Northern Ontario boasts well-established cash crop, dairy and beef industries and strong growth opportunities in value-added production, cool weather crops, crop varieties suited for northern production and consumer niche markets.
The $195 million agricultural industry in Northern Ontario includes 2,800 farms, concentrated in the dairy and beef sectors. There also exists a significant crop industry, which is supported by related infrastructure improvements, such as tile drainage installation. As of 2016, the sector employs 21,600 people on-farm full time and another 15,800 people are employed seasonally.
Approximately 6,200 people are employed in the Northern Ontario food processing industry. The majority of food processing businesses are bakeries, but the sector also includes dairies, meat and fish processing plants, provincially inspected abattoirs and small food manufacturing facilities.
Agricultural activity occurs across Northern Ontario. The type and level of activity is influenced by a combination of factors including climate, soil conditions and infrastructure. Although the North's agricultural sector is small in size compared to other parts of Ontario (the region's farms represent about 5% of the farms in Ontario), Northern Ontario has:
- a beef industry that is larger than that of any Atlantic province
- a dairy industry that is comparable in size to New Brunswick
- an innovative maple syrup industry, including the largest producer in the province
- an aquaculture industry that provides 90% of the province's fish stock