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A Collegiette’s Guide to Buying and Eating Local

Think about the last time you looked at a package of food and thought, “I wonder where this came from?” It’s probably not something you ask yourself enough. As university students, we are always occupied with balancing school work and a social life. Trying to keep a healthy diet too often seems out of reach.

But I’ll let you in on a secret that will have you ditching the grocery store and getting out into the real world of food: buy and eat local! You’ll save a few bucks, leave behind over-processed foods, and help support your community!

Here are some tips to get you started!

Tip #1: Know the seasons for local produce

In Ontario, the growing seasons for most vegetables and fruits span from mid-May to late-October. This is important to know if you want to buy and eat local because it gives you a chance to decide what recipes you’ll do with what’s in-season. Working in a grocery store myself, I have a lot of customers who bulk up each week on whatever vegetable or fruit is coming straight from Ontario farms. One lady during the summer was piling up on fresh field tomatoes. She used them to make spaghetti sauce to last her through the winter which is a great alternative to that stuff in a can with all the preservatives. Here’s a link to Foodland Ontario’s list of growing seasons: http://www.foodland.gov.on.ca/english/availability.html

Tip #2: Look for what’s local in your grocery store
Aside from getting locally-grown produce, go for the bakery and meat items that are coming from nearby. In Ottawa, Richmond and Rideau Bakery supply many big-chain grocery stores with their fresh, low preservative breads. They might expire sooner but you can also freeze some loaves. Getting meat from local sources can be tricky. A package in your store can say “Canada Grade A Beef”, even if it was raised in the USA and slaughtered in Canada. Try to buy meat directly from a farmer in your community. Call around at some farms and maybe you can strike up a deal.

Tip #3: Take the time to visit farms

If you ever type “Ottawa farms” into Google, you’ll get a list a mile long. As an Ottawa native, my suggestions are Dekok Berry Farm and Acorn Creek Farm. These farms are family-owned, however, I suggest calling ahead before making a trip out so you know what they are harvesting. Buying straight from a farm guarantees you’re getting the freshest product and making long-lasting connections. Farmers will often let you buy their produce in bulk which saves you money too.

Tip #4: Beat the winter crunch with fair trade
Even if you make and freeze a million recipes with the Ontario vegetables and fruit you bought during the growing seasons, you’ll still need to buy some produce during the winter. But try buying fair trade instead. This ensures fair rights and wages for farmers in developing countries. Even though it’s not local, you’re still making a difference in your global community. 

These are all ways to get into eating and buying local. Bon appetit!

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