Buying local will be the hot topic on February 9 as Foodlink Waterloo Region and Taste Real Guelph Wellington have banded together to present “Source it Here,” a day of networking, guest speakers, and panel discussions at Guelph’s Ignatius Jesuit Centre.
Anna Contini, Foodlink manager, said the idea is to expand both group’s reach to tap into experts in all fields of producing and selling local food.
“It really encompasses all of the links in the food chain from production including farmers, processors, distributors, retailers as well as chefs and consumers,” Contini said. “It’s a bit more of a business to business kind of event but the emphasis this year is on processing, so looking at opportunities within the value chain.”
All businesses, organizations and individuals with an interest in making connections within the local food network are invited to attend. Keynote speaker, Bryan Gilvesy of YU Ranch will talk on the importance of processing. Chef Ryan O’Donnell from the Prune Restaurant and Stratford Chefs School will discuss how to procure local foods from farms and chef Gordon Cooledge from the University of Guelph will speak about preserving and increasing the value of local food through processing.
“Another portion of the day will be this local food talk show and that’s kind of a local feature,” Contini said. “It will basically be conversations with successful local food entrepreneurs.”
Some of the entrepreneurs include Steve Martin from Martin’s Family Fruit Farm, Nick Benninger, a Waterloo chef at Taco Farm, and Gail Gordon Oliver with Edible Toronto.
Contini says these types of events are important for the connections and networking opportunities.
“If the farmers have a product it’s really important that distributors, retailers and chefs know about it and vice versa,” Contini said. “If retailers are looking for a certain kind of product, there are quite a number of chefs who are very attuned to the food scene. They’re dying to be able to showcase these great local products.”
Another big component of the day is the trade show, where businesses can have a table to show off their products and learn about others.
For the average consumer interested in buying more local food it might not be as easy as running to your local grocery store. She says knowing what’s out there is part of the challenge, something Foodlink addresses with their online map of local farms and farm stores.
Another issue can be cost because local food isn’t necessarily cheaper.
“We have to compete with cheap foreign imports but I think this is where education becomes really important,” Contini said. “If you educate consumers about the true value of supporting local food economies, local farming families, the health benefits, the environmental benefits, I think it starts to hit home and that’s a message I think consumers are starting to pick up.”
For more information or to register visit www.tastereal.ca or www.foodlink.ca.