Ontario Strawberry Fields Forever

Toronto, June 12, 2008 – Local farmers, the city’s top chefs and other culinary experts invite Toronto residents to taste and delight in our very own Ontario-grown strawberries. Leona Dombrowsky, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs was the first to savour a bite of the heart-shaped sweet treat, with berries freshly picked from Whitty Farms in the Greenbelt and prepared by cordon-bleu chef Karen Viva-Haynes. The tasting took place at the First Fruits of Spring Festival kick-off at Viva Tastings restaurant and gourmet food store in Toronto. The Festival takes place from June 12th to June 29, 2008.

“This event brings together so many wonderful things about Ontario… it connects the farmers that grow Ontario’s delicious strawberries with some of the best restaurants in Toronto, all with the purpose of promoting local food and encouraging Torontonians to ‘buy Ontario’,” Dombrowsky said.

The Festival comes just in time for the local strawberry season, and also for local strawberry farmers. Between 2003 and 2005, Ontario’s strawberry acreage and marketed sales both declined by 18 per cent. As Torontonians whet their appetite for the red berry during the June festival organizers aim to remind consumers of the superior taste of locally-grown, fresh strawberries. They want to inspire people to take pride in choosing local next time they are at the supermarket. Our farmers are doing their part by becoming more competitive in the marketplace, investing in technologies to extend the growing season beyond June and July and planting new, even tastier varieties of these wonderful little treats.

“This festival is an important community celebration as it represents the beginning of our local harvest,” said Doug Whitty, a Greenbelt strawberry farmer from Niagara. “Many consumers are seeking a closer relationship with the land and the people who grow their food. They also recognize the environmental and nutritional benefits of buying local versus imported produce.”

“When you bite into a locally-grown strawberry it tastes like springtime in your mouth,” said Burkhard Mausberg, President of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation. “As Toronto’s top chefs attest, our strawberries are the best. Why buy any other?”

During the Festival, Ontario strawberries from the nearby Greenbelt and beyond, are featured on the menu at top Toronto restaurants including CanoeAuberge du PommierCowbellThe Drake and Il Fornello. The public is also invited to feast on the berries at a series of events from a Strawberry Tea at the Evergreen Brick Works Farmers’ Market and Strawberry Jam Making at Culinarium on Saturday, June 14; a Slow Food trip to a pick-your-own strawberry farm in Barrie on Saturday, June 28th; and, a strawberries and wine tasting at Henry of Pelham’s winery in Niagara’s Greenbelt region also on June 28th.

The First Fruits of Spring Festival was launched at 2:30 on Thursday, June 12th at Viva Tastings located at 409 College Street (east of Bathurst on the south side). Click here for a full list of participating farms, restaurants and events or visit Edible Toronto Magazine to get your eat on.

Information on where to buy local strawberries grown in Ontario’s Greenbelt can also be found in the My Local Greenbelt guide. For your very own copy of the guide, email the Greenbelt Foundation at info -at- ourgreenbelt.ca.

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For additional information, contact:

Kelly Synnott, Communications Advisor, OMAFRA 416-326-6439, kelly.synnott -at- ontario.ca
Arlene Stein, Director Catering & Events, Hart House, U of T 416-978-8393, arlene.stein -at- utoronto.ca 
Owen Steinberg, Executive Chef, Il Fornello Restaurants cell: 416-823-7156, owen -at- ilfornello.com 
Karen Whitty, Whitty Farms in St. Catharines 905-684-9593 
Diana Crosbie, Crosbie Communications 416-360-6625, diana -at- crosbie.on.ca

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