It has spawned countless copycats, and has earned Chef Marc Breton a local food hero award from the Toronto Food Policy Council. It brings together farmers and local food producers with the people who eat their food. It has created friendships and communities, and has taught urbanites how easy (and delicious) it is to eat with the seasons.
Harvest Wednesdays is back for its fourth year, offering up dishes made from locally grown produce, as well as locally-produced meats, cheeses, wines, beer and more.
It’s almost April, and everywhere you turn people are planning their gardens – mapping out plots, ordering seeds. It’s enough to make a yardless city gal a little bit jealous, and I know I’m not the only one experiencing garden envy.
For those of us who can’t grow our own food (or who have ambitious plans in April that never seem to include weeding in the 30°C temperatures of August), the next best thing is to find our very own farmer who will do it for us – weeding included.
Spring is also when farmers start planning their upcoming growing season and is the perfect time for customers looking to get involved with a Community Shared Agriculture(CSA) programme to find a farmer to work with.
Although asparagus season is actually still at least a few weeks (okay, months) off, I keep trying to convince myself that any day now, I’ll run up to that display in my local supermarket’s produce section and the tag will say “Product of Ontario” instead of “Product of Peru”. Of course, when local asparagus becomes available, we’ll all know it – so many local organizations have popped up over the past few years to advocate for local food that they’ll be fighting to tell us all who has the first, best and cheapest asparagus around.
Despite working with and writing about many of the various regional food advocacy groups over the past couple of years, I still have a hard time remembering who does what. Which means that the average consumer in the Toronto area is probably even more bewildered than I am. Here then, is a brief primer, separated by category, of the various organizations, what they do, and where you can find them.
This question was posed to the closing panel at this year’s Canadian Organic Growers Conference. Organic farmers, food producers, nutritionists and writers convened in Toronto this past Saturday to examine the issues and explore how organics is changing the world.
The day-long event included a keynote speech by Helge Hellberg of Marin Organic from Marin County California, who is hard at work to make Marin the first completely organic county in the United States. Hellberg, a Certified Holistic Nutrition Counselor recounted a visit to Marin County by Prince Charles, who is one of the world’s leading supporters of the organic movement to visit the Marin County farmers market. Hellberg’s inspiring speech set the tone for the day, as participants broke off into different seminars that ranged in topics directed towards farmers, food producers and consumers.
One of the biggest complaints about local food is that it’s hard to find. Sure, farmer’s markets are popping up in many neighbourhoods, but the issues involved in getting local food to local tables, particularly restaurant tables, are many and diverse.
As part of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, a panel discussion and networking event that connected farmers and chefs took place on Monday, November 5th. Panel members included moderator Lori Stahlbrand from Local Food Plus; Tobey Nemeth, Chef de Cuisine at Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar; Elizabeth Harris, organizer of the Brickworks Farmers Market; Mark Trealout of Kawartha Ecological Growers; Dan Taylor, Economic Development Officer of Prince Edward County; Paul Finklestein from the Screaming Avocado and Food Network Canada Show, Fink; Barry Monaghan from Fresh Start; and Sasha Chapman of the Globe and Mail.
Each participant took a few moments to discuss the question, “What is the most important thing farmers can do to address local food opportunities?”