25, 2003: Farmers, processors, distributors, retailers
and chefs participated recently in a conference about local
food sponsored by the Toronto Food Policy Council. They came
to network, develop a local food cookbook, create an electronic
marketplace for local food dubbed "O-Bay" and make
for eating local. Toronto's historic Montgomery Inn provided
a storied setting.
Retailers cautioned that developing a market based on local
food takes time, especially if the local culture still needs
to be developed or is dominated by fast food. They questioned
if consumers still know what to do with unique products.
They recommended that farmers consider using distributors
create a steady flow of product, keep their products in the
consciousness of more retailers and persuade these distributors
to highlight local products on their lists. They were interested
in developing guidelines for small growers and urged them
to focus on specialties.
Their ideal is to serve people who want to eat well -- the
foundation of health. They presented themselves as an alternative
to the long distance; "cheap food" system dominated
by big box stores and questioned our awareness of the hidden
environment and health costs of fast food.
Chefs asked for quality -- meaning fresh -- and for consistency
of supply - meaning consistency in every sense of the word.
It doesn't matter what size a vegetable is, chefs just want
them all to be the same size. They want reliability and convenience
of delivery -- meaning a fixed day of the week and delivery
definitely between 2:30 and 5:00 p.m. FedEx it if you have
Their ideal is to serve the food of the region -- food that
reflects local soil and climate, and the history and culture
of the district. While chefs were unequivocal in their praise
for Ontario vegetables in general, they want food from a specific
region, a specific farm that is legendary. While Ontario may
have the best of land, a great climate, and reasonable prices,
chefs want to make food a bigger part of our traditions and
economy and are
convinced that local food is an extra level of service that
can win a better price.
Locally produced food has often been equated with cheaper
food. Many farmers at farmers markets cater to those who buy
in bulk for home processing and canning projects.
There is a much bigger future available to local food. It
means replacing the image of food by the bushel at very reasonable
prices with cuisine with the farmer's face on it, the chef's
expert presentation, and every buyer honored as a connoisseur.
Then we will see local food become storied food, a "must
have" for all.
For more on the myths about hunger and the Canadian Foodgrains
Bank, a Christian response to hunger visit
- April 18, 2003: Complex
land decisions must be based on values, not data
- April 9, 2003: The
emerging managed food chain
- April 3, 2003: Farmer
nominees for the Rural Red Tape Reduction Project
- March 28, 2003: Farm
- March 21, 2003: Myths
- March 7, 2003: Europe
Gets Innovative about Farm Subsidies
- February 21, 2003: Seven
ideas for Strong Rural Communities
- February 7, 2003: An
Action Plan for a Fresh Vision for Agriculture
- January 3, 2003: 2002
ag policy changes to have big impact in 2003
- December 13, 2002: Farmers
know ag’s “multiple-benefits”, but wonder
how to make them profitable
November 5, 2002: Intervening
in farm markets for the public good
- October 25, 2002: Standing
up to commodity agriculture
- September, 2002: Wishes
and dreams for Ontario agriculture
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