Ethical Eats

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”What do you want your food system to look like?”

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On Wednesday night I attended an exciting and interesting discussion on local food in Kingston. As readers of the LOFT Food Guide, I hope you enjoy my report of this inspiring event. At least 200 community members were in attendance, ranging from new born babies and their parents to the old and gnarled, and including a handful of students like me. We met in the Wilson Room of the Kingston Public Library. Local wine was sampled, and attendees mingled about, munching on tiny quiches, cheese, and chocolate meringues from Epicurious Catering.

As I took my seat, the man next to me eyed my snacks. I told him where he could find them, and when he returned he introduced himself. Turns out he used to work for Dupont (now Invista), the chemical plant in Kingston, but that he’d been looking into working on the new ‘ecological community farm’ that is Salt of the Earth. I shook hands with another man who introduced himself as Ian, the head chef of Chez Piggy. It’s one of Kingston’s most highly esteemed restaurants and a proud supporter of local farmers.

The discussion, hosted by Charles Summer and Morgan Alger of Salt of the Earth, began with the farmers answering questions about their position at the forefront of the local food movement. How they got started, what their greatest accomplishments and challenges were, what kept them joyful, and where they saw themselves in the next five years. We heard from Wendy Banks of Wendy’s Mobile Market, Justin Hillborn of Fat of the Land Farm, Charlie Forman of Forman Farms, and Ian Stutt of Patchwork Gardens.

It was truly inspiring to hear the passion that these people have for good and ecological food production. Wendy has been helping farmers in the region for almost a decade by making their products more accessible through her delivery service. Justin and his wife Andrea pasture-raise beef, pork, and poultry on their farm between Kingston and Napanee. Charlie is an agricultural legend: he has 2400 planted acres and is thinking about expanding. He’s grown crops, including non-GMO soybeans and corn, for nearly his entire life. Ian and his partners at Patchwork Gardens grown certified organic vegetables. 

When the discussion turned towards how to create a good and healthy local food system, I was inspired by the support that Kingston  has for organic and locally produced foods. One woman, in response to the comment that consumers have to be prepared to spend more, said that since she’s saved money since her family started receiving all her produce from a Community Supported Agriculture bin delivery system. ”The packaged crap doesn’t end up in our cart anymore!” Many restaurants in Kingston buy a substantial amount of their ingredients from farms in the area. Places like Chez Piggy, Harper’s Burgers, and the Kingston Brewing Co., as well as the rest on this list http://tourism.kingstoncanada.com/en/kingstonfood/localfoodrestaurants.asp.

The questions, comments, and applause were still flying as I slipped out after two hours. If I learned anything from Wednesday night’s event, it’s that Kingston is a great place to be. My desire to support the farmers and food producers of the area is stronger than ever after having seen the face of local food. Farming isn’t an easy life,but these people are so passionate about what they do.

Building a good local food system is the goal of many, and here are some of the conclusions that arose that evening:

  • Kids need to be targeted, because if they get hooked on the taste and excitement of good food, parents will follow. Focusing on lunch programs in schools as well as school gardens are two things that Wendy is involved in.
  • One of ways to convince others of the necessity and goodness of local food is to feed them. Invite someone over and cook them dinner. Serve them Justin’s grass-fed beef, and Ian’s vegetables, and watch them start to understand what all the fuss is about.
  • We have to accept the seasonality and imperfection of food, as well as the true cost. Strawberries just don’t grow in the middle of winter! Eating local isn’t necessarily a more expensive choice, but we can’t expect constant availability or to expect the same prices. 

 Learn more!

Salt of the Earth Farm- http://saltofkingston.com/ 

Ian Stutt and Patchwork Gardens- http://www.patchworkgardens.ca/

Justin Hillborn and Fat of the Land Farm- https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fat-of-the-Land-Farm/809417689086906 or fatofthelandfarm@gmail.com

Wendy and Wendy’s Mobile Market- http://www.wendysmobilemarket.com/

Charlie Forman and Forman Farms http://formanfarms.ca/

Kingston Farmer’s Market- http://www.kingstonpublicmarket.ca/

Community Supported Agriculture through Root Radical Rowns- http://www.rootradicalrows.com/ 

Epicurious Catering- http://food.epicuriouscatering.ca/ 

 

 

Jonathan Foley: The other inconvenient truth

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Have you ever heard of ‘terraculture’? It means farming for the whole planet, which is something we as a global population must do if we are to continue feeding ourselves in the face of climate change. Terraculture is food production that combines the best practices of conventional agriculture with organic agriculture to be both productive and sustainable. Only agriculture that cares for ecosystem health will in the long term be able to care for human health as well.


