Adieu le bon Jack

I’m impressed with Toronto; it has shown heart.

It had felt like things were getting a bit chilly in this town over the summer. City Hall’s swing to the right and its attempts to drop Toronto’s local food procurement policy, remove funding from community gardens – essentially putting an end to a growing urban agriculture movement, reversing bike lanes that even the cabbies like, closing community swimming pools and public libraries — basically all things that build community and make big cities livable.

But I think a very clear message has been sent to the powers that be over the last week—and we have Jack Layton to thank for it — amongst all the other things we have to thank him.

In his passing, we have rallied and stood up proudly, and shown just what kind of leaders we want. I am very proud of Torontonians. They — we — have shown heart, something we are often accused of lacking.

It is events like this, sad as they are, that can help build the character of a city — a united identity and vision of what a location represents.

I’m feeling optimistic.

Thanks Jack, you managed to bring us all together once again!

The entire Toronto Urban Agriculture Program is under attack.

Last week, consultants, hired by the Mayor as part of the City Services Review, reported their findings in determining which services need to be reduced or cut entirely.

What they found was that 90% of services are in fact core or essential. Unable to find savings, the consultants are recommending cuts to recycling and environmental programs — including the Urban Agriculture program, which allows residents and community groups to grow healthy, fresh and affordable food on excess City parkland.

When did investments in our future become costs?

Hundreds of people went to City Hall last week to ask the committees to reject service cuts. But councilors have refused to take anything off the chopping block.

So now we have to wait for September, when the Mayor and his Executive Committee will decide if recycling programs, urban forestry goals and urban agriculture programs are ‘gravy’, or the building blocks of a progressive, sustainable, world-class city that this town wants to become.

Toronto City Hall

Photo Credit: Gabriel Mobrien

We’re pretty disappointed that members of the municipal government in our hometown, Toronto, are pushing to step away from their buy local food policy. It seems very shortsighted to curtail a policy that is good for the health of our citizens, good for the planet, and helps local food producers – simply  to “get the biggest bang for our buck”.

If you’d like to send a message to City Hall on this issue, the good folks at Toronto Environmental Alliance have put a petition online you can sign by clicking here.

East Lynn MyMarket

East Lynn Park

Get the real deal with certified local farmers’ markets.

Have you been to a MyMarket? After being told by those who know I that I had to check out a MyMarket, I took advantage of some free time today and cycled over to East Lynn Park’s Thursday afternoon market — a small but growing neighbourhood farmers’ market just a stone’s throw from Woodbine and the Danforth.

Like the other MyMarkets around Toronto, East Lynn is certified MyPick™, which means the farms have been verified as authentically local, and the items the farmer is selling truly come from his or her farm. I.E. you are buying direct. No middleman. No food depot. No farmy re-packaging of someone else’s produce. It’s what a farmers’ market should be.

Diana Gonzalez, Toronto District Supervisor for MyMarket, explained to me that MyMarket inspectors go so far as to check the farmers’ seed invoices, as well as crops in the ground or livestock being raised, to ensure everything is on the up and up. And on every market day, market managers check that the items each farmer is selling match up with activities back at the farm.

All very impressive, right? That’s a lot of legwork and effort and time to make sure that the dollars you devote to supporting local food truly support local food.

It’s great. It’s crazy. It’s wonderful. I’m dizzy. So why aren’t we all shopping there?

Chatting with some of the farmers, I learned that shopper turn out can sometimes be quite poor – something they couldn’t understand because of “all houses all around us!” East Lynn is a relatively new market. If the neighbourhood wants to have continued access to fresh strawberries, sweet peas, wildflower honey, maple syrup and lamb chops, not to mention all the other baked treats I saw, it’s time to step up and show your support!

If we don’t support the local markets, our local farmers won’t bother coming in to see us, and we’ll be forced to shop for depot food at the supermarket.

C’mon out folks. It was a late spring, but it’s all coming up roses now!

Good news, urban farmers are getting busy, despite the unspring-like weather.

Check out the Toronto Star article about Erica Lemieux from City Seed Farms and get inspired.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Erica at a Food Forward event a few months ago. She’s a local girl who was inspired by BC spin farms and decided to make things grow in Toronto backyards.

