A collection of local producers, agriculture experts, funding agencies, tourism representatives, and restaurateurs gathered at the Quattro Hotel and Conference Centre Thursday for the Sault Ste. Marie-Algoma Forum on Food, Farms and Tourism.
Facilitated by Tourism Northern Ontario with the Algoma Country Travel Association, Tourism Sault Ste Marie, the Sault Ste Marie Chamber of Commerce, the Rural Agri-Innovation Network (RAIN), Take a New Approach, and Buy Algoma Buy Fresh, the forum spoke of the potential for culinary tourism in the region and the importance of pairing area producers with vendors.
“We’re trying to bring local food together with tourism businesses. At the end of the day, we want to begin marrying the two so the offerings of locally grown Algoma foods become more predominant throughout the region,” said Carol Caputo, executive director of Algoma Country Travel Association.
“We want to look at potential development of food tourism . . . because there’s such a growth of culinary tourism. We already have great restaurants. It’s just getting them together with the local growers and farmers.”
The Sault Ste. Marie event was one of nine culinary tourism group forums to take place across northern Ontario in the past few months.
As part of the Algoma forum, participants took part in a ‘speed dating’ session aimed at facilitating discussions between agricultural producers and vendors to build and enhance potential partnerships.
Following the series of forums, all the data and information collected will help develop a strategic plan for future partnerships and growth within the region’s culinary sector.
Presenters during the Sault Ste. Marie-Algoma Forum on Food, Farms and Tourism included Rebecca Mackenzie, president of the Culinary Tourism Alliance; David Thompson, project coordinator for the Rural Agri-Innovation Network (RAIN); Bruce Strapp, executive director, Northern Ontario Heritage Fund; and Mark Kenny, procurement manager at Hospitality Services, University of Guelph.
Discussion panelists were Frank O’Connor, owner and operator of the Voyageurs Lodge and Cookhouse; Nick Gordon, director of sales and marketing for Penokean Hill Farms; and Trevor Laing, owner and operator of Algoma Highlands Wild Blueberry Farm.