Archive for the ‘General Info’ Category

The influence of the “Local Eating movement” on big business

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

You’ve probably noticed the same advertisements I have from Loblaws (and sister companies). Loblaw corporation (part of Westons ) has begun to get the word out that they support local Canadian farmers. Part of me would like to think that the groundswell around local and sustainable eating has encouraged them to buy more local produce. The cynical part of me would reference The Corporation .

Frankly, I think Loblaws, and most chain grocery stores carry a reasonable amount of seasonal, local produce – but they also carry a lot of non-local produce during seasons when it is not necessary (US and Chilean apples in the autumn?). The press release I mentioned above states that:

Loblaw purchased $750-million of Canadian produce in 2007 -
approximately 25 per cent of their total produce selection.

I guess the Loblaw group should be commended for typically moving in the right direction. The PC organic line is quite extensive. They were also quite quick with the re-usable shopping bags. They even have a more environmentally friendly concept store in Scarborough (link ). Call it good business, listening to the public opinion or sincere social responsibility, these are all good steps.

The big question for me is – do I add them here as a "local supplier"? Even though we don’t have a strict rule on the percentage of local food that must be supplied, at 25% I’m going to wait.

Keep eating local!

Aphids!

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

Despite our slow start to the garden this year, everything has been growing really well. We’ve been eating fresh peas almost everyday for about a month now, the tomatoes are looking really promising, the carrots are just about ready, we’ve been harvesting the basil and even our one cornstalk has defied all odds and is producing one corn! Yesterday, while I was checking the tomatoes, I found aphids on the flowering branches!!! The aphids nearly destroyed our snowball trees earlier this year and they are not getting my heirloom tomatoes. Luckily there were only a few clusters of them and I began picking them off with my hands. Then I felt weird squishing the bugs and so I blasted them off with the garden hose. When I checked today, there were a few left on the branches still so I blasted them again with the water. Hopefully that’s enough to keep them off. Does anyone know of any other organic ways to keep them off my tomatoes?

Aside from that, our local eating has been going really well in the summer. We go to Fresh from the Farm to stock up on meats every few weeks and we have our CSA from Plan B . We only got a half share and we find it challenging to finish all the veggies each week. We’re not salad people and we just can’t keep up with all the lettuce we’re getting! We tried purple beans for the first time last week. Did you know that they’re green inside and that they turn green when cooked?They taste similar to green beans with a stronger bean taste.

Since we were away for a few weeks in July, we traded those weeks for fruit shares. I decided to get the fruit shares in August thinking of all the peaches and plums that are in season. Imagine my surprise and disappointment when I didn’t get any local fruits in the fruit share. There were bananas, oranges, grapes and plums, mostly from California. Apparently, it’s risky to grow peaches and plums organically in Southern Ontario, due the high risk of fungal disease in the fruit. Most farmers can’t afford a crop failure. Here’s an except from an email from Melanie ofPlan B Organics explaining the situation:

Why is there so little fruit being grown organically in Ontario?

While the climate in Southern Ontario is warm enough to grow tender fruit crops, the high humidity in summer leads to a high incidence and spreading of fungal diseases on tender fruit crops. To combat these fungal diseases on conventional farms tender fruit crops are sprayed with chemical fungicides as many as 15 times or more each season to keep these diseases at bay and ensure a crop for the farmer. These sprays are why we at Plan B feel the need to provide an organic alternative, but for that alternative to also be local is a bigger challenge. Most of the certified organic tender fruits you have been getting in your fruit share are grown in arid, semi-desert zones in California where disease pressures are much lower and it is more conducive to organic growing. The cooler and drier weather in more northern parts of the province where we get our organic apples from is also helps lower disease and pest pressures for the farmers there. We also feel that very few local growers are in the position to risk losing their crops as there is little or no financial security in making significant changes to the food system, unless people are guaranteeing their costs and a a living wage. Things most of us take for granted, but that’s not how it is for farmers in our society.

Why can’t we get more farmers in Ontario to grow their fruit organically?

