Janet Horner: One of our 2016 Local Heroes
Janet Horner has served on more committees than you can shake a provincial policy manual at. She’s the executive director of the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance and the GTA Agricultural Action Committee. She’s the chair of Sustain Ontario, past chair of the Rural Ontario Institute, and a member of Headwaters Food and Farming Alliance. Her duties as a Mulmur Township councillor mean she sits on the Shelburne fire and library boards, as well as the Mulmur police services board. She also represents Dufferin County on the Niagara Escarpment Commission. The annual Authors in the Hills of Mulmur event was her brainchild, as was Mulmur’s Canada 150 Committee, which is planning the township’s 2017 sesquicentennial celebrations.
Dizzy yet? Even if you are, this list may be exhausting, but it isn’t exhaustive.
On top of all this, Janet and her husband Brian have been farming in Mulmur since they married in 1978. Many will know the two – and their children – from Whitfield Farms Country Catering, a business they operated for 30 years until, as Janet says, “I just couldn’t deal with another bride.”
Janet credits her parents with fostering her prodigious work ethic. “I came from a family of entrepreneurs,” she says. “My parents ran a trucking company, and my mom was on the school board. I had wonderful role models.”
Janet may be best known for her work with the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance, an organization that promotes a vibrant regional food and farming sector despite the tremendous challenges posed by development pressures. When offered the position of executive director, she says she was concerned because the former ED had been quite cerebral. She told the interview team, “I’m not the thinker. I’m the doer.” They responded, “That’s just what we need.”
It was this regional experience that eventually inspired her to run for a seat on Mulmur Township council. “I felt it was something I had to do,” she says. “I began to wonder, ‘What have I done lately for the folks at home?’ I believe you can work on provincial policy for years and not have the same impact as you can in municipal politics.”
The big issue of Janet’s first council term is the province’s plan to expand the Niagara Escarpment control area. “People in Mulmur want to protect the environment as much as anyone,” she says, adding, “Municipalities should not be crippled by the province moving a line on a map.” The sticking point is the Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program, which provides a property tax break to owners of designated natural lands, including property within the NEC’s control area. Expanding this control area would dramatically reduce Mulmur’s tax revenues. Unless a solution is found, the shortfall could be made up only by increasing the mill rate for all Mulmur landowners. In the worst case, property taxes in Mulmur could rise by $1,000 per household, she says.
Whether it’s individuals or the community itself, Janet says she loves to watch people reach their potential. “I get my greatest joy out of developing people and businesses, and helping them become what they need to be.”