Summary Report

We are living at a pivotal point in history. The world is experiencing dramatic economic, social and environmental challenges that have left us with global economic instability, job losses, mounting debt, rising health costs, increasing poverty, environmental degradation and the seeming inability to correct the situation with tried and true solutions.

It is expected that more food will be eaten over the next fifty years than has been eaten by human beings since the dawn of time. Concurrently, the cost and availability of non-renewable resources for food production and transportation, and the nutritional value of “long distance” food is challenging the wisdom of globalization and making local food look much better.

On the bright side, there is no greater economic and social opportunity on the horizon, than the tens of thousands of permanent, rewarding jobs that can be created by replacing the billions of dollars of food we imports into Ontario, with locally produced food.

Clearly, this century requires a new approach to food. The question is, “how do we create a carbon-reduced, resilient, sustainable food system (SFS) and what will that local food system look like”?

If we throw Mother Nature out the window, she comes back in the door with a pitchfork. quoteMasanobu Fukuoka

The Sustainable Food Systems project was created to answer these concise but complex questions. It is an action research project divided into three phases, Research, Planning and Implementation, created through a strategic partnership between the London Training Centre and the Southwest Economic Alliance. The research portion of the project was funded by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and the McConnell Foundation, with in-kind support obtained from numerous organizations and individuals.


A holistic, systems approach was used to collect information with the understanding that food systems are very complex. Much like a habitat ecosystem, it is important to identify all the pieces of the puzzle and understand their interdependencies to avoid unintentional consequences when making changes. Consequently, the research drilled down into trends and challenges facing agriculture and food systems, and a wide range of related subject matter areas.

Research was collected over an 18 month period ending in August 2012. Using a method of participatory inquiry, 5-one day, Interactive Conversation sessions were held in the Fall of 2012 throughout Southwestern Ontario. A total of 170 value chain stakeholders explored the food system that existed in the past, mapped current value chains and “visioned” a desirable food system. Primary research was also conducted by interviewing a broad range of local food stakeholders including farmers, growers, distributors, processors, retailers and others involved in the food system. Extensive secondary research was conducted by examining seminal journal articles, reports, and on-line information from around the world.

This project funded in part by the Ministry of Training, Colleges & Universities under the Labour Market Partnership program.












An analysis of the research findings, culminated in over 60 recommendations complete with job opportunities. Central to the recommendations is an innovative, practical Sustainable Food Cluster/Network that leverages the existing food infrastructure and together with vital integrated sustainable support recommendations, creates a balance of beneficial economic, social, environmental and nutritional outcomes that will move us incrementally towards a SFS in Southwestern Ontario.

The recommendations are holistic, integrated and achievable. To realize the greatest degree of efficacy, stakeholders within each Cluster will need to prepare a customized, time coordinated, implementation plan choosing recommendations to complement their existing infrastructure and programs.


Throughout the research phase, many individuals, value chain members, groups and counties have expressed an interest in creating a SFS in their region but ask, “How do we get there”?

We are prepared to play a supportive role in the development of your SFS plans by providing knowledge and resources. We can help by assisting you with:

  • Establishing an inclusive core stakeholder team.
  • Facilitation of interactive conversations with inclusive multi-stakeholders.
  • Soil and climate mapping to determine what can be grown in local areas.
  • Methods for creating sustainable agriculture production.
  • Mapping optimal locations for local and regional processing and storage.
  • Establishing business structures, alternative transaction mediums and non-traditional financing.
  • Information technology platforms to manage commercial transactions.
  • Brand creation and promotion of local products.
  • The “Smart Food DistributionTM“ platform which provides the lowest energy (cost) per calorie of nutritious food delivered.
  • Employment centre development.
  • Education and training programs.

Large-scale problems do not
require large-scale solutions; they require small-scale solutions within
a large-scale framework. quote
David Fleming

We are lucky to have so many food stakeholders. They hold many important pieces of the puzzle. In addition to hard working individuals engaged in local food initiatives, there are a multitude of organizations, government resources, academics and above all, members of the value chain from small mixed organic to large dedicated producers, from small independent retail outlets to large grocery chains and everything in between.

Together, we can seize this unprecedented economic opportunity to grow, process and consume wholesome, tasty, nutritious food from local sources by building new infrastructure and incorporating components of what exists now so that we may fuel important environmental and social programs.

Please join us in this journey!

Contact Tom Schell at: