June 4th to 10th is local food week! Deemed by the provincial government, the proclamation is a reminder to Ontarians to consider increasing their intake of locally available foods. And why wouldn’t you? Eating produce as close to the day it was picked not only tastes better, but is more nutritious than that picked and stored for two weeks or more and delivered to major groceries.
And economically, supporting your neighbourhood farmers makes sense. According to Dr. Kevin Stolarick at the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute, “If every household in Ontario spent $10 a week on local food, we’d have an additional $2.4 billion in our local economy at the end of the year. Keeping our money circulating grows those dollars to $3.6 billion and creates 10,000 new jobs.”
Not to mention the environmental benefits; According to researchers at York University, “If 10,000 Toronto families shifted $10 of their weekly food purchases to local for a year, it would equate to taking 908 cars off the road for a year; on a per-family basis, carbon savings are equivalent to not driving a car for a month!”
Imagine the impact of doubling your spending! So, are you ready to make a change and up your local intake? There are many options available.
June is the seasonal start-up of farmers markets throughout the area. You are now able to attend farmer’s markets every day of the week, and twice on Saturdays! (see chart at right) The newest addition is the West Market. Located at the Royal Curling Club at 130 Days Road in Kingston, the market provides access to farm fresh food to the city’s west end from 9am to 3pm.
Frontenac County continues to witness a rise in locally available foods and products made with them, driven by an increase in consumer demand. “Ten years ago, there were few options (for those seeking local) outside of farmer’s markets,” says National Farmers Union president, Ian Stutt. “Today local grocers, like Glenburnie Grocery, now have large local food sections in their produce and frozen food departments.” Hats off to Trousdale’s IGA in Sydehnam who recently offered Stutt’s farm, Patchwork Gardens, greens for sale. It remains difficult for local farmers to sell their wares in larger grocers. Of course, this gives our locally-owned grocers a competitive advantage!
Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) continue to grow in numbers and are an economical way to purchase produce and in some cases meat and eggs. Just google CSA Kingston. A quick scan on Kijiji will introduce you to growers of beef, chicken, pork, lamb, rabbit and eggs.
Local food means more than produce and meat. Locally produced grains, beans, milk and even cider and beer are now available where 10 years ago, they were not. Add to this, options like exotic mushrooms, bison, rabbit and wild boar and the locally sourced menu options become endless.
The last 10 years have seen the development of businesses catering to mostly local products, both fresh and prepared like Elginburg’s Limestone Creamery, Verona’s Food Less Travelled, Sydehnam’s Mill St. Café and Kingston’s Old Farm Fine Foods.
Many restaurants know that featuring local attracts customers. Bayview Farms, Le Chein Noir, Chez Piggy and the Juniper Café are local farmer friends.
And if you like to do some of the work yourself, consider the area’s “Pick Your Own Options” like Fruition Berry Farm, Waddell’s Apples and the newest, Fat Chance Farmstead on Highway 38.
And last but not least, keep your eyes peeled for roadside stands and on-farm stores, which often don’t advertise, but sell at farmgate, like Sonset Farm in Inverary and Dirt Farm on Montreal St. by the 401.
It’s challenging to consume all of your food locally, but it’s easy to shift $10 of your weekly budget to local food. Do it for yourself, your community and the environment!
Sharon Freeman is an organic farmer and local food advocate. She owns Freedom Farm together with her husband, Will, who can be found Sundays at their stand at the Memorial Centre Farmers Market.