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Local Food Week Was a Great Succes

June 26, 2014

 http://www.niagarathisweek.com/opinion-story/4603083-ontario-s-first-local-food-week-celebration-was-a-success/

Ontario celebrated its first ever Local Food Week from June 2-8, 2014. It was a great opportunity to celebrate the passion we all have for local food and it helped advance a conversation with consumers about how to seek out and buy local food throughout the entire year.

So many great efforts took place across the province to celebrate local food, initiated by both individuals and organizations. The goal of the week was to help turn attention to local food by sharing ideas, key messages, social media and artwork with and through many partners and in many venues.

To spread the word about Local Food Week, Farm & Food Care coordinated the launch of a new website and a social media campaign. The website, found at loveontfood.ca, was the main hub for all activities related to Local Food Week. Users had access to a lot of local food information including events happening to celebrate the week, farm and food links.

One of the main celebrations that took place during Local Food Week was a province-wide Twitter party hosted by Farm & Food Care. On June 3 hundreds of people logged on to Twitter and followed along with the online celebration. The hour-long conversation was a time for farmers, chefs, consumers and media to talk about what they love about local food. It was also a great opportunity to thank both farmers for the food they produce and consumers for supporting local farmers.

The success of the Twitter party was in the depth of its reach. In total, over a 24 hour period around the time of the online event, there were 16.7 million estimated impressions generated by 6,489 Twitter mentions of the #loveONTfood hash tag. This exceeded all targets for the social media campaign and was a great boost to awareness of the week.

Ontarians are passionate about local food, and social media was able to capture that energy and excitement and spread it elsewhere across the province. Twitter enthusiasts can follow the hash tag #loveONTfood as it will continue to be used to promote the local food available to us in Ontario.

Farm & Food Care encouraged all individuals and organizations to initiate their own local food celebration. As an example, VG Meats of Stoney Creek committed to donating a pound of ground beef for every pound sold in its store on Saturday, June 8. In total, 650 pounds of ground beef was donated to the Hamilton Food Share and to Jarvis Caring Cupboard.

There were many more examples of local food celebrations with farmers’ markets across the province joining in the festivities. Farm & Food Care teamed up with Ontario Apple Growers and Ontario Farm Fresh to hand out apples in Nathan Phillips Square, marking the first farmer’s market of the season in the square.

Fraberts Fresh Food in Fergus hosted a local food fair at their store for local food producers to present and sample their food to customers. Halton Healthcare Services hosted a local food expo and encouraged people to come out and learn about the local food chain by talking to growers from the area. Dyment’s Farm in Dundas held a Sunday afternoon barbecue and invited the community to come and spend their afternoon eating delicious local food.

Ontario Agriculture Week, scheduled for the week of Oct. 6-12, 2014 will be another opportunity to boost collective efforts in support of farmers and the food they produce in Ontario. These two weeks are the perfect bookends to a season of warm weather and delicious local food.

“As we are encouraged to think globally and eat locally, this is the perfect time to celebrate the incredible quality and variety of food produced right here at home,” says John Maaskant, a chicken farmer and chair of Farm & Food Care Ontario. “As farmers, we are so proud to feed our neighbours and we want to express our thanks to all consumers who support us by choosing Ontario foods.”

Overall, the first ever Local Food Week was a success, as much awareness was brought to the endless bounty of local food available in the province. However, this spirited celebration should not end just because Local Food Week is over. We need everyone’s help to continue the spirited celebration of local food and agriculture in Ontario, not only for the upcoming Ontario Agriculture Week in October, but all year long, to ensure the excitement spreads across the province. Both farmers and consumers can be proud of the fresh, delicious local food growing in Ontario. Details on Ontario Agriculture Week celebrations will be posted later this summer to www.loveontfood.ca .

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