This was originally posted at the Waterloo Region Food Systems Roundtable.
Kitchener/Waterloo is a great place to live for a locavore. The surrounding region provides many incredible foods at affordable prices. Much of that food is easily accessible within the city year-round, thanks in part to Bailey’s Local Foods, The Saint Jacobs Market, and of course the Kitchener Market. But sometimes I want more. I often picture my dream locavore town and it would look something like this:
The local food economy is so well supported that there is constant growth in the number of small organic farms in the region. In general it is expected that most farms are organic, resulting in the fact that those who still practice “conventional” farming are the exception. Their products are not readily sought after since the community believes in the value of organic, sustainably produced food.
In this locavore town, local-mindedness goes beyond local food. A local mentality also encourages local artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, and architects. Being local helps to foster an appreciation for the things that members of the community create, fostering as well as a sense of pride.
Restaurants in my locavore dream rely on local farms and have menus that change constantly throughout the seasons. It is also easy to find meaningful work because all work done in the community is necessary and valuable to the community. Since the majority of foods and products required are produced locally there is an appropriate balance between supply and demand, resulting in less price fluctuations and better use of our resources. The community creates what it needs and the economy responds to its needs efficiently and fairly.
There is no need to declare oneself a “locavore” here because it is the default option for consumers. The town is filled with many small, locally owned grocery stores which feature vegetables, fruits, preserves, grains, cereals, breads, meats, dairy products, and much more grown, produced, and processed in the region. The only non-local products are ones that could never be produced here, and these are sourced sustainably and fairly.
In this town, the environment is well cared for because it is seen as valuable to the continued sustainability and resilience of the community. The city has committed to containing growth within its boundaries and not sprawling into surrounding farmlands, while also working to encourage the growth and viability of small family farms that practice good stewardship of the land.
That’s more or less how my dream goes.
In some ways we’re not that far from my dream here in KW. I can find most of those things here, but I have to be willing to look for them. When I go to the grocery store I can find local products if I stop to read labels and ask questions. I can talk to growers at the markets and visit farms. However, the only people who live this way are the ones who make the conscious decision and commitment to eating and buying local.
One thing I love about KW is that it has its own unique and original culture. This is because the foundations for many of our local businesses originated here, including food businesses. It is food that has the potential of shaping culture and when food is produced in and for a local community it is inherently unique, catering to local tastes and preferences.
Though unique, the city is not an island, cut off from the world. Our culture still exists within the larger culture of North America (and the world), but it does not always depend on the larger cultures to define or guide it. The local economy in KW is vibrant although at times overly dependent on one or several large businesses and employers. As the local food economy grows other aspects of the economy will grow to support it, growing the resiliency of our community as we strengthen the bonds of our interconnectedness.
I love living here, and feel that KW is a wonderful place. However, I do hope we can find even more ways to increasingly live like my locavore dream town.