Ontario commits $1 million to agricultural fairs

ONTARIO — The Ontario government is committing $1 million to agricultural fairs in support of the fall festivals cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Ontario government is expanding eligibility for agriculture societies to apply for funding to help offset the financial losses due to the cancellation of fall fairs, exhibitions and activities during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic,” government staff released in a statement yesterday (Aug. 20). “For this year only, nearly $1 million will be made available to all qualifying agricultural and horticultural societies to help ensure operations. In previous years, organizations could only qualify for provincial funding if they operated fall fairs.”

The announcement was made by Ernie Hardeman, minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

“Our agricultural and horticultural organizations are part of the backbone of rural Ontario. We know that the decision to cancel their fairs and events was a difficult but important one in order to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Hardeman said. “We are providing this funding to help continue operations and relieve some of the burden they are experiencing during this difficult time.”

“Our horticultural and agricultural societies have educated and entertained us on the importance of agriculture for more than a century,” MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock Laurie Scott said. “This funding will help support this important sector of Ontario’s economy as the province recovers from the impacts of COVID-19.”

The Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies (OASS) reported more than 175 fall fairs and events have been cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19 including the Carp Fair.

“The Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies (OAAS) is grateful for the Ontario government’s support,” OAAS manager Vince Brennan said. “This investment shows the confidence and appreciation that the Ontario government has for our over 200 Ontario Agricultural Societies, their members and volunteers and the significant contribution they make to their communities and rural life in Ontario.”

“Thanks to the Ontario government for all of the support and assistance they have shown to all of the Societies/Clubs affiliated with the Ontario Horticultural Association (OHA),” vice president of the Ontario Horticultural Association Charles Freeman said. “Ontario’s continuing support of the 27,000 plus membership across the province is appreciated by everyone involved with the OHA.”

The province provides some funding to individual agricultural societies through grant payments enabled through the Agricultural and Horticultural Organizations Act. Under the act, Regulation 16 sets out in the year an agricultural society is paid a grant they must hold an agricultural exhibition, such as a fall fair. The COVID-19 restrictions have prevented the events that would help to meet this criterion in 2020, with some societies at risk of closing their organizations without this support.

The OASS is a provincial association representing more than 200 agricultural societies from across the province.

The OHA is a volunteer charitable organization that encourages interest in gardening and related environmental issues representing over 280 horticultural societies from across the province.