We at Plan B Organic Farm began offering the fruit share with hopes that having a good market for local organic fruit would help convince some local growers to convert to organic production. So far we have only been able to find a few farmers who have taken this step, we hope to find more in the future. Our goal is to have everything we handle be local and organic, but this is a goal for us when it comes to fruit, not the reality of where organic agriculture is at right now in Ontario. We want to build this system for the future, if you know of anyone with a fruit farm that’s not being used or is retiring please let us know and we will contact them with info about organic production.

So, if you know of anyone interested in organic fruit production, drop them a line at info@planborganicfarms.ca.

p.s. We’ve been getting some local organic melons in our fruit shares in the past two weeks.  Yay for melons!

Sweet Corn Sweet Peas Carrot tops Black Cherry Tomatoes Blanche Beaute Tomatoes McMullen Tomatoes Red Zebra Tomatoes

 

It’s Farmers’ Market Season Again!

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Brick Works Farmers Market

Since the start of the outdoor farmers’ market season, Josh, Ella and I have a new Saturday morning routine – we head down to Brick Works Farmers’ Market for some shopping and tasty treats.

Even though it’s still early in the season, the market was already bustling with activities. Farmers selling asparagus, rhubarb (you gotta get there early), wild leek and baby greens; vendors selling organic and heirloom seedlings, specialty cheese, baked goods, handmade chocolates and delicious prepared foods; there were also workshops, live music and activities for kids. It was so nice to be shopping in an open air market, visiting the different vendors and sampling all the goodies.

We had a late start last week and didn’t get to the market until 11. Unfortunately, most of the spring produce were sold out by then. So we just bought some bread from St John’s Bakery and a tomato seedling (red zebra, red with yellow stripes), just in case it doesn’t work out with our own seedlings.

To cure our rumbling tummies, we bought burritos from two different vendors for a taste test: the ultimate breakfast burrito vs. the chorizo burrito. They were both freshly made and stuffed with scrumptious toppings. Josh and I thought they were both delicious. The ultimate breakfast burrito was lighter and zestier; the chorizo burrito was hearty and more substantial. Ella preferred the chorizo burrito, she kept asking for more.

Starting next week, there’ll be a $5 charge for parking at the Brick Works , so I don’t think we’ll be visiting every week anymore. While they do offer a shuttle service from Davisville station and Broadview station, it’s too much trouble when you’re traveling with a one year old.

Here’s a list of farmers’ markets in Toronto (most of them are in our searchable database , we’ll be adding the search criteria “day of the week” soon):

Mondays

Sorauren Park Farmers Market

Sunshine Garden Market

Tuesdays

East York Farmers Market

MyMarket SickKids

Riverdale Farmers Market

Stonegate Farmers Market

Trinity Bellwoods Farmers Market

Wednesdays

MyMarket Bloor-Borden

Thursdays

Dufferin Grove Organic Farmers Market

Metro Hall Farmers Market

MyMarket East Lynn Park

Sunshine Garden Market

Fridays

Birchcliff Village Farmers Market

High Park Organic Farmers Market

Saturdays

Farmers Organic Market

Green Barn Farmers Market

St. Lawrence Farmers Market

The Village Market, Thorhhill

Brick Works Farmers Market

Etobicoke Farmers Market

High Park Organic Farmers Market

Weston Village Farmers Market

Withrow Park Farmers Market

Sundays

Distillery Farmers Market

High Park Organic Farmers Market

MyMarket Liberty Village

Would it be red, white or … green?

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

I finally picked up the spring issue of LCBO’s Food and Drink magazine today. And I actually got a chance to flip through the whole issue – front to back. I love reading the articles and I always get inspired to try new recipes. One of the featured wines, 20 Bees Growers’ White, boasts 100% homegrown (Ontario) grapes. This reminded me of a conversation I once had with a friend who told me that wines marked “Ontario wine” can contain up to 90% imported grapes. I thought that sounded ridiculous, figured it was exaggerated and didn’t put too much thought into it. Until today. So I decided to look into and figure it out, once and for all.

