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Northern Ontario Agri-Food Pavilion open at Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

Annual 10-day event provides opportunity to showcase agri-food producers from across the North

The Northern Ontario Agri-Food Pavilion is once again showcasing Northern Ontario-produced agri-food products during the 2023 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

Opened on November 3, the 10-day event runs until November 12 at Exhibition Place in Toronto.

The Royal is the largest indoor agricultural and equestrian event in the world, drawing more than 300,000 visitors annually to experience the food, products and events.

The Northern Ontario Agri-Food Pavilion has been a major part of the fair for more than 20 years, providing a unique opportunity for exhibitors to showcase their products and services on an international stage.

Patty Hajdu, minister for FedNor, which sponsors the event, told BayToday that it's a good opportunity for Northern Ontario businesses to get exposure they wouldn't normally have the resources to achieve.

"It really helps small businesses make connections, find new markets, and new partners with different kinds of manufacturers," Hajdu said.

"There's a number of exhibitors from all across Northern Ontario and what a lot of people don't realize is that we have a really strong agri-food sector in North, not just in terms of people producing foods but people producing products. It's pretty exciting."

In May, FedNor announced more than $679,000 to support 46 agri-food producers from across Northern Ontario to participate in the event. This year's participants will offer a diverse range of high-quality goods, including spices, cheeses, local Indigenous products, crafts, and more.

"Exhibitors are always thrilled to participate in it," Hajdu said. "They like to have the volume of a Northern Ontario pavilion so that they can really showcase what we can do in the North. Lots of times people think that there isn't a lot going on in terms of food production in Northern Ontario.

"Northern Ontario has its own very unique footprint, and so participants love the opportunity to come together to show the rest of the province what they're doing and make new partnerships with other providers. It really does help them develop new markets as well."

Sometimes these small producers start off in a space where they're marketing to their local community or their local region, but participating in events like the fair gives them a provincial, sometimes a national market.

"As a resident of northern Ontario, but also a local MP, it gives me a great sense of pride and actually a great sense of comfort to know that Northern Ontario has such a strong local food economy, and that not only are our producers doing well and staying in business but finding ways to broaden their markets and create new customers," Hajdu said.

"It also provides us a sense of stability in Northern Ontario to be able to have that kind of expertise right in our own home backyard. We see in these difficult times that food supply chains can become easily disrupted, but having had that expertise in Northern Ontario is, I think, part of what creates a diverse strong economy."

“The Northern Ontario Agri-Food Pavilion has grown to become a major draw each year at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, and we are excited to once again formally open the space for our visitors," Ray Stanton, fair president, said. "The Royal offers so many exciting attractions, events, and activities. FedNor's pavilion is one that should not be missed, and it happens to be one of my favourites.”

The Northern Ontario Agri-Food Pavilion has been a part of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair since 2001, and has since more than tripled in size and number of exhibitors. It's helped more than 250 different businesses from across Northern Ontario increase sales and expand markets.

Since 2015, exhibitors at the Northern Ontario Agri-Food Pavilion have generated over $7.2 million in on-site and projected sales.

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair began in 1922, making the indoor agricultural and equestrian event 101 years old.

— BayToday