Sourcing food locally is the new “it” movement for everyone from gourmet chefs to stay at home moms. Everywhere you turn there are slogans and catch phrases for joining this new revolution to better food, such as “100 mile diet”, “Buy Close By”, and “food revolution”, not to mention the farmer’s markets or farm stands everywhere you turn.
But what are the advantages of buying local?
Firstly there is the obvious, such as knowing your grower and how he/she grows their produce/meat/eggs, but there is also the less obvious reason of helping to curb the pollution caused by long haul refrigerated trucking of food stuffs from hundreds or even thousands of miles away.
There is also the advantage of helping to keep jobs in local communities safe as the more a farmer can sell of his/her crop or livestock, the more he/she may need to hire local jobseekers to help out.
All Photos by Elizabeth Nyland
So Where Do You Find the Markets?
Sometimes, when living in a smaller community, finding good sources of local food can be difficult, but only if you don’t know where to look.
Most provinces in Canada have a website dedicated to the passing of information on where to locate a farmers market in your area, but these are mostly the bigger markets. In my area, known as Southern Vancouver Island, including Victoria and the Cowichan Valley, we have what are known as pocket markets. These are very small, maybe one or two stands, that pop up in various locations (not always year round) around cities and villages.
Pocket markets offer what’s fresh that day and then they close up shop. Most are open one day a week and offer produce from more than one farm at a time, to offer variety, but also to keep the costs lower for the farmers.
Here are some links to various websites offering lists of farmers’ markets near you:
British Columbia: http://www.bcfarmersmarket.org/
Nova Scotia: http://www.farmersmarketsnovascotia.ca/
Pocket Markets Southern Vancouver Island: http://www.foodroots.ca/
Another option for sourcing local food is the farm stands located right on the farms themselves. Driving down quiet country roads, it’s hard not to pass at least a dozen signs in a half hour that advertise “Farm Fresh Eggs”. This is usually a cooler, filled with cartons and a box located next to it. You put in your money and you take what you pay for, all based on the honor system. There are also flower stands and small “hobby farm” stands, that are easy to find if you know where to look.
If you have an area nearby that is registered agricultural land, it is almost guaranteed that there are farmers out there willing to sell small amounts directly to consumers. Now, this is not to say that you should walk up to any old factory farm and ask to buy a side of beef – that’s not how it works. If a farm is selling what they grow directly to consumers, they will usually have signs on their property.
Start looking here before you plan your road trip:
Eating Local Beyond the Market and the Farm
Farm stands are not the only way to source local in small cities and large towns. Another way that is equally as satisfying, is buying from local small businesses. You may find, in searching your town, city or village, that there are people in your own community making food from local resources. Artisan breads, cheeses, baked goods, coffee, etc. are just some of the goodies that will be found in many communities.
Next time you are looking for that afternoon chai latté, give a small, local coffee shop a try instead of Starbucks. You may be pleasantly surprised. Not only will you be giving your money to business owners in your own community, but you will have the potential to get to know them too. Knowing the person behind the counter making your Non-fat London Fog every morning just feels good.
So if you are looking to source local foods in your area, all you need to do is open your eyes and take a look around, you may have been passing them by all this time. Now that summer is here, markets are sure to be popping up all over the place, so keep your eyes open!
Do you have a great way of sourcing locally produced foods that’s not listed here? Let us know!