The new website — greenbeltfresh.ca — will help growers and producers in Ontario’s Greenbelt region find new avenues to sell their goods as well as allow consumers, chefs and restaurateurs to know exactly where they can find the freshest, in-season Ontario product.
More than 600 farms are currently listed on the database, which has a similar interface to Facebook. It offers users detailed information on where to find everything from free-range chicken to fresh vegetables and fruit. Individual consumers can enter their postal codes to see exactly what local foods are available to them, whether it’s at a farmer’s market or an on-farm market. Foodservice professionals can also search the site to see what’s being grown in the Greenbelt, and find out exact specifications on farm practices, volume, pack sizes and modes of distribution.
To help give database users a taste of what the site can help them achieve, local chefs prepared a lovely lunch using seasonal, local ingredients. They included: Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann from the Ancaster Old Mill; Robin Pradhan from Rocky Raccoon Cafés in Owen Sound and on Manitoulin Island; Jason Parsons from Peller Estates Winery Restaurant; Mario Tucci from Hart House and Lulu Cohen-Farnell from Real Food for Real Kids catering.
“I will definitely use the new online market,” said Pradhan, chef/owner of Rocky Raccoon Cafés. “It will help me source local food, especially items that I might not be able to get in the Grey Bruce region. Chefs want products that are grown from our own soil.”
The Greenbelt region collars the Golden Horseshoe and also stretches north through Collingwood, Owen Sound and up the Bruce Trail to Tobermory. At 1.8-million hectares, it is the largest Greenbelt in the world and it’s a diverse area that generates $2.6 billion in goods and services. But development pressures are eating it away. That urban sprawl is what spurred the Foundation to start developing this new initiative two years ago.
“Eating local food is a powerful way to support family farms, to improve our regional economy and to strengthen the Greenbelt,” said Mausberg.
The database is also available on smartphones. “And isn’t it neat that the top two smartphone companies on the market are called Apple and BlackBerry?” Mausberg quipped.
This summer, Pradhan will also be staging a farmer’s market at his Rocky Raccoon Café at Gore Bay on Manitoulin Island, giving local farmers on the Island a new opportunity to sell their products. “The farmers won’t pay me any money for their vending position,” said Pradhan, “but they will pay me in product.” In addition, troubled youth in the area will be given an opportunity to help out at the market, cook recipes and get a taste of what it’s like to be a chef for a day. All profit from the dishes they sell will go back to the Farmer’s Market Association.