The Mustard Seed Holiday Bag

…making it simple to shop local!

Are you looking for a unique and thoughtful gift this holiday season? A gift that is both delicious and also gives back to the local economy? Celebrate the season with The Mustard Seed Holiday Bag. It’s the perfect gift for a family members, friends, business associates, clients or colleagues – anyone who appreciates local food and the delicious bounty that we can source right here in our Hamilton region.

Follow this link to place an online order – or read on for more information.

This year we are highlighting nine local producers and one local artist. The items listed below come “ready to give” in our locally designed jute bags (in collaboration with Hamilton artist Roisin Fagan) with vibrant tissue paper and a gift tag. Inside the bag, you’ll find a printed version of Roisin’s artwork which you can frame, hang on the fridge, or turn into a greeting card.

What’s included?

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We have chosen a wide spectrum of local products that will make your mouth water! All holiday bags contain the following items:

How to order:

Numbers are limited,so get your order in to ensure you don’t miss out. Holiday gift bags are $49.99 (our early bird price) until November 30th, and $54.99 starting on December 1st. You can either order online (a small transaction fee applies) or purchase at The Mustard Seed (460 York Blvd in Hamilton).

To place your order online, please follow this link!

Holiday Bags will be available for pick up at The Mustard Seed on the first three Saturdays in December (December 5, 12, and 19th), and we will be sure to send you a reminder beforehand.

If you’ve got questions, please email us at

Taking Action on Climate Change

For decades, the causes and impacts of climate change have become clearer, but can individual households engage this global challenge? The Mustard Seed community is gathering on November 29th to show our support for taking action to improve our environment.

The Mustard Seed Co-op is built by people working together to strengthening our local food system. By doing so, our members are taking action on improving our health, economy, environment, and community. We all make daily food-related choices, so every decision about what we eat can contribute to a more sustainable environment and diverse local economy. Our modern globalized food system is implicated in climate change in many ways, but three areas specifically highlight how localizing our food choices can have a positive impact on this problem.
  1. Reducing consumption of scarce natural resources. The ability to grow or find food locally has historically been a prime factor in determining the suitability of a place for human habitation. Yet as technology and global economies have expanded our ability to cheaply relocate food, we are now quite detached from our food sources. When we localize our food choices, we start to re-acquaint ourselves with how rainfall, temperature, and other environmental conditions impact our food supply. The multi-year drought conditions in California have created massive water shortages, yet agricultural production for export continues to drive the majority of the state’s water consumption…so every time we buy Californian lettuce or strawberries, we’re contributing to the unsustainable depletion of their water supply.
  2. Ability to impact legislation and policy. Our food choices can impact environmental issues like chemical use or greenhouse gas emissions. When we chose local products, they fall under legislative jurisdictions we can democratically influence. A recent example is Ontario’s restriction on the use of neonicotinoids in order to protect honeybee populations – a policy change driven by public pressure and scientific evidence. We have no control over the environmental policies or legislation of foreign countries, but prioritizing local food means our personal choices have a global impact.
  3. Focus on quality rather than volume. When we prioritize abundant cheap food above other values, we contribute to the depletion of non-renewable resources. Our environment bears the externalized costs of fossil-fueled chemical production and trans-global shipping. Local food is picked fresh so it’s stored less and cuts food miles. Those $2.99 melons shipped from Argentina in February come at a cost – not only do they travel thousands of miles, their taste, freshness, and quality leave much to be desired. Ontario apples are a much more sustainable choice.

The Mustard Seed’s members are taking action on climate change by choosing local food. We’re reducing food miles – for example, our peanuts are from Norfolk County, instead of Georgia. We’re supporting smaller-scale and organic farmers in our neighbourhood, our region, and throughout Ontario. We’re promoting active transportation, car-sharing, and reducing waste. And we’re encouraging our community to work together in new ways to heal our environment.

Climate change is affecting us all, so please join Mustard Seed members and friends on November 29th for the Hamilton2Paris climate rally. Wear something yellow and meet at the Co-op at 2:00 to march together to City Hall.  Let’s encourage our governments and world leaders to make meaningful commitments to ensure our communities – both local and global – have an environment we can call home.

