Pointing them in the right direction is the goal of Foodlink Waterloo Region, a non-profit organization that promotes local food and farms. One of the key ways it does so is through its popular Buy Local! Buy Fresh! map, the latest version of which was launched last Saturday at the Taste of Woolwich event in Elmira.
The goals is to help people find exactly what they are looking for in the region.
For the average consumer interested in buying more local food it might not be as easy as running to your local grocery store. Knowing what’s out there is part of the challenge, something Foodlink addresses with their map of local farms and farm stores.
“We’re all about raising the profile of our local harvest here, and we work with all levels of the food chain,” explained Anna Contini, project coordinator at Foodlink.“That includes farmers, food processors, food retailers, restaurants and, of course, the consumers.”
The map lists more than 60 farms and food markets in the region, with tons of information on each one to help people narrow down their search. There is details on, of course, what they sell and when they sell it. But more than that are details on how the food was produced, what the livestock was fed, whether they sell organic or GMO-free – and all the fun activities they have.
“A lot of farms will have – in addition to selling local food – some of them have special activities going on or, you know, ‘pick your own.’ In the fall there’s several that have fun stuff for the kids like corn mazes and pumpkin launches.”
“But even the ‘pick your own’ is a nice way for people to come out and get connected to the food – or simply just driving through the countryside, map in hand, stopping at local farms to buy food is a really fun way to spend a day, that’s for sure.”
Contini says it’s important for people to buy local when they can, especially to support their local economy and farmers. There are environmental benefits to getting your food from much nearer, and health benefits in having your food ripen naturally rather than being picked early to avoid getting overripe in transit, often across thousands of kilometres. But less obvious is the connection that people can create with their food producers when they go right to the source or deal directly with farmers at the market.
“And I would personally argue it’s a much more fun way to shop, to go to the local markets,” though Contini adds it certainly won’t always be feasible to shop at local markets – like if you wanted to pick up some bananas.
This year’s maps can be picked up for free at various markets, tourist locations throughout Waterloo Region, at the Foodlink office in St Jacobs or digitally via their website, www.foodlink.ca.