Archive for July, 2010

I have a confession to make. In the last federal election, I voted for the Green Party because Elizabeth May, like her or not, was the only candidate who mentioned food quality as a concern. Needless to say, she didn’t get in. But now in the run up to Ontario’s municipal elections in October, it looks like food might be back on the table.

Tomorrow morning in Toronto, the Canadian Urban Institute in collaboration with the Cities Centre at the University of Toronto is putting on a breakfast seminar on how and why food fits in the election agenda.

“How should we think about food? … We need to think and act very differently about how we grow, process, distribute and consume our food. Improved access to healthy and abundant locally-produced food is a worthy goal shared by the City of Toronto’s Board of Health…”

I should say so.

Farmer FrankieWhat happens when you walk into your bank to talk to an advisor and, an hour later, actually leave feeling ok — like you’re in good hands and heading in the right direction? It’s nothing short of a miracle, personally speaking. But it’s also a testament to the importance of building relationships.

If we take the time to talk to someone and find out what they do, then we can have a better idea of what they can do for us.

In the small health food store where I work, I see local farmers come in every week delivering their produce. We discuss what’s new on the farm, the weather conditions, their successes and failures. I see how hard they work to grow their produce and their business.

I’m also their customer because I buy what they grow and eat it knowing it came from good hands and good intentions. And I am proud to be a part of this cycle.

Compare this relationship, or that of getting your food at a local farmer’s market, where you have a chance to get to know the people who grow your food, to that of shopping at a big chain supermarket.

The big chain stores provide the one-stop-shop and convenience, but we know nothing about the food we’re buying, the food we’re eating. How was it grown? Who grew it? Do they share the same concerns about the environment and food quality? When was it picked? How far did it travel to get here and in what conditions? How long has it been sitting on this shelf?

Now I’m not suggesting a boycott of the big chains, but why not take advantage of the abundance to great local food available in the summer months directly from the people who grow it? These people are our neighbours and they need our business.

Visit a Farmer’s market near you (here’s a list for southern Ontarians from Edible Toronto) and find out who these people are. Talk to them and ask them questions. Growing conditions vary from year to year and from region to region. Find out what the bumper crops are this year and work with it when you plan your meals. You’ll be rewarded with the freshest fruits and vegetables your area has to offer, picked at their peak and bursting with flavour.

My bank advisor guy is going to help me. Now I understand the role that our relationship plays in my achieving certain goals. Likewise, the relationship we have with our farmers and food growers will help us have a vibrant, sustainable greenbelt— not to mention a little independence from Big Agri.