What city was this apple grown in? Was this fish caught using hook and line?
These are questions I’d like answered when I buy groceries.
In my perfect world, everything purchased at the grocery store and every meal ordered at a restaurant would come with information on who, where, how and when it was harvested. In my perfect world, you would know the people that grew and harvested your food by name. You could ask them specific questions about their produce or farm stock, and they’d know what’s fresh and in season - your season - and maybe even give you some tips on how to prepare it for dinner.
It may be hard to believe that some people around the world still live like this. But for city folk like me, we rely on what’s available at the closest grocery store, where, at best, we may know the country of origin (assuming, of course, the items are labeled properly).
But things are changing. More and more people are asking for more local produce. In the last few years, I’ve seen more
farmers markets and local food vendors pop up around the city, and an upsurge of Ontario produce in the big box grocery stores. We’re still a ways away from an ideal situation for both growers and consumers, but it is getting better.
I got a taste of what my perfect world might be like, thanks to Simon and Caroline Ffrench. In early March of this year, they invited me to tour
Cookstown Greens, their organic farm in beautiful Cookstown, Ontario. Seeing as there were still a couple of feet of snow on the ground, I was worried that there wouldn’t be much to photograph or taste.
Surprisingly, that was not the case. The ground had not thawed yet, but the farmers were already hard at work, getting ready for the upcoming growing season. Thanks to improving agriculture technologies, several greenhouses were already growing beautiful lettuces and delicious sprouts.
I got to see the amazing root vegetables that were stored in their cold cellars from last year’s harvest, like red dragon carrots and watermelon radishes, still crisp and delicious.
It was an incredible experience to eat, learn, and eat some more with the Ffrench family. In talking to Mr. Ffrench, I learned that there are still many challenges for farmers that also impact consumers, however there has been progress. It was great to see that agriculture technologies have improved to the point that Ontario farmers are able to stretch the growing season and availability of local produce.
It is very encouraging that there are now more opportunities for city folk to connect with great farmers like the Ffrench family at Cookstown Greens. More access to more local foods and to the people that grow it is a good thing for our food system. It makes me very happy to know that farmers like the Ffrench family are in my neck of the woods once a week.
It may not be my perfect world (yet), but the seeds are being sown.
Check out the recipes we made in the
ELLICSR Kitchen using produce from Cookstown Greens: