Posted by: Kennedy | July 11, 2010

Fun at the Farm(er’s Market)

When it comes to food, we’ve all heard terms like ‘locally grown,’ ‘certified organic’ and ‘traditionally raised.’ They all sound good, but what do they really mean? And are foods with these labels worth the extra cash?

Over the past year or so, I’ve become quite interested in these issues, and have learned enough to want to make some changes to my food choices. I’m not absolutely strict about them. If I’m craving strawberries in the middle of winter, I’ll go ahead and buy myself a pint that’s traveled all the way from California. However, I’ve become more conscious of the practices used to grow and raise the food I eat. And I’m making an effort to reduce the ‘field to table’ distance of the foods I purchase.

I grew up in a rural community and I know my small-town roots have had a big influence on me. As a child, I became accustomed to buying certain foods directly from the farms that grew them. We drove to different family farms to buy eggs, apples, potatoes, corn on the cob, berries, and pork, among other staples. At one point, I even worked on a berry farm picking strawberries. (Toughest. Job. Ever!) I always looked forward to the summer months when we got to enjoy fresh shelled peas, tomatoes, yellow beans, green onions and leaf lettuce from my grandparents’ vegetable garden. My other grandparents grew corn for many years and hosted an annual corn roast every August.

Now that I live in a city, I feel pangs of guilt whenever the bulk of produce I buy at my neighbourhood Loblaws has traveled across the equator to end up on my dinner plate. I’ll admit that the cheaper price has influenced me on more than one occasion. However, another factor is the astounding lack of Ontario options offered to consumers at the larger grocery chains.

That’s why I’ve decided to become a more proactive food consumer by taking advantage of some of the amazing farmer’s markets around the city. In the summer, they are all over the place and can be found any day of the week. I’m going to try to visit at least five between now and September.

I know how hard farmers work, and how underappreciated that work can be. I also know that it’s getting tougher for them to make a living when they must compete with exports that are often sold at a much lower price. The Metcalf Foundation’s recent report, Menu 2020: Ten Good Food Ideas for Ontario, has helped me better understand the underlying factors that have contributed to the ‘good food gap.’ This gap is what’s led to the emergence of ‘food deserts’ in our cities, the decline of the Ontario farming industry and the inability of producers to meet the evolving needs of the consumer.

So yesterday, I woke up bright and early, had a good breakfast, gathered up my reusable bags and ventured out to the Green Barn Market at Wychwood Barns. It’s located a quick streetcar ride from my apartment and I’ve wanted to go ever since I learned about the cool stuff The Stop Community Food Centre is doing there.

The Stop is about increasing access to fresh, healthy food for everyone, not just those who can afford it. They believe (and I wholeheartedly agree) that eating good food is a basic human right, and they strive to promote this through all kinds of initiatives from community kitchens, gardens and cooking classes to food banks and drop-in meal programs.

Back to yesterday: it was a gorgeous, sunny morning so all the vendors were set up outside. Everything looked so tasty, I could have bought it all! But alas, I had to walk part way home and had to stick to what my arms (still sore from boot camp!) could carry. Unfortunately I forgot my camera at home, so I couldn’t snap any photos. Next time…

I was very pleased with what I ended up with: Shelled peas, red onion, strawberries, blueberries, a HUGE chicken breast, a GIGANTIC bunch of kale, and a sweet potato and pecan cream cheese spread. The spread was an impulse purchase after a very nice farmer twisted my arm to try it with his sweet potato fries. Yummmmm. Sold.

My purchases! Chicken not pictured (forgot it in the freezer)

Mutant bunch of kale (grown with zero chemicals!)

Morning snack: PERFECT strawberries

On these items, I spent about $28. It seems like a lot, but keep in mind their enormous portion sizes. Those blueberries cost $4 and they are more than double the size of those half-pints that you normally find on sale for $2.99.

I happily toted my bags home, took a quick photo for the blog, put away my items and headed back out to the grocery store. Sigh. Unfortunately, I can’t meet all of my food needs at the market. I spent another $17 on more veggies, canned beans, almond milk and other pantry staples.

Though it may be a little inconvenient to do my shopping this way, I think it’s worth it for the peace of mind I’ll have knowing exactly where (some of) the food in my fridge came from. I even met some of the people who grew it!

Off to make myself a snack of shelled peas from Waterford, ON. 🙂

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Responses

  1. Great article Kennedy. It’s nice to hear the stories of others trying to eat organic & Local.

    • Thanks Paul! Any favourite local spots to suggest before you head out west?

  2. I LOVE farmer’s markets!!! Everything looks so good and TASTES GREAT!!! I’m sure you will enjoy the health benefits of frest food too!!!
    Gald to know you appreciate you “roots”……hmm, bad pun! ~mom~

  3. LOVE this post Kennedy!
    And $28 in not expensive at all considering there’s usually no tax, and no middle man so the money goes directly to the grower. Its well worth the price!

    • Why thank you Ms. Ketelaars, I’m glad you liked it! And yes, you’re right, it’s worth the cost. The stuff at the grocery store pales in comparison.


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