Local food is an important subject that has been gaining momentum in the region over the past few years. This publication has printed a number of articles about local food in the past, including the possibilities for local food, the benefits of it and even the reasoning behind why it’s important. Please consider the following information about the importance of local food.
1) Agriculture and agri-food is the 2nd largest employment sector in the Ontario economy. Increasing the output of local food creates jobs, helps create new businesses and adds more tax revenue to the municipality. Buying local food means that one dollar spent can circulate as many as seven times within the community before it leaves North Grenville.
2) Locally grown or locally made foods look better, taste better and are more nutritious. The food is often harvested or made at the exact right time for best flavour, freshest appearance and maximum nutritional value. Imported food often sits for days in warehouses, travels great distances and gets handled by many people before it gets to your plate.
3) Local food is safer. It’s much less likely to be preserved, chemically treated and will be handled by less people. You also know exactly where it comes from. Livestock are processed in nearby facilities and farmers are more likely to have direct oversight on processing. You can even look the farmer in the eye at their roadside stand or at the farmers’ market and ask them questions. Farmers know their responsibilities to keep food safe and take it very seriously.
4) Local food encourages both environmental and financial sustainability. Farms typically use less municipal services than the value of the taxes that they generate. A cow doesn’t drive on our roads or an apple doesn’t call the police if it’s noisy outside. As well, farms often have their own ecosystems and capture far more carbon than they could ever produce. They also preserve fertile land, protect water resources and can offer a safe habitat for a wide range of wildlife.
5) Local food ensures food security. In 2008, there was a global food crisis where food commodities prices like wheat and rice soared because of global crop failures. It created riots and massive food shortages around the world. By growing and producing more food locally, it decreases the need for importing as much food. This also means that the prices of food would remain relatively stable and only increase incrementally rather than following massive price spikes in the event of global food disasters.
6) The demand for local food has risen dramatically in the past decade. Consumers are seeking out local products more often now. At a recent local business reception, Janet Campbell, the owner of Mrs. McGarrigle’s in Merrickville, told the audience that the biggest change that she’s noticed in her business in the past ten years is that customers are demanding more and more local products and she’s having trouble keeping up.
7) A strong local food system can also help other business sectors like tourism, retail and manufacturing. Having restaurants that serve good local food, having a vibrant farmers’ market, and having local retailers selling local food products can all lead to more tourists coming to North Grenville to spend their money. Manufacturing products from locally grown ingredients can be exported and sold in other parts of the province, country and continent. All of this can lead to more jobs, better paying jobs, less time driving & more time at home for residents, and more municipal tax revenue for improved infrastructure, facilities and services.
Despite all of this, local food has had little or no support politically in this municipality. Without the local political will to pursue the many benefits of local food, it becomes that much more difficult to build a strong, sustainable local food system. Municipal political support makes it much easier to pursue essential funding, and gain access to other critical resources at both the federal and provincial government level. Doesn’t building a local food system make more sense than wishing for a large employer to ride into town (looking to get everything for free) like every other municipality in Eastern Ontario? We’re just as likely to win the lottery. Besides, local food tastes better than lottery tickets.