2013 has been a remarkable year for food in Thunder Bay. Actually, it’s been a food-focused year at every level of government and policy-making, judging by the UN’s decision to make 2014 the Year of the Family Farm, the Federal focus on trade agreements and the Ontario Premier’s decision to give Agriculture and Rural Affairs their own separate portfolios and adopt Agriculture as her own pet project. Something big is happening, friends, and you’re all part of it.
Speaking locally, we’ve seen some encouraging developments. The City of Thunder Bay has hired a Food Strategy Coordinator who – among her other duties - is busy supporting seven working groups dedicated to developing policy to support local food. Those groups are tackling food issues all the way from the farm and forest to your plate and taking into consideration everything from the infrastructure needed to move it around and prepare it to the growing number of people in our community who are relying on the generosity of food-bank supporters to feed their families. New events like Keynote’s Top Chef competition are showing the world that Thunder Bay will not be left behind in terms of taste and skill, and we’re seeing immensely gratifying support and inclusion from Southern Ontario as our provincial government shapes food policy for the future.
But Thunder Bay farmers face challenges no amount of supportive local policy will address in terms of weather and soil conditions, and their biggest allies and staunchest supporters are... you. We want to thank all of you; every single generous, loyal and community-minded man, woman and child attending the Market, for shaking the hands and meeting the eyes of the people growing food for you, for paying a little more for your food and for recognizing the value each of our farmers brings to our community.
Whether you’re doing it because you trust our farmers to provide you with excellent food, because you want to support people who make sure more of your food dollars go right back into our community, or just because you like buying food from real people, you’re making a huge difference.
The UN has declared 2014 the Year of the Family Farm as a way of promoting dialogue on the subject of food production, world-wide. We hope you’ll take lots of opportunities next year to have more dialogue yourselves on the subject of food. You're becoming experts!
Please, in 2014, talk to your friends and family about your reasons for shopping local. Have frank conversations with your farmer friends about their growing businesses – you’d be surprised at the tiny ways you might be able to make a big difference. Most of all, have a few quiet conversations with yourself. Stand in an out-of-the-way spot at the Market and watch the smiling patrons go by, and realize you’re part of something wonderful, something bigger than family or economy or policy, something a little bit magic.
Thank you, Market Friends, for helping to make 2013 a spectacular year for food in Thunder Bay. May your holidays be merry and bright, and the year to come full of food, friends and fun.
Perfection in Imperfection
There’s no good reason, as far as we’re concerned, for uniformity, regularity and sameness. If there was we’d all look, feel, smell and sound the same by now, and that would have gotten old a long time ago. Likewise the idea of perfect shapes and mathematically precise coloration is kind of boring... and completely unnatural, we might add. No tree ever grew perfectly symmetrical – and therein lies the beauty, which wood-sculptor Graham Wretham demonstrates over and over again at his table on the Market’s second floor. Although some of his bowls are pleasingly regular in shape – and gorgeously wrought to show off just as pleasingly irregular natural grains – the ones that catch our eyes over and over again are created from irregular burls and are shaped around naturally-occurring lumps, bumps and holes that make each piece unique and, doubtless, a challenge to the artist. Stop by to learn more about Graham’s process and examine the wealth of local and Canadian wood like Douglas fir, birch, maple and black ash burl on display.
Johnny’s Sugar Shack: Old-Fashioned Goodness
Southeast of the city, Cynthia Wolf-Graham’s dad and business partner John manages a stand of sugar maples he and Cynthia tap and process together; placing old-fashioned spigots and carrying buckets by hand to an open fire, where the sap is separated and then evaporated into a rich syrup in much the same way it was done when European settlers first adapted the methods they learned from First Nations people in the 17th Century.
Available in limited quantities, Johnny’s Sugar Shack Maple Syrup shares table space with other deliciously simple traditions: maple-infused caramel apples, juice squeezed from the sweet and tangy fruits of their apple orchards, and red potatoes from their fields.
Meet Cynthia at the Market every Saturday and join us in welcoming her to the family.
Gioia of the Season
Upon learning about a special Mike Visser ran one weekend awhile back – a day during which he donated one pound of MyPride Farms’ lean veal to Shelter House for every pound purchased – Gioia Seerveld decided she liked his style and wanted to support him in a larger way than she could by just purchasing her small family’s meat from him. After a few discussions on the subject they came up with a wonderful idea that has satisfied both of them immensely and has helped Shelter House to feed the hungry, as well.
On Saturday, November 30, Shelter House Executive Director Patty Hajdu joined Mike and Gioia at the Market to accept the donation of a box of ground veal which will be used to prepare a meal for the hundreds of people who queue up outside Shelter House every day. Between the two of them they came to an agreement under which Gioia purchases 70% of the meat and Mike donates the other 30%.
We can’t say enough good about the generosity and hard work of the three people in this picture. Patty, far left, is the Executive Director at Shelter House, and has what’s probably one of the toughest jobs in the city. Gioia’s generosity speaks for itself. And newcomer Mike, who started it all, is continuing to work with customers who wish to make contributions like Gioia’s to support our food charities at a time when many of us take food – excesses of food, if we’re being honest – for granted.
Congratulations Patty, Mike and Gioia. We’re so proud of you all.
Hey, Ho the Dairy-O
If you walk into Thunder Oak’s old location on the corner of Boundary Drive and Blake-Scoble Road looking for the cheese counter you’ll be disappointed. The cheese-making is still happening there, but the retail portion has already been moved to their beautiful new location which is still on Boundary Drive, but closer to Highway 61. Walter says it will be some time yet before the processing operation joins the sales counter – cheese is still being made at the old store – but they’re looking forward to moving fully into their new location sometime next year.
Meantime, Wilma at Slate River Dairy’s not letting any grass grow beneath her feet either. Continuing her experimentation into the delightful things you can make from yogurt, Wilma’s just recently come out with Yogurt Cheese, which lies somewhere in between cream cheese and yogurt in flavour and comes down firmly on the cream-cheese side of rich and creamy spreadability. Slate River Dairy’s Yogurt Cheese can be used on crackers with appetizer jellies (as shown here with H&P’s Peach Pepper Jelly) as the basis for tzaziki, in recipes instead of cream cheese and even – nommm! – mixed with fruit or preserves as a spread for toast or bagels.