time working at something for free, to benefit people you barely know? It’s a very busy time of year and you’re busy already! You’re not a miserly person, you donate at home and at the office; you drop your spare change in the box – perhaps even at bit more this time of year. Well, there are some things money can’t buy and one of them is community. Community has to be built and built by participation; by getting involved.

As a relative “newbie” to North Grenville, I’m in awe at the level of civic participation in this community. It goes far beyond the typical degree of involvement in sports leagues, extra-curricular school activities, amateur theatre, church fundraisers etc. found in other places I’ve lived. People in North Grenville have figured out that when you give, you get so much more back and so, volunteering has become almost part of the culture as the “payback” is experienced time and time again by people living here.

I believe generousity is a defining feature of the community inKemptville and the surrounding area. It’s a feature that, I’m sure, is part of the attraction to people who are looking for a place to live, start a family and/or retire. I’m even more confident that it’s a feature that keeps people from leaving.

Volunteering is about other people – their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams. I wrote in October about the volunteer opportunities in Old Town to create some wonderful memories for your kids, grand-kids, nieces and nephews. You have another chance on November 30th (Old Town Christmas). There are many ways to get involved, whether assisting the Kemptville Kinsmen Farmers’ Market folks at the Artisan Market in the Old Armoury, working with the Kemptville Fire Service at the fire barrels downtown, caroling with the 1st Grenville Militia on Prescott or Clothier streets or helping children shop for their siblings and parents at the Kid’s Emporium at the North Pole (in the former Advance Building).

Volunteering is never for you; it’s for others. It’s about community and the connections that get fostered through contributing. When you give of your time, you get a lot back. Help us to create a family friendly downtown this Christmas, one that is a dynamic and vibrant cultural centre in North Grenville; become a Friend of Downtown and give us a bit of your time.