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Foodlink Waterloo Region

Foodlink Waterloo Region

It’s a good time for anyone even remotely interested in food (and because it’s mostly humans that will be reading this, and humans need food to live, you’re likely remotely interested in food by necessity). Trendy headlines come in and out of style: from avocado toast to ketogenic diets, food is fated to fads. But one thing has always been true: it’s good to buy local. Well, today, WRX Property Group is prepared to take it one step further and solemnly declare that it’s not just good to buy local – it’s grrrreat! And when it comes to local foods, inhabitants of the Waterloo Region need look no further than Foodlink Waterloo Region.

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Why Buy Local?

It’s healthy. Fruit and vegetables grown locally will be fresher when you buy them, which means several things: because they don’t need to be transported for an extended period of time, they can be picked at the ideal ripeness, meaning more nutrients; it also typically means fewer preservatives, and a smaller ecological footprint (thousand kilometer transport truck journeys aren’t exactly fuel efficient).

It supports the local economy and agricultural workers. Farming can be a fickle business: seasons can turn unpredictably, crops can yield less than expected… By supporting local farmers, and purchasing local food, you’re playing a role in ensuring the Waterloo Region still has local farms and farmers.

It’s delicious. This goes back to the freshness (who doesn’t love a plump, freshly-picked strawberry?), but also the potential variety when there are multiple local farms producing a range of foods (have you tried fiddleheads? They’re a delicious green vegetable with a short, springtime growing season, and the only native Canadian plant to be commercially successful as a vegetable).


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What is Foodlink Waterloo Region?

Foodlink Waterloo Region is a non-profit organization dedicated to local food and the people who grow it. They promote locally-grown food, organize events, support farmers and food businesses, provide food-based education, and make connections among community members.

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History

It was summer in the year 2000, and representatives from a variety of Waterloo groups (Public Health people, community garden coordinators, organic organizers, and more) decided two things. The Waterloo Region needed to have access to healthy, locally-grown food; and the people who grew that food needed to be supported. After just over a year and a half of deliberation and consultations, they determined the need for a coordinating committee, and in March, 2002, Foodlink was born. At first, Foodlink focussed on community gardens, research into community-based food systems, and discovering methods by which the rural and the urban communities might be better connected. They started out with rather limited resources, but sometimes a great idea and some community spirit are all you need: their 2002 “Buy Fresh! Buy Local” map, which shows where to find the best local food, was an instant success. Buoyed by this success, Foodlink shifted its focus to connecting farms with consumers; as well as celebrating and promoting locally-grown food. It moved away from projects like community gardens, which would go on to be handled by groups like local Neighbourhood Associations and Kitchener’s Love My Hood.


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Buy Local! Buy Fresh!

This was the campaign that ensured Foodlink Waterloo Region’s legacy. Ever since that first 2002 map, it’s been published annually, every spring (perfect timing for asparagus, as they note on their website) – and it’s something every Waterloo Region resident ought to have a copy of (they’re free, and you can find a list of the many locations you can get them here). The 2018 map (which is the seventeenth consecutive map) features 62 farms, as well as farmers’ markets, restaurants, and more. Buy Local! Buy Fresh! is deservedly quite popular here, both among locals and tourists, but that’s not its only claim to fame: it received a Premiere’s Award for Agricultural Innovation Excellence in 2006, and over the years multiple communities across Ontario have adopted their own Buy Local! Buy Fresh! campaigns. Like we said earlier: sometimes a great idea and some community spirit are all you need. In 2007, Foodlink expanded Buy Local! Buy Fresh! to include its own brand and label; now, consumers can easily find food that was grown at Foodlink-affiliated farms (look out for it at your favourite farmers’ market).

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Taste Local! Taste Fresh!

Taste Local! Taste Fresh! is an annual fundraising initiative and culinary showcase organized by Foodlink Waterloo Region. When you’re working with locally-grown food, you’ve got solid building blocks from which to create a culinary masterpiece. But not all of us are quite so talented – so the question is, what happens when actual chefs prepare a veritable smorgasbord of delicious dishes, made with local food? Well, you get a veritable smorgasbord of delicious dishes, made with local food. Taste Local! Taste Fresh! is great for multiple reasons: it’s a chance for farmers, producers, chefs, consumers, and various community members to meet and interact over a shared love of good food. It’s educational: often hosted at Steckle Heritage Farm (which is a historic, fully-functioning farm right in Kitchener – read all about it here), Taste Local! Buy Local! allows consumers young and old alike to get more close ly acquainted with where their food comes from, and who’s involved in its production. With live music and entertainment, it’s also quite fun. Finally, it is a fundraising event: Foodlink Waterloo Region is a non-profit, and this is their only fundraiser; money raised here enables them to keep doing what they’re doing. And anyone who’s followed the Buy Local! Buy Fresh! map to a new favourite restaurant, or trusted in the brand when they saw it in the Kitchener Farmers’ Market, will likely agree: Foodlink is worth it! You can find more events here.

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Conclusion

It’s hard to deny the convenience of the modern supermarket. But even bearing those benefits in mind, there’s something about a farmers’ market that just makes the experience feel more wholesome and worthwhile. Buying food that was painstakingly, caringly grown nearby, often from the people who played a role in it being grown, is a great way to get the most out of – and give the most back to – the community in which you live.

Written by Will Kummer

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