VI Agriculture Show
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Farm To Table Business Booming

Consumers’ appetites for local foods are growing, and restaurants have taken notice. Today, many local businesses, including farms and restaurants, have mutually exclusive relationships that make it possible for local residents to enjoy nutritious, locally produced meals.

 

The popularity of farmers' markets as a 'community shopping experience' has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years as consumers seek out an array of food and non-food items, and the opportunity to interact with local farmers. Consumer demand and interest is closely aligned with support for local farmers and fresh, healthy food choices.

 

Farm-to-table remains a growing trend that benefits farmers, restaurateurs and consumers. This is evidenced by the rising number of farmers markets cropping up in neighbourhoods all across the country, as well as the niche offerings by regional food purveyors.

 

A 2008 study by the Farmers’ Market Canada examined 508 markets and confirmed “the economic force that farmers' markets have become in the Canadian economy and their hosting communities. The markets play a key role in selling agricultural products with estimated sales of $1.03 billion, and an economic impact range of $1.55 to $3.09 billion annually. That is the purchasing power of approximately 28 million shopper-visits that spent an average of $32 per visit.” Many consumers are now choosing “local” for dining at home and when dining out, and this is making a major impact on the nation’s food systems.

 

Foodies as well as industry experts predict that the local foods movement is a permanent and mainstream trend. In 2014, the National Restaurant Association found the desire for local foods dominated its “Top Food Trends.”

 

The most in-demands foods include locally sourced meats and seafood as well as locally sourced produce. Consumers also are interested in farm/estate-branded foods. Some restaurants are even producing “hyper-local” food, or herbs and produce grown right on the property.

 

As the demand for local foods has evolved, so has the term “local foods.” “Local” can be a wide-ranging term that refers to foods produced in a particular town, state or even region.

 

The growing preference for locally produced foods is great news for the farmers and small food producers that have long fought for footing among the mega-importers. According to the trade publication Produce Business, even though “local” does not place limits on the size of the farm, the growing desire among consumers to go local is benefitting many small and midsized farms, as consumers are increasingly buying foods grown closer to where they live.

 

In addition to meats, fruits and vegetables, consumers can find many locally made items that expand the potential for farm-to-table. These include, but are not limited to, artisanal cheeses, wines, beer, baked goods, milk and other dairy and honey.

 

Local, sustainable foods are in demand, helping not only local restaurants and merchants, but also the small and medium farms that service these establishments. –MC