BRIGHTON – Local Food Week is the annual kick-off to the outdoor farmers’ market season, when Ontario growers and their just-picked produce return to communities large and small throughout the province.
The growing season is officially underway!
Although the wet spring we’ve had this year has delayed crops in some areas, others are right on schedule. According to Catherine Clark, the new Executive Director of Farmers’ Markets Ontario, “At the majority of markets, you’ll find an abundance of spring crops like fresh asparagus and rhubarb, and some farmers have begun harvesting their strawberries.”
Other early-season crops to look for at your local farmers’ market are the ones that usher in the season for salads: lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, spinach, peppers, beets, cabbage, new potatoes, parsnips and (possibly) baby carrots. But farmers’ markets aren’t just about fresh local produce. They’re also about homemade jams and jellies, delectable baked goods, fragrant botanicals, honey, maple syrup, gourmet cheese, farm-fresh eggs, locally raised meats and even VQA wines.
Farmers’ markets are more than just places to buy fresh local foods.
Food isn’t the only reason farmers’ markets are so popular in Ontario. Catherine Clark points out that “They bring the city and the country together and get everyone talking about food. They also provide wonderful opportunities for parents to teach their children where the food they eat comes from.”
And there’s more. Clark adds: “They’re also fun places to be. They’re friendly, colourful places where friends and neighbours arrange to meet and spend time together. They foster a sense of community wherever they spring up.” They’re also good for the environment, since locally grown food produces a much smaller carbon footprint than food that is transported long distances to reach our plates.
Farmers’ markets are immensely important to the estimated 37,000 families in Ontario that are engaged in local agriculture, providing them with needed income and summer jobs for their children. Many farmers are entitled to identify themselves as MyPick® Verified Local Farmers®. It means that they have been visited and verified by Farmers’ Markets Ontario (FMO) as local growers who sell only what they produce on their own local farms. The MyPick® designation sets them apart from vendors masquerading as local growers but who are in fact re-sellers of produce from a variety of sources, often imported and/or purchased at food terminals.
Find out more
You can look up the location and operating hours of all 182 member markets of Farmers’ Markets Ontario, as well as find information on MyPick® Verified Local Farmers® on the FMO website at farmersmarketsontario.com.
Local Food Week was conceived by Foodland Ontario, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. For information on Local Food Week and for a list of Ontario crops and when they’re typically in season, visit the Foodland Ontario website at ontario.ca/foodland-ontario. (Details on Local Food Week are on their Why Buy Local page.) You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram and share your love of Ontario foods using #loveONTfood and #Foodland40.