September 2nd, 2011 Welcome to the height of the Ontario growing season! This time of year brings with it an abundance of vegetables and fruits grown not very far at all from that tower down by the lake. Although its already been well over two months since produce grown outside of Southern Ontario – fair trade bananas from Ecuador – was included in the Fresh City Box, the sheer variety of available produce this time of year makes our job much easier. With this plenty as a backdrop, there is perhaps no better time to share with you what local means to us here at Fresh City. One of our primary goals is to make eating local, and of course organic, food much simpler. You do the eating; we take care of the rest. No having to scour grocery aisles for organic versus conventional, local versus imported, shipped in versus flown in or fresh versus I’ve-been-on-the-road-for-13-days looking. So, what does local mean for us in practice? During the growing season we include only produce grown in Southern Ontario and often right here in Toronto. In fact, so far over 60% of our box contents were grown within the City of Toronto limits (even higher for veggie only boxes). When we do turn to local farmers to add variety to our box, we do our utmost to choose organic and Local Food Plus certified farms that are no more than about an hour drive from Toronto. The same goes for the product suppliers we work with, be it Ying Ying Soy, our tofu supplier or, Southbrook, one of our winery partners. What happens after the growing season? This gets a bit trickier. Keep in mind that about 80% of the organic produce consumed in Ontario is imported, often flown in from places as far away as New Zealand. Our goal is to cut that figure in half (at least). Our strategy is four-fold. First, we support the season extension efforts of Fresh City’s and other local farmers alike. Whether its growing hardy greens into November or using row cover along with black pipes (they warm up during the day and so keep the micro-climate a bit warmer during the night), you would be surprised at how a little ingenuity can coax a few more weeks out of the season. Second, we will shortly begin planting our 3,000 square foot greenhouse at Downsview for winter production. Here we grow mostly salad greens and sharpen our member farmers skills for the upcoming growing season. Third, when it becomes necessary, we buy produce from local farmers that can be cellared such as root vegetables. And finally we will augment the box with selected sustainable imported items that were shipped rather than flown in. As we continue to expand, we hope to ultimately store our own root vegetables, produce more winter-grown vegetables and include fruit grown within Toronto itself, making our Box more local still. See below a handy availability chart from Foodland Ontario. Ontario Fruits & Vegetables Note: Availability dates may change by several weeks with respect to rare varieties and/or weather conditions.
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