In 1983, Foodland Ontario, a department of the provincial government, came up with a catchy little jingle “Good things gro-o-ow in On-tar-io!” The catchphrase flooded radio airways, television screens and newspapers. At the time, local food was nowhere as pervasive as it is today, and the government believed consumers needed to be encouraged to think locally, and, more importantly, spend their money in the province by identifying quality Ontario produce.
In 2008, the government resuscitated the jingle. These days, however, it’s hard to escape our preoccupation with all things local. The trend is ubiquitous and highlighted, not just in Ontario, but across the country. From B.C. to Newfoundland — and throughout industry segments — the local trend has become bigger than anyone could have imagined. It has even spawned new vocabulary with words such as ‘locavore’ now common in our lexicon. At the same time, the trend has gained traction around the world. Sure, countries like Italy, France and Spain have always been local in their approach to cooking, recognizing food prepared at its peak of freshness always tastes best. But now, countries like Canada and the U.S., which once wore their cosmopolitan approach to product sourcing as a badge of honour, have been joined by nations such as Norway, Sweden and Australia. Not surprisingly, local is more than just a trend, it’s a movement that’s helping to define who we are and what we do best.
Certainly, skeptics will tell you it’s hard to sustain local when we live in Canada, and, to some degree, they’re right. (Although if this mild Ontario winter is any indication, it almost seems as though we could conceivably grow vegetables and fruit, even in the thick of winter.) The local movement is important, but not just because it supports the economy, and the food chain — from farmers to chefs — but because it makes good sense. Above and beyond the economics of the trend, buying local supports a variety of different industries and gives us a sense of identity by allowing us to believe we can create quality products that can compete with the best the world has to offer. This is clearly evident in this month’s collection of stories. Whether we’re talking about Ruth Klahsen of Ontario’s Monforte Dairy who is proving good cheese can, in fact, be produced in Canada; or Calgary farmer Tony Marshall of Highwood Crossing Foods Ltd., whose livelihood is intricately a part of who he is; behemoth Gordon Food Services, which, in receiving government funding from the Broader Public Sector Investment Fund a year ago, was able to develop new areas of growth and products; or Canyon Creek, a full-service operator that runs a successful annual Harvest Menu, highlighting products from Ontario.
Ultimately, the success of these individuals and companies is gratifying, because it provides us with quality ingredients, produced in our own backyard. More importantly, it paves the way for us as a people, and a country, to believe in our capacity to produce our own food while gaining a stronger foothold on the world stage.
Note: This month, F&H is proud to once again partner with the Broader Public Sector Investment Fund to publish The Produce & Protein Guide, highlighting fruits, vegetables and proteins grown in Ontario. The poster is available to Ontario readers as part of this month’s polybag issue.
In the Aprill 2012 Issue: