Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sourcing Ingredients

What's tricky about sourcing ingredients is that a lot of things at the farmers market are in fact imported and bought from the same distributer that supply the big supermarkets in town. To find locally grown produce and other food items I have a few main pointers:

1. Do your research ahead of time
Most farms have a website that you can investigate. For pantry items, I figure out which brand I want, then find a store that carries it in town. Before going shopping, I decide which items I'm in need of (ie: sunflower oil, oats and milk, etc.) and take a peek at the "Buy Local, Buy Fresh!" map, online For example, I would discover that FlorAlps farm makes sunflower oil, check their website for which store distributes it - Eating Well Organically in the Uptown - then take a trip on over. It saves me weeks of aimlessly searching store isles.

2. Buy in-season from the "small guys"
If you are buying oranges in January, under a heated tent at the farmer's market, you can bet they aren't selling you local. This isn't to say that our family hasn't bought the odd bunch of grapes or bananas from such market-stands, it's just that if you're trying to go local, you're better off buying produce that was grown at a near-by farm. You'll be surprised how cheap things can be! I bought a half litre of maple syrup from a Mennonite family at the market for just $10. I bought a pound of dried kidney beans from a man that grows them just outside Tevistock, for just $1.50.  Better yet... I am now getting my dairy from a local shop that costs about $1.20/litre of milk, after the $2.00 bottle return. It pays off to buy from the people who know their produce and are proud to sell it.

3. Join a CSA or Buying Club
Or do what we did and join both! This is a fabulous way to cut down on the work of sourcing items for busy families. With a CSA (community shared agriculture), you buy a share in a farm, and for the majority of the year you pickup your seasonal items that the farmer has prepared for you. With a Buying Club, the organizers specifically source items (local and non-local) for its members, then all you have to do is order which items you would like via their website, everyone agrees on a pick-up location, you show up with your grocery bags and pickup your food. I would say that it's even easier than the grocery store shopping because your food is ready for you when you arrive, and you never go over-budget because you pay in advance.
Our CSA is with
Our Buying Club is with


  1. Great post, Claire! A lot of people don't realize that much of what's sold at "Farmers Markets" is actually imported & distributed through the Toronto Food Terminal. Thanks for the plug too!

  2. I thought it was important to mention :)
    Really, I'm just reiterating what you taught me!
    I'm thinking we'll do a full share with our CSA this year, only because I'm planning on getting serious with my canning/preserving - (eat 1/2 and preserve 1/2).
    Make sure you check out the next post... I just revamped my fruit cellar and I think you'd be proud.