by MATT MCINTOSH
Representatives from some of Ontario’s agricultural organizations say that, despite the fanfare, Ontario’s “Local Food Week” is about sharing information about the industry with consumers and highlighting the benefits of supporting local farms.
“This is Ontario’s first Local Food week, though we do have Ontario Agriculture Week in the fall,” says LeaAnne Wuermli, communications manager for Beef Farmers of Ontario.”
“Creating a time when we can share information about Ontario’s beef industry is always something we can support.”
Micah Shearer-Kudel, Farm and Food Care Ontario’s environmental coordinator, says his organization considers Local Food Week to have a positive and “quite far reaching” effect when it comes to supporting local business.
The first week of June was designated Local Food Week as part of the provincial government’s 2013 Local Food Act. The week, says the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture’s website, is designed to “help increase awareness” of local food in the province.
In that spirit, Wuermli says her organization has partnered with Farm and Food Care to “kick off” the week’s inaugural run with a media tour of a beef feedlot near Alliston.
While the tour is not an open event, Wuermli says Farm and Food Care and Beef Farmers of Ontario focused on urban media sources, such as Canadian Living, in their invitations; those in attendance, she says, come from a variety of different professional backgrounds ranging from chefs and food bloggers to dietitians and other media persons.
Earlier this week, the Toronto-based morning show Breakfast TV also highlighted local food week by visiting Spring Ridge Farms, a multifaceted farm near Milton that is open to public visits.
The beginning of Local Food Week also coincided with Beef Farmers of Ontario announcing a contribution of $40,000 to the Ontario Association of Food Banks, which the commodity group’s June 2 press release says will be used to buy 28,000 servings of ground beef. Wuermli says the contribution was designed in a manner similar to a pilot project initiated by Ontario Pork last year that saw the donation of 20,000 servings of ground pork to the food bank group.
“Our hope is that other industry partners will also support this kind of program,” she says.
Robert Chorney, executive director of the membership group Farmers’ Markets Ontario, says his organization has been urging its members to actively advertise Local Food Week, as well as encouraging them to hold special events; the farmers’ market deemed to have the best event, he says, will be awarded with a small cash prize.
“Farmers’ markets have been promoting local for a while, and we realize local food goes far beyond farmers’ markets too,” says Chorney.
Chorney also points out that it is still early in the growing season for many locally-produced foods, which is something people should keep in mind, but says he suspects Local Food Week will well-supported regardless of when it takes place. BF