What is Farm Fresh Produce, and Why Does it Matter?

Farm Fresh Produce & Why it Matters

What comes to mind when you think of farm fresh produce? Does it bring to mind the simple pleasure of choosing a pint of local strawberries to take home, of deciding which pumpkin most clearly says ‘pick me!’ Or is it the knowledge that you’re choosing something deliciously good for your health, your hometown and your neighbours?

Local food is commonly defined as produce sold within 50 kilometers of where it was grown, but for some it also means food grown by people they know and can talk to at the farm market; food that supports small-scale values and a community-based focus.

The emphasis on what is in our foods, on where it is grown, how it is grown, and how that impacts the environment has become more mainstream in recent years. This is a change for the better, because our food has the power to improve our health and well-being as well as the our environment.

Health Benefits of Eating Farm Fresh Produce

It’s called farm fresh produce for a reason! Locally grown foods have a leg up on the competition when it comes to both nutritional value and taste. Once picked, fruits and vegetables begin to lose that nutritional value and so the longer they wait in storage the less rich in vitamin C, E, A and B they will become – so while that produce sits inside trucks and warehouses it’s losing that magic green power.

Local farms are able to allow produce to ripen much longer than imported, which adds to the nutrition value immediately. Also, how produce is handled after being picked also plays a part in its nutritional value; rough handling, mechanical harvesters or long transport can combine to reduce the quality, taste and nutritional value of fruits and vegetables.

Environmental Positives of Local Farming

Of the pick-your-own farms in Ontario, Barrie Hill Farms is a leader in sustainable farming practices which help protect our environment. It is one of the first to have earned the designation of LFP Certified. This certification from The Land Food People Foundation signifies that we follow these guidelines in our focus to create sustainable agriculture for the future:

  1. To reduce or eliminate synthetic pesticides and fertilizers
  2. Avoid the use of hormones, antibiotics, and genetic engineering
  3. Conserve soil and water
  4. Ensure safe and fair working conditions
  5. Provide healthy and humane care for livestock
  6. Protect and enhance wildlife habitat and biodiversity
  7. Reduce on-farm energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions

Water usage is a major environmental topic that many Canadian farms focus on. The use of drip irrigation allows us to deposit water directly to the plant’s root, thus minimizing the amount of water required. In addition, keeping the plants dry aboveground reduces leaf disease and fruit mold which helps us in our quest to reduce pesticides.

Choosing food grown from farms in Barrie also helps to reduce your carbon footprint in two main ways. The fewer kilometers your food has to travel from the field to your plate, the fewer transportation emissions are in our air! Local farming also helps to promote the preservation of our green spaces by encouraging youth to continue farming traditions, or even start their own local farming operation.

 

Local farming is just as important today as it was hundreds of years ago and though many of the reasons are different, many of them remain the same: our health, a connection to one another and our land. There’s no better feeling than biting into a strawberry pie made with fruit you picked from the soil yourself, or buying a pumpkin from someone who you know grew it locally.

There’s a lot of disconnection from our food sources in this day and age, and choosing farm fresh produce means making healthier choice for our bodies and the environment. Make Barrie Hill Farms a regular part of your meal planning for your own health and the health of our community.

 

 

Five Wintertime Tips for Making the Most of Ontario Farmers’ Markets

Health conscious Barrie dwellers who like to visit Ontario farmers’ markets in summer tend to lose enthusiasm for buying local foods once temperatures drop. It’s as though the first snow blanket over those pick-your-own strawberry fields tries to cover up all our good intentions for making eating local Ontario produce a priority. But eating local is easier than you think…even in winter months.

In fact, eating farm fresh foods after the growing season is not only possible—it can be economical and enjoyable, too.  By planning and preparing during summer months and applying these tips in winter, you can make the most of the many farmers’ markets Ontario has to offer and strengthen your community in the process.

