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The farm labour side of local food

Ontario Conservative Leader Tim Hudak announced this spring that, if elected, he’d make convicted provincial prisoners work to clean up Ontario’s highways.

According to a story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a variation on this theme was recently launched in Georgia, where teams of probationers are working on fruit and vegetable farms.

Many farm workers there don’t have legal status and with a new law cracking down on illegal labour, many no longer come to the state looking for employment as they used to. Continue reading The farm labour side of local food

Apples – organic or conventional?

The debate over organic versus conventional agriculture is an ongoing one in the world of food production.

For one Ontario apple grower, though, that debate ended a decade ago after some firsthand research into the issue.

But first, a little bit of background. Continue reading Apples – organic or conventional?

Monforte’s local cheese renaissance

Montforte cheese sampler

The story of Ruth Klahsen and her dairy are well-known in Ontario’s local food world.

Montforte Dairy has a loyal – and growing – following of fans devoted to the agricultural values it espouses and the cheeses it produces.

So devoted, in fact, that they have raised about half a million dollars as members of a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) project  to help Montforte find a new home when an expired lease on its previous location in Millbank left the dairy suddenly homeless.

I had the chance to visit Montforte’s brand new facility in Stratford earlier this month as part of a food writer tour in Perth County and listen to Ruth talk about her business and her passion for making truly outstanding cheese.

Oh, and sample some of the delicious cheeses too. They were rich in flavour and a real pleasure to taste…but back to the story of the dairy. Continue reading Monforte’s local cheese renaissance

Where potato chips are grown

Mmm, there’s nothing quite like cracking open a bag of fresh, crunchy potato chips.

I confess to consuming more than my fair share of the salty snacks over the years and love seeing what new flavours will be coming out next.

But one thing I’ve certainly never really thought too much about was how the contents of that crinkly bag get there in the first place.

I mean, I know chips come from potatoes and that there are farmers who specialize in growing potatoes – but that was pretty much the extent of my potato knowledge.

Well, as it turns out, there’s nothing easy about growing a perfect potato chip potato.

And after spending a couple of hours with Ontario farmer Jack Murphy on his Alliston-area potato farm recently, I have a whole new perspective on the contents of that chip bag – and on the work that farmers put into growing those potatoes just right. Continue reading Where potato chips are grown

As cows live and eat

Here’s the third in a series of guest posts I’ve been writing for the Canadian Beef Blog.

Last month, I described some of the different cattle breeds and how to tell the difference between a dairy cow (one that gives milk) and a beef cow (one that is raised for meat).

Now we’re going to take a quick look at how and where cattle are raised and what they eat.

Beef cows and calves typically live outside on pasture in the spring, summer and fall months – which is why it’s not uncommon to see cows grazing in fields if you find yourself out enjoying the Canadian countryside. Continue reading As cows live and eat

Getting local food into our public institutions

The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation and the Greenbelt Fund are spearheading the grants and two other initiatives in an effort to connect Ontario’s farmers with public institutions like daycares, schools, hospitals, universities and long term care facilities.

Ontariofresh.ca, a new business to business website is being launched this fall to link buyers and sellers of Ontario food. The 2011 Ontario’s Local Food Champions report is currently available and nominations are now open for the next round of Champions. Continue reading Getting local food into our public institutions

Greenbelt farmers saving energy, survey shows

A new study shows that energy saving initiatives by farmers in Ontario’s Greenbelt are conserving enough energy to power 1,788 homes annually.

And on-farm solar panel installations in the Greenbelt are generating enough electricity for an additional 170 homes, says the report completed by engineering consulting firm Agviro, Inc.

“Our study showed some really positive results related to energy conservation and energy generation on farms in the Greenbelt,” says Katie Gibb, a project manager with Agviro who worked on the report. “Through conservation measures and generation projects, Greenbelt farmers are able to off-set enough power sufficient for almost 2,000 Ontario homes every year.”
Continue reading Greenbelt farmers saving energy, survey shows