GUELPH, ON – The turning of the calendar to a new year is often accompanied by a pledge to live a healthier and more active lifestyle.
Key to accomplishing that is including local food in your meal plan. Food grown and raised locally simply tastes better than food that is transported thousands of kilometres to local store shelves, and is, quite frankly, better for you. However, in the midst of an Ontario winter when temperatures are frigid the thought of sourcing local food is not always top of mind. But the reality is, we are lucky enough to have access to ample local food choices any time of the year.
“Despite the settling in of winter, local food options remain plentiful,” says Peggy Brekveld, President of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA). “In grocery stores, at farmers’ markets and even at the farmgate, Ontario-grown and raised food is relatively easy to find. And not only is it good for you, it is also good for our economy — supporting farmers, rural communities and preserving farmland.”
The best place to start looking for local food options in your neighbourhood grocery store are the outside aisles of the store. Peggy suggests keeping an eye out for some of the following products:
- Butcher Counter — Ontario meat and poultry is always in season. Head to a local butcher shop or the meat section of your grocery store for fresh Ontario-raised meat and poultry, and check the labels on processed meats for an Ontario designation.
- Field-Grown Fruit and Veg — It may be winter, but there are several Ontario crops that grown and harvested in summer and fall that store well over the winter. Be on the lookout for produce like Ontario apples, carrots, cabbage and potatoes in your local grocer.
- Controlled-Climate Produce — Canadian winters can be horribly miserable, but Ontario has a strong greenhouse sector and an emerging controlled-climate vertical farming sector. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce and strawberries are primary greenhouse produce from Ontario farmers, and are as fresh and delicious as those picked from a field in August. Vertical farms, while still getting a foundation under them, are putting Ontario-grown leafy greens, microgreens and baby greens on store shelves in the winter. And many root vegetables are kept in cold storage for availability in winter months; look for Ontario carrots, beets, garlic, leeks, onions, parsnips and potatoes.
- Dairy Shelf — Ontario dairy cows are always producing. Milk, cheese, cream, butter, yogurt, ice cream — all are made with Ontario dairy products.
- Frozen Foods — Many Ontario vegetables harvested in season are flash frozen, preserving all of the nutrients that are found in their fresh counterparts. Again, check the packaging for the origin of the veg within the bag, and choose Ontario. Check the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers’s website for more information on Ontario processors.
- Beer, Cider, Wine and Spirits — Ontario craft producers of adult beverages use Ontario agricultural products. Craft brewers source local hops. Cideries frequent Ontario orchards. The Ontario VQA medallion is an assurance that the wine in the bottle is made entirely with grapes grown in Ontario vineyards. The grains in craft spirits come from Ontario farms; in fact, for any Canadian whisky to be considered a Canadian whisky, the grains used have to come from a Canadian farm.
The OFA’s Home Grown campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of preserving Ontario farmland for the production of food, fuel and fibre. It’s a key issue for the province; based on data from the last Census of Agriculture, Ontario is losing an average of 319 acres of productive farmland every day. This is a worrisome decline for what is arguably the province’s most essential natural resource — the arable land with which we feed people.
“The more local food Ontario residents buy, the more it underscores the importance of preserving our farmland,” says Brekveld. “At the end of the day, if we want to grow more food, we need to preserve the farmland necessary to grow, raise and produce it.”Source : OFA