Grow the Local Economy by Eating Locally

By Anne Minh-Thu Quach

In a few days, Quebec strawberries will be spilling over grocery store shelves. Tastier and juicier than imported strawberries, these berries are a perfect example of a growing trend that is the wave of the future: buying local.

For a number of good reasons, local farms have grown in popularity in recent years. According to a survey (in French only), more and more Canadians are buying directly from local producers. And this trend is even more apparent in Quebec.

I’m from the Montérégie, known as the “garden of Quebec,” and I’ve seen for myself the importance of buying local for the region’s economy. Numerous farmers’ markets dot the land in my region, such as the St-Cyprien-de-Napierville market, the Huntingdon farmer’s market, the Beauharnois public market and last but not least the Salaberry-de-Valleyfield public market.

In addition, more and more restaurants are offering locally grown food, such as the Domaine de la Templerie in Godmanchester, which has received numerous awards. Other restaurants in my area are also taking pride in putting local food front and centre, such as Aux Goûts des Saisons in Beauharnois, Planète Terroir in Dewittville-Hinchinbrooke, Le Riverain in Ormstown and La Barigoule in Valleyfield. These restaurants are a source of regional pride and a wonderful way to eat healthfully.

It was these local initiatives that inspired me to introduce a bill in the House of Commons promoting local food across the country.

Farmers don’t have it easy. Since Stephen Harper’s Conservatives came to power in Ottawa, Canada has lost 8,000 family farms. Despite this disturbing figure, the government won’t act. Yet our farmers are extremely important not only to Canada’s economy but to regional economies: the agricultural sector accounts for one in eight jobs across the country.

My bill would require the federal minister of agriculture and his or her provincial counterparts to develop a pan-Canadian local food strategy to promote local foods. My bill would also require federal institutions to buy local food first. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture has even expressed support for my bill, which aims to be innovative and collaborative.

Our local farmers are offering us high-quality foods: we’d be silly not to take advantage of this! Local food means buying close and eating fresh. That is how we revitalize our local farms. That is a plan for our region’s future.