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Local food is key to a healthy diet

GUELPH, ON – It’s right about this time that all those aspirational New Year’s resolutions to live a healthier lifestyle start to fall by the wayside.

But that also makes this the ideal time to buckle down and re-dedicate yourself to more thoughtful and smarter eating habits. Central to helping you accomplish that is making local foods a big part of your plate.

“Local food is simply better on all fronts,” says Peggy Brekveld, President of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. “It’s a fundamental part of a healthy diet. Fresh, local food simply tastes better than imported food and it’s better for you. And it’s good for our economy, supporting farmers, rural communities and preserving farmland.”

Even during the cold winter months when Ontario farms are dormant for the season, there are local food options in your neighbourhood grocery store — and these are typically found in the outside aisles of the store. Peggy suggests keeping an eye out for some of the following:

• 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.
• 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.
• Dairy Shelf — Ontario dairy cows are always producing. Milk, cheese, cream, butter, yogurt, ice cream — all are made with dairy from Ontario farms.
• 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.
• Beer, Cider, Wine and Spirits — Ontario craft producers of adult beverages use Ontario agricultural products. Craft brewers source local hops. Cideries are frequenting Ontario orchards. The Ontario VQA medallion is an assurance that the wine in the bottle is made entirely from 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 project aims to raise awareness of the importance of preserving Ontario farmland for the production of food, fuel, flowers 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 175 acres of productive farmland to urban development 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 Ontario food Ontario residents buy, the more it underscores the importance of preserving our farmland,” says Ms. Brekveld. “At the end of the day, if we want to grow more food, we need to preserve farmland.”

Source : OFA

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