Yesterday, I went to the grocery store to stock up on the essentials for the week. I’ve always enjoyed perusing the aisles of my local grocery store, letting my mind wander while shopping on autopilot. This last time however, as I stood in front of the egg cooler, I found myself paying attention.
I’m going to make a grand assumption here and say that like many other consumers, price is the driving factor of most of my purchasing decisions. In general, my autopilot grocery shopping self always reaches for the brand or item on sale. But this time, as I stood before a wall of egg cartons, I found myself—maybe for the first time ever—wondering about the origin of my next omelet. Were the eggs from Canada? Perhaps even Ontario?
Before starting with the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation in late July, I couldn’t think of a time where the "localness" of a product ever factored into my grocery decisions. So imagine my surprise when I felt a slight unease about reaching for the brand I always bought. I thought to myself, why should I care? Would this purchase really make a difference in the grand scheme of things? Conversations about local food and the importance of local agriculture swirled in my mind until ultimately, I reached over for a carton of large Ontario eggs, relieved. Had I become a locavore?.
Recently, I met with Ravi Maharaj, Assistant Category Manager (Ethic Foods) at Sobeys. I first met Ravi at the Ontario Food Terminal, during a session about the World Crops programhosted by Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. The staff at Vineland have been working tirelessly since 2010 to perfect the art of growing ethno-cultural vegetable varieties in Ontario
When Ravi and I met later, we discussed what retail chains, like Sobeys, are doing to provide consumers with more locally grown ethnic selections. I discovered that Sobeys has taken great strides to carry local ethno-cultural produce, and is looking to expand their market. According to Ravi, this year, Sobeys is testing the viability of these locally grown world crops in stores across Ontario.
Not only are locally grown world crops better for the environment in terms of their reduced carbon footprint, but they are also better for you. In a brief conversation with one of the lead world crops researchers during the Vineland open house, I learned that the nutritional content in a locally grown tomato is greater than an import that was plucked from its vine a week early only to ripen on the truck to its destination. Ravi also notes the benefits to consumers and retail chains: fresher, more nutrient-packed produce for consumers, a longer shelf life and lowered transport expenses for retailers. Win-win!
Paulina Staszuk, Grants Officer
Follow on Twitter @PaulinaStaszuk
Read more about world crops from our 2012 world crops year-in-review...