Monday, July 5, 2010

Get out of the grocery store and create your own local food network.

I used to think that having a couple of major grocery chains nearby constituted choice. That was before I was tuned into the local food movement and before garlic imported from China irked me. I changed my tune around the time I learned that some major chains consider produce to be “local” if it can be trucked from its source within 24 hours. I didn’t agree so began putting developing my own “food network” - a list of growers and producers, shops and markets that offered easy access to food that is grown right here in the province.

Now is a great time to create your own local food network, to get out of the grocery store and into a community of growers, producers and sellers who will help to connect your table to the land and help us all become less dependent on food that is trucked in from faraway places.

The best place to start is to visit your local markets, the seasonal and year-round sellers of produce, meat and dairy. Most of these markets buy from their own network of local producers and can easily tell you what on their shelves was produced in province.

If you’re looking exclusively for organic producers visit ACORN a non-profit based in Sackville that promotes organic agriculture in Atlantic Canada. Their website includes an easy-to-search database of all certified producers and processors in Atlantic Canada. You can search by province and by product type or you can bring up a map of the province and click on the icons for information on the farmers and producers in different regions. You can buy directly from most of these producers and may of them also sell through local markets.

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick manages a similar database called Buy Local NB . In their database you can layer your search to find, for example, restaurants between Saint John and Sussex that use local ingredients. Or you can search for a butcher, a baker or a grocer in your geographic area of choice. (My search for garlic netted five local sellers.) This site just launched last year so has lots of room to grow, but it’s a good starting point if you want to become more familiar with people and places that sell locally produced food.

The newest online source for information about local food is Smart Eat TV, an online community with a goal to connect people with the wonders of local food produced throughout the Maritimes. It’s part TV channel (will soon feature episodes about local food) part blog, part recipe-swapping forum.

Another source of locally produced food is Speerville Flour Mill. They produce a variety of flours using Maritime-grown grains and offer a great selection of other products from Maritime producers. I run a buying group through Speerville Mill so if you’re looking for a greater variety of their products than is available at the grocery store just let me know.

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