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Marking Local Food Week in a climate of rising prices

Given prices that were rising even ahead of recent inflationary pressures, food is a top-of-mind issue. Even more so during Local Food Week.

The Ontario growing season is now underway. As local produce starts to become available, that should help reduce prices, at least in theory. Typically, we see the best prices of the year when fruits and vegetables are in season here. We’ll see how things go this time around.

Still, there is now a long-established pattern of focusing on local food. In Ontario, 60 per cent of the food grown here is consumed here. Buying and supporting local food creates jobs and economic growth, and local food businesses are a major contributor to the province’s economy.

We’re increasingly conscious about the quality of food we buy for ourselves and our families. We’re also more aware of what it costs the environment to have food transported thousands of kilometres to appear on the shelves of local grocery stores. Then there’s the direct cost: soaring fuel prices have been reflected in what we pay at the checkout counter, a situation that extends beyond food.

As well, we know farmers are under incredible financial pressures, and that even when retail prices climb, that doesn’t always translate into more cash for producers.

The more chances farmers have to sell directly to consumers or to reduce the number of middlemen, the greater their share of the food dollar, which is traditionally small.

The promise of a stronger economy, more jobs, better environment and healthier foods are the motivating factor behind the local food movement.

Obviously, not all food can be sourced locally; we can’t grow bananas, oranges or the essential item that is coffee, for instance. But there’s lots of room to, well, grow. Still, Ontario’s 49,600 farms produce more than 200 commodities.

Clearly, there are a host of reasons to concentrate on local food, not least of which is the fact that more food is expected to be eaten over the next 50 years than has been eaten by human beings since the dawn of time. Concurrently, the cost and availability of non-renewable resources for food production and transportation, and the nutritional value of “long distance” food is challenging the wisdom of globalization and making local food look much better.

Buying local food, often directly from the farmer, provides a number of benefits, from fresher produce to supporting the region’s economy and its farm community, the importance of which can be seen daily in Woolwich and Wellesley townships.

There is also a major environmental upside to local food. Much of our food travels very long distances before it reaches our tables. Generally, the more local the food, the better the outcomes on all fronts.

Local Food Week showcases what’s available locally, demonstrating how incorporating local food into our diets needn’t be a chore and to have some fun doing it. While it’s early yet for a plethora of local produce, except for greenhouse operations, there are meats, grains and dairy products available year-round.

The more educated people are about the benefits of local food, they’re more likely to pay a bit more for it, say proponents of the local-food movement.

The financial impacts are significant. Overall, Ontario’s agri-food sector – the likes of farming, processing, retailing and the restaurant industry – contributes some $47.3 billion to the economy, supporting more than 860,000 jobs as food makes its way from farm to fork.

Right now, of course, the most pressing economic concern for most of us is the increasing cost of our food, local or otherwise. In some cases, that’s forcing change – cutting back, switching out in favour of cheaper options and the like – that we hope are only temporary.

A little more local for your inbox.

Seven days. One newsletter. Local reporting about people and places you
won't find anywhere else. Stay caught up with The Observer This Week.

Enter your email to subscribe. Unsubscribe anytime. We may send you promotional messages.
Please read our privacy policy.

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