Northern Manitobans will have more access to agriculture-related information, education programs and agri-business specialists with the launch of the new Northern Growing Opportunities (GO) Centre, Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives Minister Rosann Wowchuk announced here today at the grand opening of the new GO Centre.

“There are many agriculture- and agri-business-related opportunities waiting to be developed or expanded in Manitoba’s northern and rural areas,” said Wowchuk. “This GO Centre will give northern residents better access to information and will help producers and entrepreneurs take advantage of value-added product development opportunities.”

The Northern GO team will include an agriculture-production and business specialist and a northern leadership specialist. The centre will also provide access to other specialists throughout the province like farm production advisors and business development specialists among others.

The Northern GO team will work closely with the Communities Economic Development Fund, along with Manitoba Aboriginal and Northern Affairs and Manitoba Health and Healthy Living on the unique challenges in food production, preservation and food storage.

“These partnerships will provide northern residents, producers, industries and businesses with the support they need to develop and capitalize on opportunities for agriculture production and business development,” said the minister. “This will lead to more production, processing and marketing of fresh, healthy foods grown in the north.”

The following related announcement was also made today:

Federal-Provincial Growing Forward Partnership Promotes Northern Agriculture Program

A program to encourage the expansion of agriculture production and to increase the availability of locally produced healthy foods in northern Manitoba was jointly announced today by President of the Treasury Board Vic Toews and Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives Minister Rosann Wowchuk.

“Healthy citizens are the bedrock of healthy communities,” said Mr. Toews, on behalf of federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. “Our Government is proud to support an initiative that helps local farmers produce a nutritious food supply for our northern communities.”

“Northern Manitoba offers many real and untapped opportunities for sustainable development in agriculture production,” said Minister Wowchuk. “Livestock can be raised and a variety of food crops can be grown across the north utilizing innovative production methods and processing systems. Marketing of locally grown food also creates more healthy options for the residents of the north.”

The Northern Agriculture Program will receive $600,000 from the federal government and $250,000 from the provincial government through the federal-provincial Growing Forward partnership. Growing Forward is a national agriculture framework to co-ordinate federal and provincial agriculture policy. It supports flexible programs that are tailored to meet Manitoba’s diverse regional requirements.

This program is designed to encourage the development of agricultural production that includes agriculture education and technology development support to northern residents and the development, testing and launch of livestock and crop production systems. Creating and developing marketing opportunities that will make fresh, locally produced foods accessible to remote communities is also part of the plan.

The Northern Agriculture Program focuses on residents in rural and First Nations communities north of the 53rd parallel with programs being supported and facilitated by Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI) staff from the Northern GO Team. Applications for the programs will be available through the GO Centres in The Pas and Thompson, on line at http://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/ or by calling MAFRI’s toll-free line at 1-866-626-4862.