What I enjoy most at the events are the question and answer sessions and these highlighted for me the big issues for local food in Canada today. At Toronto’s Culinarium, where we had a book club-style meeting with fabulous food to eat, the big question was how to take local food to the mainstream.
The Culinarium has been open just under two years and the owner is hoping to make a profit this year. So how do you get more people to shop there? One major hurdle, she said, is that people have forgotten just how much variety we produce in Ontario. Local food here is not only about fresh vegetables in the summer.
We have dairy, meat, eggs, staples like the corn meal I purchased or organic turtle beans. So they offer a pantry box to subscribers, packed with all sorts of different local foods. Of course, the issue is bigger than this. We need to find a way for all of us–from big box supermarket shoppers to farmers’ market go-ers–to eat locally. Discovering the diversity of our local products is a first step.
At London’s public library, discussion focussed on small abattoirs. There were more than 100 people in the room but discussion was so passionate it felt like we were at a meeting of friends. There used to be hundreds of small abattoirs in Ontario, but thanks to tougher government food and safety regulations (designed for industrial processing plants) the small abattoirs that serve the local and sustainable meat market are going out of business.
They can’t keep up with the paper work nor afford the renovations the government requires of their facilities. But if they go out of business, there won’t be anywhere for local farmers to have their meats slaughtered. This would mean the consumer would have no choice but to buy from the big league farmers. The National Farmers’ Union is organizing a campaign to save the abattoirs. Check them out here. They have printed up post cards with a letter of protest.
Now off to Creemore this morning for another event. Brunch made by six chefs and a visit to the legendary New Farm.