PDZA: local producers discuss agricultural priorities

L/R: Amy Taylor, Jason Durand, Nicole Craig, Rachel Soar Flande, and Charleen and Garry Overton participate in a group discussion at the first PDZA forum November 22 in Shawville.

Bonnie James
Local Journalism Initiative

SHAWVILLE – On November 22, the MRC held the first of three public consultations on the revision of the Agricultural Zone Development Plan (PDZA) at the Little Red Wagon Winery in Shawville. Local agriculture stakeholders were invited to discuss regional priorities for the next five years.

The event was led by MRC Economic Development Commissioner for Agriculture Shanna Armstrong and Groupe Pleine-Terre’s Assistant Director and Consultant for Cash Crops and Territory Management Samuel Comptois. The 42 participants were divided into six groups to engage in three activities to help identify regional priorities. Each group included a facilitator from the MRC who recorded the ideas presented.

The first activity had participants discussing “elements of value of the MRC Pontiac”. The groups were asked to identify local elements that are essential and distinctive. One group identified the Shawville Fair and Island Fest. They also discussed the importance of the cattle industry and maple syrup production, both which they felt are underdeveloped and have potential. Participating in the discussion was MRC Director of Land Use Planning and Environment Jason Durand, who talked about the potential for developing a Pontiac “appellation réservée” or “appellation d’origine contrôlée”, which is a local product that the region would be known for.

The second activity gave each group a different scenario and asked them to discuss what challenges might be faced locally in each instance. The challenges presented included items such as marketing livestock to out-of-province buyers and integrating successors into a family business. Farmer Emily Evterra talked about the challenges a family farm may face in trying to build additional residences on a property due to strict government regulation and red tape. She said these same challenges are a hinderance in building and providing staff or visitor accommodations.

The final activity was titled “Tomorrow’s Front Page” and asked participants what future success stories they envision for Pontiac agriculture. One group said they hope to see an influx of young farmers resulting from the promotion of agriculture education today. They talked about the importance of introducing kids to agriculture who might not otherwise have the exposure. They discussed ways to connect schools with farms to foster interest among the students.

The MRC will now take the information gathered and identify four emerging themes or priorities. A second forum will be held in February where small groups will be invited to discuss the themes and priorities identified that affect them. Based on the information gathered in these forums, the MRC will create an action plan in the spring. The third and final forum will be held in fall 2024 to present the preliminary revision of the PDZA and gather feedback. The plan will then be finalized in winter 2025.