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90% of people want to shop local, why aren’t they?

Published on June 18, 2018

Between 75-90% of Canadian shoppers say they favour shopping locally and view it as one of the key things a consumer can do to support their community. And yet, many of these people don’t. So what’s stopping them?

Given that the World Economic Forum has stated that cities will need to feed themselves regionally by 2050 it is increasingly important that as we work as a community to steer our cities toward a better food system, and fast.

It’s clear to see that the importance most shoppers place on shopping locally is warranted. In order to convert this desire to support their community, the environment and their health into action, we’ve compiled a list of answers to the most frequently raised concerns about buying local.

Buying local costs more.

While sometimes a myth, it’s often a reality that buying locally grown or sourced products can cost more. Unfortunately, the majority of farmers who produce and sell all their own produce cannot hope to compete with larger retailer. But, when you consider that every penny of what you spend is going into the hands of the people who planted, tended and harvested your dinner, it becomes much easier to justify a marginally increased cost. At Evergreen Brick Works’ market alone, customers each year generate over $2.8M for local food producers, which has a wider financial impact of $4.4M on our regional food economy!

Buying local is inconvenient.

Many consumers who are used to a ‘one store fits all’ style of shopping may feel that shopping locally just doesn’t fit with their busy schedule. It might surprise those same people to learn that many of our Saturday Farmers Market regulars spend less than an hour at the market each week; getting in, grabbing great produce from their favourite vendors and scooting out to enjoy the rest of their weekend. Next time you need to pick up groceries, why not give your local market a look - you may be surprised at what they have to offer!

Buying local means less variety.

It’s true that we all love variety, and that we can all be known to have a hankering for the odd strawberry in a chilly February. Unfortunately, satisfying that craving is detrimental in its environmental impact due to the footprint caused by air freighting, chilling and packaging imported fruits. At the same time, the desire for year round variety has increasingly driven Canadians to 4 or 5 retailers who now control nearly 85% of the food we eat (and 96% of our meat!), which doesn’t bode well for small farmers or our agency over our own food system.

For those of us who care about all these issues but still worry about a winter diet of turnips, swedes and more turnips, never fear: Foodland Ontario’s Fresh Pick Calendar can show you the plethora of options available year round.

If you’re still in doubt, check out our monthly What’s On to find delicious recipes for this month’s seasonal picks and most importantly remember to ask our experts ‘in the field’ – The Farmers! They are truly the best resource to give you the lowdown on how to get the most out of the market all year round.

What if “local produce” isn’t actually local?

While there have been recent cases of farmers markets coming under scrutiny over the provenance of their produce, there are some easy ways to ensure you are buying local.

First things first, you can always speak to your local market team and find out how they keep up to date with their farmers and what they are producing and selling. A farmers market that supports local agriculture will welcome your questions as it is always encouraging to hear that consumers are playing their part in ensuring that local farmers come first. As a consumer you can also request copies of any claimed organic or biodynamic certifications to ensure that what is sold on a table matches what is grown in the field.

Two more ways to confirm is by making sure that what you are buying is grown locally is to ensure it is in season. If you’re picking up peaches in November or grabbing a bushel of corn in March you can be pretty certain that these items may have travelled further than you think!

We hope that this guide to the prevalent concerns and misconceptions about shopping locally can help to encourage you to buy local this season and take advantage of the truly wonderful food system surrounding our cities. Here’s to shopping, eating and savouring local in 2018!