The 22nd edition of Food Day Canada is slated for August 3, 2019. An interesting trend to watch during this year’s celebration is the emergence of more and more niche Canadian food products, many with specific health, lifestyle and performance benefits. And notice how many of these innovations are being driven by smaller, entrepreneurial farm operations across the country.
Food Day Canada began in 2003 as The World’s Longest Barbeque, a massive, Canada-wide response to the sanction of Canadian beef exports by our largest trading partners, and the hardship the boycott imposed on our agricultural community. That first event was a huge success and has evolved into Food Day Canada, an annual mid-summer celebration on the Saturday of the August long weekend.
This annual celebration of Canada’s rich culinary heritage is the brainchild of Anita Stewart, University of Guelph’s food laureate and member of the Order of Canada among many other accomplishments. Food Day Canada features the best managed food system in the world, includes our delicious northern bounty, and of course, the farmers who produce the food we enjoy.
Fewer farms and increasing farm sizes are well established trends in Canadian agriculture. According to the Canadian Census of Agriculture, the total number of farms has declined from around 600,000 in 1951 to just over 200,000 in 2016, while average farm size has increased from 279 acres to 820 acres over the same period. Much of this growth in farm size can be attributed to economies of scale, and technological advances associated with major crops such as canola, cereals, corn and soybeans.
But there’s a new trend that in many ways is taking us back to the future. Smaller farms are producing batch quantities of high quality, value-added, niche products to serve the demands of health-conscious consumers. It’s now a well-established trend that consumers have an increasing appetite to know how and where their food is produced. They are engaged in learning about the benefits these novel products can offer and are willing to go out of their way to find and buy these products.
For example, a Seaforth, Ontario farm is tapping into a renewed interest in sprouted ingredients. Everspring Farms was founded in 1985 by husband and wife team Dale and Marianne Donaldson. They began sprouting barley as a year-round source of fresh grass for their ducks and geese. One thing led to another and over the years local bakeries and individuals started seeking out sprouted grains for a variety of food applications. They now carry a complete line of sprouted grains, seeds and beans – positioning them as a wholesome inclusion in a variety of food products, offering functionality, taste and texture improvements, as well as enhanced digestibility. The Donaldsons have expanded their business to meet the growing consumer demand, and their two daughters are now on board to help guide the on-farm business into the future.
Then there’s Lufa Farms in Montreal. Lufa’s stated goal is to create a “local food engine”, according to the company’s greenhouse director Lauren Rathmell. The operation is driven by two rooftop greenhouses – currently totaling 1.75 acres – that produce a range of vegetables and herbs. Produce is packaged with locally sourced goods like handmade pastas, fresh bread and dark baking chocolate, and delivered to approximately 4,000 customers (known as Lufavores) each week.
Another local farm and food company that’s making a name is Black Fox Farm and Distillery just south of Saskatoon. It’s not a typical farming operation – they produce award winning spirits and flowers. Owners John Cote and Barb Stefanyshyn-Cote proudly grow the ingredients that go into their distilled spirits (casked gin is a specialty) and they claim to have created the largest cut flower farm on the prairies. The Cotes also host tours, events and festivals.
Canada is brimming with innovative and delicious food products. Check out www.fooddaycanada to find out how you can join the celebration of Canadian cuisine on August 3rd, and discover why small is beautiful again in Canadian agriculture.
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