Follow these links for more information on Hamilton2Paris and the COP21 conference in Paris.

Meet Our Meat Producers : Tour #2 – Ross Enterprises Turkey Farm

The Mustard Seed members’ sourcing priorities guide what products we stock at the Co-op. “Ethical Animal Practices” is one of our core values because we know that consuming meat involves an animal giving its life to feed us. We therefore have a responsibility to know the conditions that animal experienced. Lynda, our meat buyer, and other Co-op members have been visiting farmers to see their operations first-hand.

Donald J. (Buck) Ross is a fourth-generation farmer in Mapleton Township, Wellington County (north of Waterloo, about 100km from the Co-op). He’s been raising turkeys for over twenty-five years. We spent two hours visiting Buck’s farms, seeing his free-range turkeys, and discussing the challenges of sustainably farming in central Ontario.


Ross Enterprises is the only licensed non-organic turkey producer in Ontario allowed to range turkeys outdoors. Poultry production in Ontario is highly controlled by various marketing boards, including Turkey Farmers of Ontario. A licence, called “quota,” is required to produce more than 50 turkeys on any one farm in Ontario. The history of quota is complicated, but the marketing boards were formed as a tool to protect Canadian farmers and consumers through three pillars: ensuring a stable supply to market, setting fair prices through cost-of-production formulas, and monitoring the border import practices of foreign industrial producers. Over the past forty-five years, Ontario’s system has itself become industrialized, leading many consumers to seek poultry that seems more natural, including having access to the outdoors. This is how Buck’s family has always raised their turkeys – so when the rules changed to keep birds inside full-time, they went to court and won the right to let their turkeys out. Now his farms are the only commercial quota-holding producers allowed to grow free-range turkeys.

The turkeys we saw in were sheltered in a number of different barns on the Ross’ farms, the oldest dating from 1883. The early November rains were steady when we visited, so most birds were staying indoors. But being naturally curious, they came outside to inspect our group. While their feed and water are indoors, they are free to roam the outdoor, fenced barnyards anytime to catch the sun and feel the wind. Buck pointed out that their combs are much deeper coloured than barn-raised birds due to increased melanin levels from sunshine. As Buck says, fresh air is the best thing for the turkeys after clean water and healthy food.

Buck’s turkeys are commercial birds fed a ration of ground conventional corn, soybean meal, and wheat, with added flaxseed to increase Omega-3s in the meat. He sends the grain he grows on his 1,000 acres to Wallenstein Feed & Supply where they pool local grains and grind all the feed for his turkeys. The feed is not organic, but it is all locally grown.


Buck went on to explain that his rations are vegetarian–just grains, flaxseed, and minerals. He doesn’t feed his turkeys any animal by-products such as feather, blood, or bone meals–ingredients high in nitrogen and amino acids which are commonly blended in commercial rations in order to cut the costs of increasing their protein content. He says feeding animal by-products back to animals isn’t worth the risks–as was realized with BSE in the 1980s. He says sticking with a grain ration adds 15-30% to his costs of production, but he thinks it’s worth it.

Buck Ross is a classic innovator, constantly thinking about how to solve problems in a sustainable while profitable manner to ensure his family’s farming tradition can continue with his young granddaughter’s generation. Whether it’s the solar panels they’ve erected (the farm is energy-positive for hydro), the Bio-En Power bio-gas facility in Elmira he helped start (displaced 70,000 tonnes of organic waste from landfill), or the oats, radish, and turnips he’s testing as winter cover crops, adaptation is always on his mind. Which makes for a great conversation on a Saturday afternoon, or an evening next summer with a beer on their dock.

So this holiday season, we’re pleased to offer Uncle Buck’s turkeys at the Co-op having found out more about how and where they were raised. You can place your order today in store or online, but act quickly – the order deadline is December 4th as Buck’s turkeys sell out fast.

Click here to place your Christmas turkey order online!