For many, September is synonymous with the start of school, cooler nights and the end of the unbearable wait for our favourite TV series to return. For those who enjoy local organic food, September brings an abundance of local organic vegetables from the fields of our family farmers and at local markets. It speaks to the flavour, colours and freshness of our local food, and maybe even the sweet perfume of blueberry jams and jellies wafting through the house. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to buy locally once winter is on our doorstep, and the foods that we eat often have to travel long distances before they get to our plates. So let’s make the most of the bountiful, colourful and varied locally grown fruits and vegetables that are available right now and plan for the winter months by conserving some for later! This is where your love of food can go hand-in-hand with reducing your environmental footprint :)
Why buy local
1. To reduce the impact on the environment
Did you know that the food on our plates has travelled an average of 2,500 km? That’s a very long journey - too long, considering that there are more than 1,550 fruit and vegetable farmers in Quebec who grow their produce for local consumption.
2. To encourage our local economy
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, if every Quebecer replaced $30 of foreign-produced food each year with food produced here, the province would see a billion dollars in revenue over five years; revenue that could be used, for example, to invest in the organic agri-food industry. The fruits and vegetables produced in Quebec contribute significantly to the province’s economic activity. Revenues from the production of field vegetables in Quebec amounted to $451 M in 2016—an increase of 74% since 2006.
Not to mention, choosing products that are in season, while they are plentiful, costs less. Buy and freeze some of the smaller summer fruits available in Quebec, and you can enjoy them when they are out of season, while avoiding having to buy imported ones at exorbitant prices.
3. Because there is nothing better than fresh
When pears or blueberries are picked on the same day that you buy them, it’s hard to get anything fresher. And the fresher the product, the greater its nutritional value (vitamins, minerals and antioxidants). In fact, the nutrient content begins to drop as soon as they are picked, so imagine a raspberry from Chile that has come travelled 9,000 km… When foods are frozen quickly they retain their freshness, vitamins and minerals.
- At various times throughout the season, u-pick options are available. Take advantage of long weekends to go to pick-your-own sites for some summer family fun.
* Labour Day weekend is a great time to go blueberry picking.
* Thanksgiving is the ideal time to get apples and squash.
- Don’t have time to go and pick your own? You can buy in larger quantities from local markets close to where you live.
- Consider the small, lesser-known (but still delicious) Quebec fruits such as gooseberries, red and black currants, saskatoon berries, and honeysuckle berries that more and more farmers’ markets are offering. If it’s too late to get them fresh, check your grocery store. Some carry them in frozen form so that they can be enjoyed all year-round!
Some ideas for bulk purchases to help you eat locally:
- Not always sure what period of the year different fruits and vegetables are in season? Does the corn in your supermarket come from Quebec? When is the best time to go pick your own strawberries with your kids? Équiterre’s harvest calendar indicates the best times to buy and stock up on various fruits and vegetables.
- Organize an exchange of jams, pies and tomato sauces with your friends or office colleagues. An opportunity to share recipes and diversify your winter supply of preserves!
- Plan a day for your family to cook together.
- Find public markets near you (in French)
Some tips for making preserves
Eating organic is a logical choice!
Eating organic makes a lot of sense, but can sometimes be more complicated than it seems. For most people, the question is not whether or not to eat organic, but how! As organic consumers learn more and more about the benefits of eating organic, they become the best spokespeople. Learn more about the benefits of eating organic.
So now, how to unravel all this information and make enlightened purchase decisions? Équiterre has updated its informational page on organic certification.
To make this simple for you, all the farms in the Family Farmers Network have been, or are in the process of being, organically certified by CARTV-approved agencies. They will have fall and winter organic baskets available, and that you can register for them right now.
Conclusion: In addition to saving time in the winter with your prepared dishes or pre-prepared fruits and vegetables, eating local (and organic, if possible) helps to greatly reduce your ecological footprint. So when you see tomatoes from Mexico in the middle of the summer or blueberries from Chile when our own blueberry season is in full swing, why not go and politely ask the supply clerk at your grocery store if they could also start following the seasonal calendar! :)
To take things further: Our guide to demanding local (in French)