Saturday, July 28, 2012

Farmers Feed Cities #FreshFromTheField

Do your kids know where their food comes from? When you ask about that steak on their plate, do they think only of the supermarket shelf and the styrofoam tray? There is, of course, so much more to it than that.  Farmers Feed Cities is an organisation dedicated to educating the public about the importance of farmers in our lives and in the economy of Ontario. They attend numerous events and fairs around the province, including the CNE and Royal Winter Agricultural Fair, as well as host their own events as part of their outreach and education mandates.  
Little Boo and I were lucky enough to attend one of their events last week at Riverdale Farm, in downtown Toronto. (Yes, there is a farm in downtown Toronto, operated by the city and free to the public for visits - a great place for kids to get close to agriculture!) 
photo credit: Hector Vasquez Photography
This is the great group of Ontario farmers who joined us and talked to us about some of the different types of farms in our province: vegetable, beef, eggs, pork, and dairy. It was wonderful to hear from these passionate people who clearly love their work and their relationship with the land.

Each of the farmers told us a bit about their specific industry as we visited the relevant area of the farm. The kids did listen and even ask questions, but they (naturally) were more intrigued by watching the animals themselves. I was proud of Little Boo for asking about the slaughter process for cows, since he had asked me this question just a few days previous. He loves steak and I think he was happy to hear about the humane process used in turning a cow into "beef."
One point that was perfectly clear throughout our day was the close relationship farmers have with their land, crops, and animals. The respect there is palpable. 

Here are some farming facts from Farmers Feed Cities:
  • 25% of all farms in Canada are located in Ontario
  • 1 Ontario farm feeds 120 people
  • 1 in 7 Ontario jobs is linked to the Agriculture or Agri-food industry
  • Farms contributed $11.9 billion to the provincial economy in 2011
  • Adult turkeys have more than 3,500 feathers
  • The average dairy cow produces 27 liters of milk a day, that’s 113 glasses! The average Canadian drinks about 92 liters of milk a year.
  • The average chicken lays 300 eggs a year
  • The average Canadian eats 14 dozen
  • There are over 40 breeds of sheep in Canada and they are raised for fleece and meat
  • Just like snow-flakes, no two cows have the same patterns!
  • Pigs are ranked as the 4th most intelligent animal in the world
  • Horses have big appetites! An average 1, 200 pound horse will eat seven times its body weight each year
  • Blueberries are the most common fruit grown in Canada, followed by apples

It is undeniably true that farmers do indeed feed cities. It is just really easy to forget this, and become very numbed to this fact when we pick up our carefully processed and packaged groceries. At this time of year when fresh, local produce is so easily available, I do try to pick up my fruits and vegetables at farmer's markets. Supporting local is important for our economy in general, as well as for the sustainability of our Ontario farms. But buying local also means buying fresher, since items haven't traveled such a long distance to get to our tables. I like that.

What about you? Have you found any great local markets near where you live? I'd love to hear about them! Or maybe you have your own farm, or even a kitchen garden? Tell me about where your food comes from :)

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