Local. Local. Local. Definitely a buzz word as of late and definitely a trend I hope gains way more traction as consumers begin to understand what it means to eat local. There are different definitions for what “local” means and I’m hoping to share some thoughts.
Local can mean within your City. For example Toronto has many urban farms that are growing produce right within the city limits and have programs that you can participate in whether it be volunteering, attending events or purchasing a harvest share box that delivers fresh produce to you weekly or bi-weekly. 2 organizations that come to mind (and that I have personally visited) are FoodShare Toronto http://www.foodshare.net and Black Creek Community Farm http://www.blackcreekfarm.ca
Local can mean within your Region. I am a Toronto born lover of Durham Region. Durham Region is north east of the city core and includes areas like Ajax, Whitby, Brooklin, Uxbridge, Clarington and Port Perry for example. There are a multitude of farms in this region that participate in farmer’s markets and sell right off the farm at an on site market. Last summer I had the honour of working alongside Jim and Leslie Forsythe at Forsythe Family Farms 2009 Inc.
http://www.forsythefamilyfarms.com in Greenbank (east of Uxbridge) and they have 50 acres of land growing kale, tomatoes, beans, strawberries, apples for cider, pumpkins and so much more. Every day I’d leave work with the fresh produce I wanted to eat for dinner that night giving me a true ‘farm to table’ lifestyle.
Other farms in Durham:
Hy-Hope Farms: http://www.hyhopefarm.ca – I love their fresh bread selection
Coopers Farm and Maze: http://www.coopersfarm.ca
Brooks Farm: http://www.brooksfarms.com
Strouds Farm: http://www.stroudfarms.ca
Willowtree Farms: http://www.willowtreefarm.ca
Local can also mean within your Province. Foodland Ontario is the Canadian governments marketing arm promoting the fact that “Good things grow in Ontario” This is important because not every region/city has the same soil type or climate so everything can’t grow everywhere. The reason peaches are typically from the Niagara area is because of this fact. It’s a few points warmer near Niagara and there are helpful winds off the lake that help regulate ideal growing conditions. If you want “Local peaches” and live near a city that can’t grow it, your “local” is the next nearest area that can.
Flavour. If you have not eaten a tomato that was grown locally and did not have to travel miles to get to your plate, you are missing out! Seriously do a side by side tasting and you tell me if you taste a difference. I eat local because the flavour is stronger and the possibility of the farmer using soil management and other pest management strategies, instead of pesticides, is very likely. I have completed a Pesticide Certification course so I’m not at all ‘anti-pesticide’ (education is so key) but I do like the idea of proper soil management to assist in the growth of produce especially if not in mass numbers.
Environment. The more I learn about nature, our earth and the eco system that includes all animals, insects and plants is the more respect I gain. The impact export/import has on the earth to move, for example strawberries from California to Toronto, during the winter months when Toronto is too cold to grow strawberries is more than I’d like to have happen. We don’t have to eat Strawberries out of season at the expense of negatively impacting the environment (which we need in order to survive, hello!). If eating strawberries in February is that important, Ontario has greenhouse grown strawberries so we can still purchase locally. (I acknowledge the additional impact of energy sources to keep that greenhouse functioning, but that’s going into “geek mode” about the environment and deserves us sitting down with herbal tea and a tea biscuit lol)
I understand importing Mango’s or kiwi’s because they literally can not be grown in Ontario’s climate but to import produce that we grow right here locally is ridiculous to me. I don’t mind eating “In Season” and the more creative we can get with the foods that are in season, is the less we’ll notice the other produce is “missing” A strong example of this is Asparagus. Asparagus season in Ontario is May/June. During these months we should be supporting local economy and purchasing Ontario Asparagus instead of Asparagus from Mexico. But most of us don’t know what’s in season, or where to get it locally so we just buy what’s in the store closest to us.
Here is a handy guide for Ontarian’s:
Support Local Business. If anyone is an entrepreneur, you understand having to contend with your competition potentially selling at a lower price and/or your customers not being consistent. Your livelihood is dependent on the cycle of your customers needs. So think about that and then ADD the threat of bad weather, a bug infestation or coyotes/deer/birds constantly wiping out your product for sale. Farming is not an easy occupation and the large farms who can supply grocery chains can bank on more financial consistency than the smaller farmers who sell strictly at farmers markets and their own on site store. If you’ve ever killed a plant at home, you also recognize it’s not as simple as sticking a seed in the soil and walking away. It takes skill, dedication, commitment and a lot of trial and error that you may not get paid for. So, I encourage you to connect to your local farmer and support them by re-directing your grocery money to their offerings and eat better tasting food in season for your local climate.
In addition, many farmers drive a great distance to sell their produce to areas that normally can’t get it and to increase their sales with a larger market than their immediate town. Last summer, working at the Orillia Farmers Market, I had a neighbour who drove approx 155 miles/250km or 2.5 hours from the Niagara area with a truck of his cherries and peaches every week!
That’s dedication to bring the people of Orillia fresh and fantastic tasting produce, while expanding his market in terms of selling his produce. That’s why I supported his efforts every week by purchasing my fruit from him.
So all in all, “Eating Local” to me means using logic towards what’s in season, what can be grown in your local area and learning how to source the produce effectively. Shopping in season can also be cheaper and allows your creativity to shine by learning new recipes surrounding produce that won’t be around after its season expires. Right now in Ontario, carrots and asparagus are available…..who’s got a recipe?! 🙂