I'm not sure most Canadians know what produce is grown in the traditional "off-season" here. Many do, but are they the majority?
Consumers who are incorporating a "Buy Local" philosophy into their
weekly shopping strategy can satisfy most of their produce needs with
products grown within their regions, or at least grown within their
province, well through the winter.
Because we work in the industry, we assume everyone in Canada knows about the almost year-round local production of vegetables, primarily tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce and eggplant.
However, our assumption would be wrong. I'm not sure most Canadians know what is grown in the traditional "off-season" here. Many do, but are they the majority? Is it a growing number of consumers, or are have those numbers been holding constant over the years?
A case in point was a recent story in the Canadian Press about a chef at a prestigious restaurant in Eastern Canada who was developing a new menu based on locally sourced products. "I'm about to rework my menu for the coming season and I want it to reflect the fact that everything here is local," said the chef. "Tomatoes and berries don't grow here in the winter, so you won't see them on my plates."
There's at least one major greenhouse vegetable facility within a few hours' drive of the restaurant. Berries may be off the plate, but the chef would have no problem using locally grown tomatoes through much of the winter.
We can't take the domestic market for granted. There is considerable growth potential here. Reminding culinary associations and trade groups what they can source "in their backyards" is time well spent.
What do you think? Would local restaurants and retailers pay a premium for locally grown winter produce? Is the Buy Local philosophy showing up in domestic winter sales?
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