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Buying Local!

Buying local is a topic that I have wanted to write about for so many months and is something that I am extremely passionate about. For the last 3 years I have adopted a regular routine of waking up early on a Saturday morning to visit the St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market (about 10 minutes from my house). The Farmer’s Market is a wonderful place to get the best seasonal produce, locals meats, baked good and other artisan goodies (jams, breads, olive oils, etc).

☀ My routine usually starts with me waking up at 6:30 am, grabbing a coffee on route to the market and by the time I arrive my coffee has been consumed and my hands are free to start loading fresh veggies and fruits. During the winter months it can be difficult to find fresh, local produce, other than root vegetables. Many of the outside vendors hibernate for the winter and reappear once spring arrives. Regardless of the season, you will find me at the market.

market_vegUsually when I arrive at 7 am, there are only a handful of people to contend with and I have ample room to wander around and do my shopping for the week. If you arrive too late (10 am or later) in the summer, it is like playing the video game Frogger, dodging strollers, dogs and hundreds of people. The earlier you can arrive the better!

☀ When I am at the market I selectively target the vendors to shop from. For the market rookies it could take a few visits to find the best vendors (hint – look for the line-ups). Increasingly, less and less farmers are actually coming to the farmer’s markets across Ontario and many market operators are forced to allow wholesalers or third-party retailers to open up stands. The St. Jacobs Farmer’s Markets has a combination of both farmers and retailers.

My preference is to support the local farmer! I want to buy from the person who grew the product not from the guy who bought if off the back of a transport truck. The next time you are visiting a farmer’s market, have a look around and see if you can identify the true growers/farmers. I have about 4 or 5 vendors that I buy my vegetables and fruits from and about 5 vendors that I buy my meat and breads from. The vendors I go to put out consistently great products and are small independent farmers/butchers with locations around my community.

Being that I once thought about being a professional chef, I have a great appreciation for quality ingredients and with careful searching, a local farmer’s market can be a great source of wonderful local treasures.

What’s in Season Now?

When I was at the market last week I noticed Asparagus and Rhubarb were making their debut appearances. I couldn’t resist buying a few bunches of Ontario asparagus. There is nothing like field fresh asparagus grilled on the BBQ with a little extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. I will be buying more this saturday….I can’t get enough!

☀ In another month or so, fresh Ontario strawberries will be available and I can hardly wait. You can’t even compare a farm fresh berry to an imported one that has traveled thousands of miles and ripened on the truck. I have a few berry plants that I started last year, but they will only produce enough for a snack. There will be many trips to the market, that is for sure!

If you are ever in the Waterloo Region, be sure to schedule a trip to the St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market, you will be glad you did.

This post has encouraged me to start writing about the other local shops that I visit. Be sure to check back for my upcoming “Eating Local” posts.

I believe the key to change is awareness! The next time you are at the grocery store, read the display signs to see where your food is coming from. If you have the choice to buy local, you should make the switch! Buy quality, reduce your footprint and support your community!

The benefits to buying local food. Video