The Canadian Dirt

Jean-Talon market in Montreal is one of Canada's finest! Photo: David Sommerstein.

Jean-Talon market in Montreal is one of Canada's finest! Photo: David Sommerstein.

Today we're excited to have a new regular contributor join us on The Dirt. Lucy Martin lives south of urban Ottawa and writes regularly for NCPR's other blogs. A couple times a month, she'll share the view of food and farm issues from the northern side of the border. Welcome, Lucy! Here's her first post:

This is a good time of year for a round-up of farmer's markets and related outlets in the greater Ottawa region. A few operate year-round, many more have just returned, or will re-open very soon.

One site worth special mention is an advocacy group Just Food described on its website as:

…an interactive look at where local food is grown and sold in Ottawa and surrounding area. Check out farms, farmers' markets, CSAs, community gardens, Savour Ottawa restaurants and Savour Ottawa retail stores. Printed copies are available for pick-up at the Just Food office. Please call ahead. Presentations on buying and growing locally may also be requested.

I highly recommend Just Food's useful "buy local" food guide map - tons of info that orients you to producers and their products.

Another organization with a similar mission is Sustain Ontario: the alliance for healthy food and farming.

Blogs on farming, yup! Canada's got those too, including a list of favorite farm blogs from a site called Ontario's Own. Or a more conventional blog on Ontario farming and ag issues at Farms.com

There is a "foodie" scene in Ottawa and Montréal. A few links for that include Slow Food Canada (with lists of local chapters), Slow Food Montréal (in French), the Montréal Foodie Association, or Ottawa Foodies (reviews and tips on local eateries).

Culinary tourism and local marketing? Try Savour Ottawa, a useful umbrella organization that sponsors occasional public events too. Or go bigger and check out Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance ("the meeting place for growers, chefs and people who love fresh food"). Both organizations have ideas any region could copy, or events you might enjoy when traveling in related areas.

If you want to get into farming, resources sites include things like Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training in Ontario (CRAFT).

Turning away from the sort of trendy stuff to what I'll call old-school farming, traditional agriculture is very important in greater Ottawa and surrounding municipalities. My own sense is traditional farming is still something of a media orphan.

Urbanites get pretty excited about organic this and CSA that. Meanwhile, that which produces the majority of the milk, corn, soy and so forth in the region is often viewed with boredom at best – or outright suspicion at worst, if it gets noticed at all!

At the risk of editorializing, I'm increasingly mindful of a media sub-text that frames this huge topic in terms of "good" farming verses "bad" farming.  Since I lean organic or low-input myself, I just wanted to mention the problem of perspective (or outright bias) as something worth keeping in mind.

It's crazy to think I'll be able to completely cover a topic this big. So if you have tips – or notice things worth sharing that I've overlooked – please jump in!

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