Royal Winter Agricultural Fair

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

During the Royal we attended the “Local Food Culinary Event” to learn more about how to link restaurant chefs and owners up with local farmers.
The panel was posed with the question, “What is the most important thing farmers can do to access the local food market/restaurant opportunities?” Below is a summary of their interesting answers:

1) Dan Taylor, Prince Edward County
Email:; Phone: (613) 476-2148 ext. 246
Dan Taylor believes entrepreneurship is what’s required of farmers to capitalize on the current popularity of local food and he shared an excellent example of how this could take shape. Prince Edward County is building a local delivery system that will oversee the logistics of handling restaurant orders, coordinate farmers, and manage the pickup and delivery of the goods. This system will be run as a 3-year business by Dan after which will be handed over to the farmers of Prince Edward County.

2) Sasha Chapman, The Globe & Mail
Sasha argued that what will get consumers buying local food, and continuing to do so, is the “stories” of where food comes from. Shoppers want to know how the food they are purchasing was grown and by whom. She argued that farmers should provide customers with this information to personalize the experience.

3) Paul Finkelstein, Teacher/Chef at “The Screaming Avocado”
Paul argued that students need to shown real food and all that it includes. They need to appreciate what goes into producing food and the benefits of fresh, local food. He stressed the importance of a chef to school/farm to schools program.

4) Toby Nemeth, Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar
Toby emphasized that local food must be readily accessible and available to chefs. It must be as easy as possible for busy chefs to include local food on their menus. In return, chefs must adapt and adopt different practices such as buying whole animals. Because of chefs’ demanding schedule, Toby implored farmers to pursue restaurants. She also noted that having a product list that includes seasonality and availability is quite helpful.

5) Mark Trealout, Kawartha Ecological Growers
Mark encouraged farmers to cooperate with each other to successfully access the local food and restaurant markets. Mark acts as a liaison between farmers and restaurants and farmers themselves. He is involved with a distribution centre in the Kawartha area that is a network of local farmers. Since the creation of this network, farmers now share food, seeds, ideas, and grow complimentary products, which improves their marketability. This cooperation enables two deliveries a week of local produce to Toronto restaurants and the network is expected to double its sales in the coming year.

6) Elizabeth Harris, Brickworks
Elizabeth spoke to the need of farmers to keep on top of “trendy crops” and crops that are not widely available so that they can offer alternative products.
She also spoke about Brickworks latest initiative which will be setting up a refrigerated drop-off centre for farmers to allow for products to get to restaurants. Farmers will then be able to drop off products at times convenient for them and restaurants will pick them up.

7) Barry Monaghan, Fresh Start Foods
Fresh Start Foods is a wholesale distributor of local fruits and vegetables with locations in Ottawa, Waterloo, Milton, and London. Barry explained that Fresh Start uses computer tracking for information on all food, and employs marketing tools and trained sales staff to
Restaurants and chefs can place orders through their website where they can find a full product list.

8) Susan Benson, Ontario Culinary Tourism
Email:; Phone: (705) 385-9198
We also heard from Susan who made an announcement about the Ontario Culinary Tourism’s new website that features and promotes local food. The website serves producers, chefs, restaurants, and tourists. Visitors to the site can have access to marketing and promotion tools, a database of Ontarian grown products, and information on restaurants that feature local food.

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