There is a lot of talk these days about the local food movement. Although I have always found it odd that a movement is required back to habits we practiced without any consideration 100 years ago, I wanted to look at this phenomenon a bit more intently.
Over the coming months, I’d like to write a few pieces on the concept itself, how we all fit into its cavern and the realistic role local food could have in the larger economy.
To start out I wanted to be sure that the Beechwood Market is qualified to offer up an opinion. Are we part of the local food movement? Do we check the boxes?
Wikipedia always a good place to start, I checked in with its overlords. Here is their snap definition:
Local food (or "locavore") movements aim to connect food producers and consumers in the same geographic region, to develop more self-reliant and resilient food networks; improve local economies; or to affect the health, environment, community, or society of a particular place.
A compressed, tidy overview, let’s spread it out a bit more.
For further structure, I turned to Food Secure Canada. A great organization, they tend to have their act together and seldom carry a heavy agenda. I nicked a list of five criteria they had included in a recent article on local food in order to measure up our efforts.
Reduce “food miles”
We certainly check this box. Sticking to the 100km rule, the biggest distance travelled by any vendor is Hall’s Apple Market in Brockville. All of our farmers, bakers, and food makers are travelling minimal miles, translating into minimal emissions. A lighter environmental footprint makes us all feel better and makes our model more sustainable.
Fresher, more flavourful food
The minimal miles help out in the freshness area. Whether online or onsite, our vendors are picking, baking or roasting as close to Market day as possible. As proof, our crew does not receive their online order forms until Thursday afternoon for that Saturday’s delivery. That is less than 36 hours from the source to your paper bag.
The dude who runs the Market can only assure you that we have the most life-changing products in the land. At the end of the day, proof of flavour can only come with experimentation.
Celebrate eating more seasonally
A bit spoiled by our year round imports, a general confusion of seasonal growth is forgiven. What you get at the Beechwood Market is what is being grown in our region at that time. The season does run out, but you can cheat a bit in order to extend. For example, our Winter Bounty Baskets will take us into January. We have also introduced greenhouse produce.
I jokingly challenge folks to eat Ontario for one year, knowing full well that would have them making squash smoothies in February.
Let’s enjoy what we can when we can.
Supporting local economies and connecting with producers
The Market brings together a proud array of vendors. Some have turned a hobby into a small business; others are relying on Market sales to feed their families. Whatever the case, by choosing any of our products, you are keeping that money in the 100km bubble. The example we set is the epitome of local economy.
The connection to all our vendors has been stifled by the pandemic. That said, they are all producing with you in mind and are never far.
Our customers want to know more about the source of their food. Senior, young family or working single – the Market keeps you only one step removed from your nutritional choices. Conversations about how your vegetables were grown, where your pierogi was made or how your honey came to be, can be had right there on site or through a quick email.
Too often claims like organic, sugar free or all natural must be taken at face value. Our vendors stand behind their products and will tell you how and why they have chosen their ethics and direction.
Having made great efforts to stay the course, never once have I doubted our localness. However, it never hurts to complete a checklist for added authentication. I may now move ahead with my analysis.
I will begin work on my next piece and could use your help. Please send me your thoughts.
How do you feel about the ‘movement’?
What does local food mean to you?
Why support local (beyond the hashtag advice)?
Why and how is the local economy important?