C’mon Canadians — Local Is Where It’s At

Locally sourced

Many of us Canadians were feeling a bit of the heat in terms of the plummeting loonie — especially when filling our fridges. When you pick up an apple or tomato at the grocery store, do you ever pay attention to the little sticker that showcases its origin? Hopefully, the weakened loonie will encourage more Canucks to source local food this upcoming year — as well as for years to come.

Today, the Canadian dollar is sitting at 76 cents — one cent short of the highest it’s been in 2016. While focusing on the cost of food, the weak Canadian dollar contributed to shocking prices over Christmas. We were in England this year, but my mom called and she had just spent $9 on a single head of cauliflower — aye yi yi. These spikes in pricing were also due to the drought in California — a whole other discussion, which I will save for another day.

The truth is, there are plenty of fruits and vegetables being imported into Canada and the price tags add up. Perhaps this will force people to see the beauty in locally sourced ingredients, something in which we’re very passionate about – not just from an economical point of view, but also from an environmental and nutritional standpoint

There’s something special about something sourced close to home, especially when we’re talking food and craft beer. When’s the last time you really focused on where your chicken, kale, or apples came from? Do you know much about the beers you drink?

Hey look, I’m not under any illusions here — shitty processed foods and mass-produced beers will not be phased out anytime soon. With that being said, you can make your own personal choices, helping to influence our current food system. There’s been a dramatic shift in the way humans eat and that’s been seen in terms of our economy, health, and environment.

Let’s put a few things into perspective real quick —

  • Canadians represent only 0.5 percent of the global population, yet nearly 70 percent of our agricultural land is ideal for growing crops. We can feed our communities, growing more food locally. I have so much respect for local farmers and to be honest, they get shit on half the time. When you walk into your local grocery store, with everything on display in its brightly lit spot, do you ever wonder, who grew this potato or red pepper? I’ll tell you who didn’t — the grocery store. Acting as a middleman, the big name stores cut into the profits of family farmers. Instead of selling direct to the consumer, they are forced to sell wholesale. The idea of knowing your local farmers, while building a sense of community is something that is foreign to far too many people.
  • The sad truth is, it’s not uncommon for a bag of grapes to travel 2,000 miles before reaching your local grocery store. Without even accounting for the environmental impact, the nutritional value of produce is dependent on the time of harvest, the ripeness when picked, harvesting methods, and what varieties are chosen.
  • Over the past few decades, the concept of ‘fresh’ produce has dramatically changed. An adult female in 2002, would need to consume 53 peaches in order to benefit from the same amount of vitamin A that two peaches offered in 1951. Also, within just seven days of cold storage, lettuce loses 46 percent of its key nutrients. Say whaaaaaa? The list goes on and on — the point is, purchasing fruits and vegetables from far away, means that you’re consuming foods that are essentially dying.
  • In terms of travel, the effects on the environment are obvious. Although more so focusing on our food system as a whole, here is a great read by David Suzuki — who is an absolute diamond in my eyes and amazingly, he will be 80-years old tomorrow. If you do have a little garden of your own, he also provides a great guide in order to make your outdoor space bee-friendly.

Dancing Bee

This spring and summer, there’s no doubt that we’ll highlight some of the local farms and breweries who are respecting all that Canada has to offer. It’s important to know how your decisions influence the people and the environment that surrounds you. Check out the following breweries, farms, and businesses to get more involved.

Muskoka Brewery 

The locally sourced movement doesn’t just apply to food — or consumers for that matter. Many breweries are focusing on sourcing more ingredients from just down the road. This was highlighted to some degree in our article Farm-to-Brewery: A Hops Love Story. Muskoka Brewery sources all kinds of thoughtful ingredients that not only add dimension to their brews but also support Canadian farms and businesses:

Here’s what Gary McMullen, founder and president of Muskoka Brewery had to say on the matter —

“We like to highlight other members of our community that are producing high-quality products like ourself. We’ll be celebrating our 20th anniversary later this year and couldn’t have done it without support from our community. When there’s an opportunity to support other members and businesses in our community, we take it.”

Beau’s All Natural Brewing 

Beau’s is no stranger to ethical sourcing and happen to be leaders in the craft brewing industry — read all about that here. Time and time again, they support local suppliers, farmers, and surrounding communities. Sourcing local spring water, they brew each batch with 100% certified organic malt and hops, always favouring local suppliers and those with positive environmental track records.

Since all of the beers that Beau’s produces are certified organic, they have long been advocating for increased access to Ontario organic ingredients. In order to continue supporting those close to home while maintaining their organic recipes, Beau’s has been extremely innovative. Using local organic herbs and spices instead of hops, a style known as gruit, they source ingredients from Ontario suppliers such as Mountain Path and First Nations forager Francis McDermott.

For those that are familiar with Bog Water, since 2008, Beau’s has been sourcing Bog Myrtle from McDermott. No certified organic option was available at the time, however, the bog myrtle was wild-harvested. When a non-local, organic supplier started up, Beau’s paid McDermott’s fees in order for him to receive organic certification. Talk about helping out your neighbours! I could go on until my stubby fingers bled — the point is, Beau’s is someone to look up to within the industry in terms of sustainability and being socially responsible.

Foodland 

For anyone that lives in Ontario, Foodland is no stranger. For 39 years, the Foodland Ontario program has encouraged consumers to source food locally, promoting fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein, eggs, honey, maple syrup, and more. For those who enjoy cooking, they offer incredible local food recipes so that you can make unique and seasonal meals. Their availability guide is a great resource when you want to know what’s in-season. When you increase your knowledge, a visit to your local farmers’ market is more rewarding.

Forsythe Family Farms + Homegrown CSA Co.

Just east of Uxbridge, Ontario, you will find Forsythe Family Farms, owned and operated by Jim and Leslie Forsythe. Supplying the GTA with fresh foods for over four decades, Jim and his family have developed an inspiring history. After offering locally sourced food and family fun at their Kennedy Rd location for 27 years, their lease was terminated.

Not ready to close the barn doors, the Forsythe family opened an on-site market, along with plenty of family activities at their home farm in Greenbank. Their sons are out and about, bringing small town charm and a respect for wholesome foods with them. Check out the farmers’ markets they attend, as well as their CSA (community supported agriculture) programs. They’re aaaaaaawesome, check it —

Their newest venture is based out of Toronto — Homegrown CSA Co. Launching this upcoming spring, this home delivery FoodShare program will offer a key connection to fresh local produce. Also, new this year, Forsythe Family Farms will be creating a community-like garden in order to support the local food bank.

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