Here’s the scoop (from Grape Growers of Ontario):

  • If a wine is labelled VQA, it is always 100% Ontario grapes, specifically, in Niagara Peninsula, Pelee Island, Lake Erie North Shore and Prince Edward County.
  • At one point in time, a wine could be labelled “Ontario” with up to 90% imported grapes. That was to compensate for a grape shortage. That was back in 1993.
  • If the wine is labelled “Product of Canada”, it contains at least 75% Canadian grapes.
  • If the wine is labelled “Cellared by/in …”, it contains at least 30% Ontario grown grapes.

The only wines that are guaranteed to be local (to Torontonians) are the VQA ones. That’s what Josh and I drink most of the time, specifically the ones for which I get bonus Airmiles. That’s another reason for us local eaters to buy VQA.  (Do you VQA?  Why, yes, I do!)

On a side note, there is also an article about Ontario wineries that are going “green” – “The Greening of Ontario”. Wineries are reducing their environment impact by using alternatives to pesticides, reducing bottle weight, reducing waste and using geothermal energy to heat/cool buildings. There are even organic wines! It’s always nice to learn of different industries going “green”.

Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) – Local Eating Made Simple

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

In my research to find local food resources I learned of a system called Community Shared Agriculture (CSA). CSA is a food distribution system where the growers are directly connected to the consumer. The consumer subscribes to a share of the year’s harvest (i.e. pays a flat fee up front) from a local farm in early spring, and in return, the shareholder receives a box of fresh produce weekly during the growing season. The share subscription provides the farmers with the capital to purchase seeds and farming supplies, and the shareholder gets an amazing supply of farm fresh produce weekly.

The size and variety of the shares depend on the farm you purchase from. Generally speaking, the farms offer at least a large and small size share. Some farms also offer a fruit box in addition to the veggie option. At Everdale Organic Farm , shareholders also have free access to the culinary herb garden, the flower garden for fresh cut flowers, and all the beans and peas you can pick when they are in season.

I think this is a fantastic idea – it really is what local eating is all about – supporting and connecting with the people who grow my food. I do have one reservation though – I LOVE going to farmers’ markets and checking out the different vendors each week. By signing up to be a shareholder, it eliminates the need to go to the markets, hmmm….I guess I can still go for the fish and local cheeses and all sorts of other goodies. On the other hand, I’ll get to try new veggies I normally wouldn’t buy and learn new recipes. Now the next question is: who should I sign up with? There’re quite a few close to the Toronto area. To minimize the environmental impact, I should pick one that is close to home.

Here are the CSAs I’ve found in Ontario so far; they are all in our database:

Everdale Organic Farm – near Guelph

Plan b Organic Farm – near Hamilton

rare Organic Farm – Cambridge

Simpler Thyme Organic Farm – Hamilton

Thurston Organic Farm – near Lindsay

Whole Circle Farm – Acton

Click here for an in-depth article on CSA from Green Living Ideas.

To find a CSA near you, go to our Find Local Food page and choose "CSA" as the supplier type.

Tips for successful local eating

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Tanny has been busy with the content for this site while I’ve been working behind the scene (and enjoying her yummy local cooking). Tonight I had a chance to peruse the web for other local eating site. This post from the EatLocalChallenge.com website caught my eye. It talks about the “Locavore Pledge”:

If not LOCALLY PRODUCED, then Organic.
If not ORGANIC, then Family farm.
If not FAMILY FARM, then Local business.
If not a LOCAL BUSINESS, then Fair Trade.

Sounds like a good set of rules to me.

So far I’ve been shocked by the number and variety of food producers Tanny has found local to Toronto. I can definitely attest that the meats are better. We’ve always known that local veggies and fruits taste better. I can’t wait for spring when we really kick off our diet.

PLU Labels

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

You can tell whether the produce is organic or genetically modified by the PLU code (the number found on the sticker on the produce).  Conventionally grown produce has a 4-digit code, organic produce has a 5-digit code starting with a 9, and genetically modified produce has a 5-digit code starting with an 8.

source: Canadian Organic Growers www.cog.ca