By Jonathan Martin
Local food week aims to encourage consumers “to support our agriculture and food processing sector by choosing local and to enjoy all the amazing food grown and made right here in Ontario," said Ernie Hardeman, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, earlier today.
For producers, it’s also an opportunity for marketing and networking, Patricia Saunders, co-chair of the Essex County-based Amherstburg Farmers Market, told Farms.com.
“There’s a sense of community in farmers markets,” she said. “Consumers grow to understand that someone is out there working to provide them with their food. It doesn’t just show up in plastic at their grocery store.”
For producers, the community connection goes deeper.
This year, one of the largest vendors at the Amherstburg Farmers Market suffered a massive flood on the family farm. The water ran like a river across the field, Farms.com saw. The crop could not be saved.
The family received an “outpouring of support” from the ag community, Saunders said. Through years of involvement in the farmers market, the family had built up a network of professional connections and friends.
“Emergency situations need community,” Saunders said. “Farmers markets aren’t about buying and selling. They’re about helping each other when it’s needed. The excellent food is a bonus.”
The family, who didn’t want to have their identities revealed, also produces in greenhouses. The greenhouses were not affected by the flooding.
Heather Reid is a University of Guelph researcher. She studies networking within the ag sector.
“Farmers may not be able to form a big, broad network in the same way that, say, wineries do,” she told Farms.com. “But, when it comes to finding someone else or a group of other people who do something similar, it can be really, really valuable. It’s not just about the shared experience and knowledge, but it’s also about being able to gripe about the same things; complain and laugh as well.”
Ag producers need those connections in a year as challenging as 2019, Reid said.
Sharing local food is a good way to celebrate those connections, Saunders added.