Find a Year-Round Farmers’ Market Near You

If you’re wondering where to buy Ontario produce in winter, visiting a farmers’ market where local farmers bring their choice produce is a great place to start. You may be surprised to learn that Ontario has many year-round farmers’ markets taking place on Saturday mornings as well as other days of the week.

Here local farmers continue to offer healthy and tasty farm fresh produce and greenhouse goods at prices on par with big grocery store chains.  If you’ve never visited one in winter you will likely find it to be a different experience from the hustling hub you visited in summer.

Come November, farmers markets typically move indoors and take on a whole new vibe. New smells of fill the air—sometimes wood smoke, simmering soup, or fresh breads. The pace slows and people seem to linger longer and chat more. Local artisans share their woolly and winter wares. Comfort foods in the form of local meats, cheeses, honey, breads, jams and other prepared foods take centre stage. And the cozy and pleasant atmosphere creates an experience that is so much more than a trip to the grocery store could ever give.

Barrie has a year-round farmers market that takes place inside city hall on Saturday mornings. Orillia, Innisfil, and Elmvale-Springwater have winter markets as well. Although it may be a little out of the way, taking time on Saturday morning to visit a farmers market near you can offer you local seasonal produce while offering a very enjoyable shopping experience.

Do a Little Homework to Get the Real Bargains on Farm Fresh Produce

There are bargains to be had when purchasing fresh produce at farmers markets, even in winter. Barrels of potatoes. Bags of winter greens. Bins of squash. Vendors will often discount produce when selling in greater quantities and sometimes at the end of the market day. Knowing when to buy and what types of foods to look for can provide real savings.

However, if you don’t like the smell of rotting potatoes or finding half composted salads at the bottom of the fridge drawer you’ll want to be sure you are likely to use the food you purchase.

Knowing how long various types of produce stay fresh can provide some sense of certainty. Here is a list of common foods and the typical shelf life for each whether refrigerated, frozen, or stored at room temperature.

If you’re looking for something that’s not on this list do a little homework before you head out. Buying but not using produce is a waste and an inconvenience. Arming yourself with shelf-life knowledge will help you choose those foods you’re most likely to consume and save you money in the long run.

Be Spontaneous and Embrace What Local Ontario Produce that Winter Has to Offer

Some say you should make a list and buy only what’s on that list when you shop for groceries. But when it comes to sourcing foods locally, it’s good to go to market with an open mind, too.

Seeing, smelling, and touching the local produce in person is often the best determinant for what your body needs. Sometimes it’s not until you see that vibrant veggie that you realize what you and your family are craving.  And since winter produce such as squash, apples, potatoes, cabbage, onions, turnips, beets, and collard greens are incredibly versatile, it makes sense to wait and make those final choices in person.

You can also receive inspiration for delicious winter menus from those who grow the food you’re buying. Often, farmers will provide unique recipes for the ingredients they’re offering or provide special preparation tips for the produce on hand that week.

Slower-paced winter markets offer great opportunities to collect ideas from growers, vendors and information booths. Visiting them with an open mind for trying new or different things can help you enjoy local foods in a whole new way.

Plan Ahead and Stock Up at the Summer Farm Market

Although the above tips target the colder months, produce is obviously tastiest and least expensive at season’s peak. What foods do you miss most come winter? With a little forethought you can enjoy those and other locally grown food year round, too.

If you don’t know much about how to freeze produce or prepare preserves, winter may be just the time get started in your reading and gather your supplies.

You can also take this time to research and note when that produce in your area becomes available so you can buy in bulk at the most opportune times for flavors and savings.  This harvest schedule shows when the crops of Barrie Hill Farms are most likely to be in season.

Plan a Visit to Barrie Hill Farms

Making the extra effort to visit a local farmer’s market and buy local Ontario produce can be financially beneficial and personally satisfying. It can also help build community, protect our environment, and strengthen our local economy. We hope you will come see us at Barrie Hill Farms in the spring, summer and fall when our own farm market is open!