Today we have been considering some of the dynamics of developing a local supplier network. We met with local grower and farm-shop operator Ann Lanigan at Simpler Thyme Farm for an early morning conversation about her experiences. Ann’s been a grower in this area for a long time using more-than-organic and permaculture practices, had a popular CSA box program, operated local general shops in Freelton and Killbride, and sold through farmers’ markets across the region. She continues to mentor young farmer interns, sharing her love for food and the soil with a new generation of growers.
Ann stressed the importance of farmers having local outlets for their products beyond just fresh produce. One challenge is having a market for value-added products (canned, fermented, & frozen produce and other things like soups, etc). She also encouraged us to find a small flour mill for the store so that flour can be milled on site, since grains stay fresh longer. She has noticed a trend towards customers buying staples in larger bulk volumes, which is great. Freshness, quality, and regional economic impact are important factors she hears from customers coming to her farm shop in Freelton.
Hamilton has just welcomed the CBC in the last couple of days. They have featured a number of articles on local food issues, like this one about how local food can be affordable. While there’s some skepticism about the prospects of Hamilton (and Ontario) being able to rely on local food, what’s the harm in trying to strengthen our economy by valuing local producers? In the end, we’ll all benefit if we can promote equity for producers, workers, and consumers. Ann challenged us to do just that. Thanks to everyone at Simpler Thyme for their encouragement!