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Something New (maybe) to Try

I remember thinking the local grocery stores in my hometown looked like an after school special. During certain times of the day, it was staffed almost entirely by people from my high school. Standing behind the thinly sliced stacks of salami was the mousy haired boy with thick eyebrows, whose legs I had accidentally stepped on when trying to navigate the crowded hallways. There, in the baked goods section, was quiet lanky kid arranging baguettes in woven baskets that were set out in an attempt to create a rustic, old fashioned feel to the process of buying bread, though the contrast with the polished tiled floor ruined the illusion. Cheery, red apples glowed wanly under yellow fluorescent light, waxy coatings lending them an unnatural shine. Like many other grocery stores, it has a very industrious atmosphere. Stacks upon stacks of food converged to rows upon rows of cashiers. Staffed with grudging kids who had recently grown too old for an allowance, people came in and out without a thought.

Recently, after being introduced to the ideas of food security, I was strongly encouraged to try and buy LOFT (local, organic or fair-trade) foods whenever possible, and within reason. Foods fulfilling any of these criterions can be pretty expensive at places like Metro and such, especially when you’re on a student budget. This is what led me to start shopping more at local Farmer’s Markets. Maybe it’s because I’m a person who’s always been nostalgic for the older and simpler days, and a silly tendency to romanticize eras in which I have never lived, but I absolutely love places with atmospheres like those.

It’s an entirely different shopping experience. Instead of the neat, utilitarian set up of any local grocery, you usually get a mess of colorful tents and tablecloths flapping cheerfully in the wind. There you can find your usual fruit and vegetables, but also much more. I’ve gotten freshly made zucchini loaf that I had to cautiously take from a baked goods display, mainly because of the cloud of bees hovering above, clearly attracted to the sweet smells. In retrospect, it was a stupid idea, but I was probably very hungry. The best apple cider I ever had? I used to buy bottles of it from a family who ran their own apple picking orchard back at home. They told me they bottled it up to sell commercially, but it didn’t taste quite the same as when it was fresh. And is it just me, but does anyone feel extra fancy when they are walking down the street with a freshly made local baguette, or loaf of bread, tucked under their arm? Just be careful, paper bags are not the sturdiest and there’s a chance your bread will slip out and fall into a puddle, which is very upsetting. Lastly, though not food related, you can sometimes find really interesting pieces of clothing. Sometimes it’s made by the locals themselves, but sometimes it’s been brought back by people who travel around the world. A woolly hat from Nepal for $10? I want. I also have a weak spot for pretty saris and wall hangings from the Middle East. I adore clothes with an interesting story or history (like hearing about how the wool in my scarf is made from sheep who frolic happily in the Himalayas) –  it’s a marketing technique I never stop falling for.  As well, by buying pieces from locals, you are supporting those who make these things for a living in a more direct way. So maybe next time, try ditching the stagnant and nondescript grocery store smell for the fresh air at your local farmer’s market, and spend an afternoon there. You’d be surprised what you can find.

 

– Jennie T


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Certified Local Sustainable

The L in LOFT is not always easily accomplished and can get even more complicated when you add sustainability to the mix.

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Local Food Plus (LFP) is a Canadian non-profit aiming to educate consumers, producers, and distributors about the benefits (and standards) of local and sustainable foods. LFP developed criteria to certify local sustainable foods so that consumers know, and understand, exactly what they’re purchasing.

The definition of local is often ambiguous ranging from 100km radius to within a province or group of provinces. Likewise, sustainable is overwhelmed with limitless conditions. LFP seeks to amalgamate the two concepts identifying local sustainable food as:

  • being grown or caught, processed, and marketed locally
  • financially viable for all stakeholders (not just chain retailers/distributors)
  • ecologically responsible
  • meat from producers who treat animals with respect and without reliance on artificial hormones or drugs
  • socially responsible workplaces (fair wages, fair treatment)
  • energy conservation (low reliance on fossil fuels)
  • water conservation (low water waste)
  • stewards of the environment (biodiversity and protecting wildlife)
  • helping to grow a resilient food system

The LFP label is subject to independent third party expert inspections. And unlike organic labelling systems, LFP does not charge farmers for the entire cost of certification but charges a minimal fee while the rest of the expenses are paid through LFP fundraising (reducing the burden on small-hold farmers).

LFP got its start on the University of Toronto campus proving that the differences students make in their community can extend to the entire food system.

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– Angela


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Eating meat…Sustainably!

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As the world’s population continues to grow at an accelerated pace, the sustainability of food production is increasingly at the forefront of environmental, economic and social concerns. Current UN projections expect the global population to reach 10.5 billion by 2050. As things stand right now, the long-term sustainability of food production is in question.

The cattle industry is one of the leading contributors to environmental degradation and deforestation worldwide. In 2012, Canadians ate on average 20.9kg of beef per person annually. This unsustainable demand in Canada and other Western countries contributes to large-scale deforestation in much of the developing world. So, moderating our consumption of beef, and other industrial-scale meat products, can help reduce our environmental impact. Limiting yourself by not eating meat at every meal can greatly offset your contribution to the global food deficit.

However, when you’re buying locally produced Canadian beef, it doesn’t necessarily imply deforestation. Of the 83,000 farms and ranches with beef cattle across Canada, 61% had fewer than 47 cows. Smaller herds mean moderating grazing, and therefore less detriment to the land, and therefore the environment. So, moderate your consumption of beef, and eat locally.

-Dylan K


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The Beauty of Fresh Bread

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Upon sitting down to write today, I have been inspired by the meal that currently sits in front of me, begging to be eaten.  Yesterday, as I was strolling by the farmer’s market that sets up every Wednesday in front of the John Deutsch University Centre at Queen’s University, I decided to treat myself to a loaf of Wolfe Island Bakery “Whole Wheat Red River Bread.”  This is a well-known treasure of the local Kingston bakery that is located at 311 Queen Street.  As I sat through my class this morning, all I could think about was when and how I was going to get back to my red river bread, with its fresh, fluffy texture (so fresh, having spent so little time travelling from the bakery, that upon sitting out on a cold spring day its moisture fogged up the bag).  And now it sits before me – two slices toasted and buttered.  So simple – containing only whole wheat flour, cracked wheat, cracked rye, flax seed, sugar, yeast, and salt – and so real (however, the delicately rich taste is actually quite “unreal”).  The ingredients are not the only things that are real about this bread.  What is especially significant to local food culture is that the people are real.  In purchasing this bread, I interacted with an actual person who works in the actual bakery where this bread was made.  In handing over a well spent $5.00, I knew that I was supporting this community member as well as a bakery in Kingston that in turn supports even more community members.  So combine the unreal taste of a fresh loaf of red river bread and the very real exchange between community members and you have a little slice of heaven.  This is the simple pleasure of being able to consume local food that is produced, sold, and bought with care.

-Kathleen


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A Different Kind of Shopping

Picture this:

It’s September. Your classes are done for the day, and you’re strolling down a beautiful street amid old brick buildings. As you pass by the neat shops that line the street, you see an idyllic sight ahead of you. Bright colors and sounds  overwhelm your senses. As you approach, the reason for the crowds of people becomes clear. Heaps of fresh lettuce, carrots, and sweet corn are piled beside baskets of  apples and blueberries. Homemade butter tarts and maple syrup jostle with  fresh pressed apple cider for your attention. The delicious aroma of fresh bread mingles with the scent of fresh-cut flowers. ‘Am I dreaming?’ you ask yourself happily. ‘I’ll never need to shop anywhere else!’

Does this sound amazing? You’re in luck, because I’m describing none other than Kingston Public Market. It’s located a ten minute walk downtown from Queen’s University. You can visit it every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in Springer Market Square right behind City Hall, from April through November. Not only is this market a treasure trove of delicious local food, at 212 years old, it is also Ontario’s oldest market! The market  has been providing healthy food and a sense of community to  Kingston residents since 1801. Isn’t about time we  joined the trend?

April’s coming up, so when you need a  break from studying, head on down to check out the Kingston Public Market. Not only will you be buying healthy, high quality food directly from  local farmers and artisans, but you’ll be enjoying a taste experience like none another. In addition, you’ll get to avoid the unnecessary cost that come with processed food from a grocery chain. Metro may be closer, but if you give it a try, you’ll soon find that nothing compares to the satisfaction you will get from market shopping.

http://www.kingstonpublicmarket.ca/

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