Good news is that she’ll be a speaker at Food Forward’s next Foodie drinks event, May 5 at Stella.

COG 2011 poster
The Canadian Organic Growers conference is taking place this Saturday, February 19, 2011 at the U of T Conference Centre. I had the pleasure of attending this event last year, and wouldn’t miss it for anything this year. I am even dragging my LocalFoody colleague, François — I lie, he’s equally psyched — along for the informative, enjoyable and very tasty ride (they serve a great lunch).

This year’s keynote speaker is Canadian author Silver Donald Cameron, who will be sharing some of his insights into Bhutan’s new economic model of “Gross National Happiness”, a system that values a more holistic interpretation of “quality of life” than we might be used to and includes the organic certification of the entire nation’s agricultural system.


Panel discussions include GMOs, heritage seeds, Walmart, bread & beer, beauty products and more.

Where: U of T Conference Centre, 89 Chestnut St.
When: Saturday 19 February 2011, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Cost: $85 (Worth it, and students, retirees and the unwaged get a special rate.)

If you care about your food and want to be informed of the issues, this is a must-go-to event.

It’s another new year and some of you might have decided to entertain a resolution or two. After avoiding such things for the past several years, I decided to creep into 2011 on a quieter, more contemplative note and have come up with a few priorities for myself.

On the topic of changing habits, and of course, more specifically, food habits, check out the TedxHart House lectures of last month, The Future of Food.

Jason Qu, recent graduate and coordinator of U of T’s campus agriculture program, discusses campus food initiatives, and suggests a more holistic approach to food is the starting point that will stick.

The Secret Classroom

Lauren Baker, Director of Sustain Ontario, discusses changing the farming system and creating more opportunities for the little guy. Here, here!

10 Good Food Ideas

I can’t find the lectures of the other speakers, Dan Donovan (chef and product developer for Ontario’s Own), and chefs Jeffrey Crump and Bettina Schormann, of Ancaster Mill.

If anyone has those links, please share!

Bonne année!

LocalFoody places mentioned in this entry:

We’re all very excited to announce that LocalFoody is now a member and tenant of the Centre for Social Innovation in downtown Toronto.

In their own words:
The Centre for Social Innovation is a dynamic space in downtown Toronto, Canada. Our mission is to spark and support new ideas that are tackling the social, environmental, economic and cultural challenges we face today. We’re creating the spaces that social innovation needs to thrive and we’re contributing a few of our own ideas along the way!

We are honoured to be joining the ranks of such successful organizations as the David Suzuki Foundation, Spacing magazine, Toronto Cyclists Union, Ontario Nonprofit Network, Professional Writer’s Association of Canada, and

Watch this space for more updates as we increase our momentum and do more and more to help people find good food.

No Fast Food

This Friday, Dec. 17, 2010, is the first ever No Fast Food (Eat Real) Day!

Consider this day as a small pre-holiday season challenge!
I say small because, it isn’t really that hard to eat real food.

That said, over the next few weeks, you may well participate in some culinary excesses. You might have a meal at a friend’s or family member’s house, perhaps someone who doesn’t (yet) share your local-food values and interests.

Or you might be travelling, and forced to choose between greasy fast food joint X and sugary donut n’ coffee joint Y. There may even be times when you will have to (shudder) choose between eating badly or not eating at all!

So, I ask this: make Friday, December 17 the day that you do make the choice to eat real, to slow down and think about the food you eat.

Today is Tuesday. This is fair warning. You have time to organize. You have time to shop. Just one day. Just try it.

No Fast Food Day is the brainchild of Food Forward, a dynamic new and super-friendly food-focused non-profit on the Toronto scene.

Sign up and commit!

Hart House is presenting TEDxHart House: The Future of Food on December 6, at 6:00pm.

Very cool.

“The Future of Food will explore some of the factors we must weigh as we choose what foods make it into our shopping carts. With the rise of issues like ethical eating, factory farming and food scarcity, the world is awakening to how we sow, grow, raise, reap, slaughter, transport, distribute, buy, share, cook, eat and dispose of food.” Read more.

The Bad News. The event is booked solid and they are no longer accepting applications to attend.

The Good News. They are filming the event and will be posting it on the TEDxYouTube channel afterwards.

Mark your calendars!