Editorial: March 2009

February 28, 2009
Written by
My neighbourhood supermarket closed last month, broadening my definition of the Buy Local philosophy. When people asked if I supported the campaign, I could honestly say that few other people bought more local than I did. The store was 200 metres away. I had to find another retailer, though I’ve now adopted a Buying-Not-Quite-So-Local philosophy.

The Foodland Ontario program has been quite successful. It has been promoting Ontario-grown fruits and vegetables, including greenhouse produce, for many years. It has recently expanded its mandate to include meat, dairy and eggs.

Earlier this year, the province announced $850,000 for 15 new projects, including a “Nothing Tastes Like Home” mobile educational trailer to market and promote “buying local” through cooking demonstrations and tasting opportunities at industry, community and school events. Another project is being directed to institutions and restaurants in a specific region of the province, “demonstrating that using local food is a viable option” for them. “We are bringing together local food networks including producers, processors, retailers and individuals dedicated to selling the fresh foods that are grown and made right here in Ontario,” said Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Leona Dombrowsky.

Other provinces have similar locally grown (or raised) foods promotion programs. They get consumers thinking about their selection options, and highlight the availability of many fresh fruits and vegetables. The support is appreciated by farmers, and the programs work.

However, there is little, if any, direct government promotion of locally grown flowers. This is surprising. Flowers are the only agricultural commodity that contributes GST, and quite a bit more than just spare change. You’d think Ottawa would be a little more supportive of the industry. It should understand that the more successful the industry is in selling flowers, the more GST government will collect.

However, there are indirect funding mechanisms that can be tapped. The Pick Ontario campaign, now well into its second year, receives funding from Flowers Canada (Ontario), its sponsoring agency, and The Ontario Greenhouse Alliance, which represents flower and vegetable producers. But also contributing is the Agricultural Adaptation Council of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Pick Ontario is making headway. “The major grocery retailers all endorse our campaign and logo and have been starting to integrate its use in seasonal promotions,” said marketing director Gary Gander. “Anecdotally, I can tell you that the reaction from consumers and florists and growers is positive. Those that know about floriculture in Ontario typically say ‘it’s about time,’ and those that don’t (consumers) are thrilled to learn just what’s available locally.”

The Pick Ontario flower promotion model can be transplanted, and probably will be transplanted, in other regions of Canada. It’s a great Buy Local campaign, and it’s succeeding for the exact same
reason the Foodland Ontario campaign works. ■

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