Research shows a clear trend happening in Waterloo Region: every year, more people are buying food directly from local farmers and processors than the previous year. Demand is rising steadily, and new businesses are springing up to match.
Evidence of that change will be on display during the A Taste of Woolwich event Apr. 12, one of April’s Healthy Communities Month activities.
Woolwich is seeing a growing number of farms in the area that sell to the public, as well as farm stores and CSAs (community shared agriculture). Market vendors, restaurants, caterers and retail stores that sell local food are booming as well. But why the sudden interest in buying local?
“The major reason is a growing awareness about where our food comes from,” explained Ellen Desjardins, a public health nutritionist with the Region of Waterloo. “People are genuinely shocked to learn how much we are dependent upon imported food, and how far that food travels from all over the world.”
Desjardins has completed research carried out within the region that found many participants are concerned local farms are in jeopardy because the same foods they produce – such as apples, tomatoes or strawberries – are being shipped in from other countries to sell at cheaper prices.
“An astonishing number of people are telling me, ‘I buy local because I want to support our local farmers. I ask where the garlic come from, and if it’s China, I won’t buy it.’”
In addition, the movement towards eating locally-produced foods means that more people are making healthier choices. People are starting to think about where the food came from. Who grew it? What’s in it?
“There is evidence that people are eating more healthily because they are thinking more about what they’re eating – it’s not just food on their plate,” Desjardins explained. “Although the actual items might not be necessarily any healthier, the thought process that goes into choosing local food makes people pick healthier options.”
And lastly, buying locally might just be good for the soul.
“From a psychological perspective, eating locally allows people to feel more connected to their rural community which enhances sense of belonging and community,” explained Desjardins. “People are not just one individual person, but are a part of the farmer-distributor-consumer connectedness.”
In Canada, we often make the assumption that because we experience such drastic change in the temperatures between seasons, we cannot continue to eat local foods like tomatoes throughout the year.
Not so, Desjardins maintains.
“We may not be able to eat the foods fresh all year round, but there are several ways to store items, either by freezing, canning or pickling those items.”
This Monday, visitors to A Taste of Woolwich in St. Jacobs will be able to purchase and learn about local food from local farmers, enjoy tasty samples from local chefs and restaurants, watch cooking demonstrations and take part in fun kids’ activities.
The event is one of many happening during Healthy Communities Month, which offers a host of activities designed to promote not just the physical health of residents, but the environmental and economic health as well. For a chance to meet your local farmers and the growing number of retailers supporting them, A Taste of Woolwich is being held Monday between 5 and 8 p.m. at Calvary United Church, 48 Hawkesville Rd. in St. Jacobs.
Fore more information about Healthy Communities Month, visit www.healthywoolwich.org.