Farmer’s markets makes delicious sense

When people stop by a farmers market, as I have been fortunate enough to do recently, they may not see the importance of these bustling open-air market places in terms of food security.  The truth is most of us like to stop by and grab something fresh, check out what local artisans might be providing and maybe get something truly unique in the process.  While many of us will see the health benefits of local – and often organic – produce we may not fully appreciate the importance of local food production in the event of a disturbance to food distribution networks.

It is recommended that we should be prepared to feed ourselves for three days in the event of an emergency.    It is estimated that most cities have about one week’s worth of food available at any given time.  We have seen how natural disasters can leave regions reeling and know that events like the northeastern blackout of 2003 can foul up distribution and make it difficult to purchase anything – including food.  For these reasons a local food supply is a boon. 

Local farms whether they are large operations, co-operatives, or even hobby farmers can provide a good deal of security in the event of an unforeseen disruptions to distribution networks.   Let’s face it, it would be easier for someone living near farms (as most people in this riding do) to find some food in an emergency than it would for a person in downtown Toronto.  

Local food does not just make sense in terms of security, it also makes environmental sense.  The long distances some food must travel creates carbon footprints that can make little sense.   We see all kinds of crazy examples like fish being exported from Lake Winnipeg to China for processing only to be shipped back to Canada for consumption.  It can make one’s head spin how this makes any sense.  Given the high price of oil, this trend may reverse itself, but for environmental reasons alone we should try to curb the phenomenon.

Not only is local food more secure and environmentally better, its flat-out delicious.  As I mentioned above, it is often organic, and always fresh.  Why buy corn from far afield when the corn from a local field that has been recently picked is available?  Also, there are no middlemen to take a chunk of the farmer’s profit.  

Farmer’s markets are not limited to food.  They are cultural hubs, offering items beyond fresh produce.   Local artists display their wares, secondary production of food items such as preserves are available – good for stocking your three day emergency food supply - and it is a chance to mingle amongst your community and build relationships. 

Whatever the reason you may find yourself at a market or roadside stall this summer it is good to know that you will be supporting your local economy and helping our producers ensure some local food security at the same time.    I hope you enjoy your summer and see you at the markets.

For some information on an emergency food supply,  Health Canada has a guidebook available on line:  http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/emergency-urgence/pdf/food_e.pdf