Most people resolve to eat less in the new year to take off a few pounds – I’m going to make an effort to eat more…eat more local, that is. It was obvious that Eastern Ontario was a great area for locavores even before my partner and I moved from Atlanta to Frankville in 2009: doing a google search ‘Eastern Ontario local Food’ was an eye opener. Farms and markets and groups and conferences and restaurants and CSA’s all popped up, all sharing this common vision of supporting local food. It was very encouraging for someone thinking to get into farming and showed a great network starting with the farmer and ending up on the plate of the local consumer.
It is now six years later and becoming easier and easier to eat locally – even with snow on the ground and very few local fresh veggies available. A couple of things are happening right now in the area that are worth looking into: Year Round CSA’s and Winter Farmers Markets. The CSA (Community supported Agriculture) typically has members who purchase a weekly basket of vegetables from the farmer with some money up front to help finance production and provide a regular income. The member has the benefit of a reliable fresh supply and can save money when compared to buying vegetables as needed throughout the season.
A ‘Year-Round CSA’ expands the concept from just vegetables to offer almost everything you need to stock the fridge and pantry each week all year round. Typically they offer a variety of meats, baking, honey, maple syrup, preserves, condiments and eggs (at the farm gate) on top of the in-season vegetables. Some go the extra mile, like Bluegrass Farm have invested in high tech greenhouse technology to stretch the vegetable season to the max. Heritage Harvest Farm and Two Rivers Food Hub are two others in this area.
Winter Farmers Markets are also answering the call for local year round food. This year, the Kingston Memorial Center Market is offering an indoor market from January to May as is the Ottawa Farmers Market and Ottawa Organic Farmers Market.
It’s easy to explore these options in addition to shopping at the ‘farm gate’ and stores that feature local producers to eat local and support your neighbouring farmers at the same time. ‘Farm Gate’ is a term that farmers use to let you know that they are open for business at their farm. Some keep regular hours and some are open ‘by chance or by appointment’ so if you want to be sure, make an appointment. To find farm gate opportunities, explore the Lanark Local Flavours and the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Local Flavours websites. They both provide listings of area farms and what each offers.
Many local grocery stores make an effort to support local producers and make it easier for consumers who can’t make it out to the farm. Just ask your grocer what they have to offer from the area and they will be happy to help you out. In this area be sure to visit Foodsmiths in Perth, Garden Market in Smiths Falls, Dandelion Foods in Almonte and The Granary in Carleton Place. One local food mega-supporter is Wendy’s Country Market – she will deliver local foods right to your door!
Eating local is really a winning situation for everyone in the local community: Healthy local food for the consumer, support for the local farmer and a boost to the local economy.