Municipal Capacity Related to Rural and Agri-food Issues


Dr. W.J. Caldwell, Professor,
School of Environmental Design and Rural Development
University of Guelph


Natasha Gaudio Harrison, B.A.Hons., M.E.S, M.Sc. Candidate

Shanley Weston, B.A.Hons., M.Sc. Candidate

Regan Zink, B.E.S., PhD Student, OPPI Candidate Member

sponsored by

Ontario Agri-food Innovation Alliance
(OMAFRA and the University of Guelph)

executive summary

A thriving agricultural sector is dependent upon a knowledgeable and supportive municipal sector. As the nature of municipal government and agriculture evolves, municipalities need to ensure that they have the capacity (staff, time, expertise) to respond to new and emerging agricultural issues (including climate change, new farming practices, agritourism, etc.). It is equally important that municipal elected officials understand the needs of agriculture and are well positioned to make timely, relevant decisions in support of the agri-food sector and the economy of rural Ontario.

This research will build upon a study that was completed in 2020 in partnership with the Greenbelt Foundation, entitled Enhancing Municipal Capacity to Support Agriculture in the Greenbelt. Findings from this preliminary study confirmed that municipal capacity to plan for and support agriculture is varied. Furthermore, this study uncovered a series of challenges related to planning for agriculture and pointed to opportunities for improvement, including increased collaboration between municipalities and upper levels of government, strengthening relationships between municipal staff and the agricultural community, and the need for a wider variety of resources and learning opportunities for planners on agricultural and rural issues.

The new study aims to expand this research across the province. The research area includes all upper- and single-tier municipalities and aims to have representation from both Northern and Southern Ontario. A mixed methods approach will be used in the research, including: surveys and interviews with municipal planners and elected officials, in addition to a literature review and policy analysis. The deliverable of this project will be a report detailing the research findings and providing recommendations for how to better position municipalities to respond to and support the agri-food sector in the planning process. Additionally a municipal toolkit for how to best plan for and support agri-food systems will be developed. Dr. Caldwell’s website will house this report as well as supplementary materials such as lessons learned, best practices and training materials. This project is funded by the Ontario Agri-food Innovation Alliance partnership between the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs and the University of Guelph.

If you have questions about this project, please reach out to a member of the research team:

Wayne Caldwell |

Regan Zink |

Natasha Gaudio Harrison |

Shanley Weston |