$117,603 from the Local Food Fund! Hooray!


Everybody was smiling after the big announcement! From L to R: Emma Cubitt (Board), Damian Wills (Local Food Manager), Graham Cubitt (Board), Ted McMeekin (MPP), Richard Adshead (General Manager), Nrinder Nann (Board), & Sarah Botham (Board).

March 14, 2014  –  A huge thanks to the government of Ontario for establishing the Local Food Act last year, along with the Local Food Fund!  The Local Food Fund is designed to support innovative local food projects that celebrate local food, and help create jobs and economic growth in Ontario.

The Mustard Seed has been chosen to develop our Local Food Networks Strategy through a two-year pilot project. The $117,603 grant covers 50% of the expenses for the two year development phase, with the other 50% coming from The Mustard Seed Co-op budget.

Key components of the strategy include:

  • Two full-time positions : Local Food Manager and Marketing & Community Engagement Coordinator
  • Proactive relationship development with local farmers and producers with a goal to work with 200 by the end of the pilot phase
  • Develop clear and effective communication methods on availability and benefits of local food
  • Help producers gauge and understand consumer demand for broad spectrum of local foods
  • Create and host education sessions, cooking classes, farm tours, and other food culture events
  • Develop, implement, and track strategies for effectively promoting local food with knowledge to be shared with partners and funders
  • Empower members and community to align their purchasing priorities for local by finding and stocking a full spectrum of local grocery products

We expect the Strategy to result in 4 new full-time-equivalent (FTE) positions + the two direct jobs in addition to the Co-op’s base operational staffing. This will help grow FTE employment at The Mustard Seed to 18 after five years.

The big announcement of our successful grant proposal happened at the co-op on Friday, March 14th. Our local MPP Ted McMeekin was kind enough to come out to the store to share the good news with a crowd of about 50 members and staff. We are so excited to see how these added resources will help our local food networks flourish!

Media coverage of our announcement:

Hamilton Spectator – Local grocery co-op nabs tasty grant

CBC Hamilton – Mustard Seed Co-op receives $100K in provincial funding

AM900 CHML radio – Interview between Graham Cubitt & Rick Zamperin

Summertime Local Food Festivals Around Hamilton

savour4 Ahh summer! It’s finally here! Summer is a great time to visit local farms and farmers markets, but did you know there are also many festivals that centre around local food? We searched all over for a good list of culinary festivals in southern Ontario to no avail so we decided to make our own. Do you know other local food events happening in the region, or events happening on local farms? Please tell us about them and we will add to our list!

July 13Turnip the Beets, Shared Harvest Community Farm, Dunnville ON – great live music, farm-fresh food, activities for kids, & puppet show in a beautiful setting on a great organic farm. Tickets are $20 and support the good work of Shared Harvest Community Farm. 1 hour south of Hamilton.

millersdairyJuly 13Miller’s Dairy Day, Creemore ON – This is the second year of operations for this small jersey dairy. The Miller family invites you to spend the day on their beautiful farm. Meet the lovely Jersey ladies, take a tour of the farm, & enjoy some treats. Free event, great for kids. Saturdays is also the Creemore Farmers Market and across the street you can check out the 100 Mile Store, one of The Mustard Seed’s early inspirations. 2 hours north of Hamilton.

July 19-21 – 5th Annual Cuisine-Art, Alton Mill Arts Centre, near Caledon ON – a festival showcasing the best of the region’s food, drink, and art. This year’s Cuisine-Art will feature the work of local artist, chefs preparing delicious foods from local producers, and numerous Ontario wine, beer, and cider vendors. Tickets are $20 in advance/$30 at the door & proceeds support The Alton Millpond Rehabilitation Fund. 1 hour north of Hamilton.

August 17  – Food Fight for Foodies, Niagara-on-the-Lake ON – A festival celebrating food featuring a cooking competition hosted by Chef Bruce Worden. Partake of the culinary delights from food trucks and food vendors. Stroll through the marketplace for unique finds while enjoying the sights and smell of the lavender fields.

savour5August 25Savour Simcoe, Minesing ON – A local culinary tasting event hosted by the Simcoe County Farm Fresh. The event is held outdoors at the Simcoe County Museum among the trees and historical buildings of the museum. The theme is “Celebrating our Heritage” (Agriculture and Regional Cuisine), which fits into the County’s rich agricultural history and the Museum’s extensive collections and artifacts.  Tickets $59. 1 hour 45 minutes north of Hamilton.

August 31Greenbelt Harvest Picnic, Christie Lake Conservation Area in Dundas ON – While admittedly the Harvest Picnic is a great music festival, the event serves to celebrate the importance of the Greenbelt, local farmers, art, the outdoors and the eat-local movement. The Mustard Seed is hoping to have a booth again this year amongst the other non-profits and local farmers that the festival aims to celebrate. In addition to meeting local farmers & food groups, musical treats include the Arkells, Harlan Pepper, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Emmylou Harris, Daniel Lanois, Whitehorse, Basia Bulat & others. Tickets are $150 however children under 10 are free and 11-15 are $25. 20 minutes from downtown Hamilton.

September 6 – 8 – 20th Annual Niagara Food Festival – Welland, ON – The Niagara Food Festival offers fantastic food from local restaurants and food producers, celebrity chefs on the Mobile Culinary Theatre, live entertainment for all ages. Admission is free. 1 hour east of Hamilton.

savour beerSeptember 8 – 24th Annual Feast of Fields, Cold Creek Conservation Area, Nobleton ON – Pick-up your napkin & wine glass and stroll amongst celebrated chefs, farmers, vintners, artisans and brewers. Organic Advocates/Feast of Fields was established in 1989 by chefs Jamie Kennedy and Michael Stadtlander, and other organic producers, environmentally concerned chefs and other food professionals, and enlightened consumers. Tickets $100. 1 hour north of Hamilton.

September 14  – Niagara Garlic & Herb Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake ON – A delicious culinary festival where there are vendors from all over Ontario that either grow garlic (like elephant or music) or incorporate garlic into their dishes like jams and jellies even chocolate. There will be cooking demonstrations, garlic braiding, tutorials on how to grow garlic, and even garlic ice cream to sample. 1 east of Hamilton.

savour stratfordSeptember 20-22 Savour Stratford, Stratford, ON – Savour Stratford is Ontario’s premier culinary event celebrating the creative partnerships between producers and local chefs, inviting celebrity chefs and renowned cook book authors to present innovative and emerging culinary ideas at delicious tastings and learning events. Free music concerts, artisanal markets and street theatre all converge in Stratford’s heritage garden district for a flavourful weekend of fun! This year’s theme is globally inspired, locally grown. Check out the festivals website for tickets to the various workshops that range from Global Grains to International Beers to Peruvian food & the Bitters Revival. 1 hour 15 minutes west of Hamilton.

September 20-22EpiCKure, Wallaceburg ON – a new three-day celebration of locally-grown and produced ingredients and skilfully crafted foods prepared by the region’s most talented culinary artisans. The festival is about local food, making connections with farmers and getting Ontario excited about the foods that are being grown in Chatham-Kent. A Market Food & Drink Ticket Sheet is $20. 2 1/2 hours west of Hamilton.

September 27-29 – 12th Annual TASTE Community Grown, Prince Edward County – An epicurean experience, TASTE showcases the finest artisanal products, wines, beers, cider and cuisine that Ontario’s Gastronomical Capital, Prince Edward County, has to offer.

If you have read this far, I am sure you are wondering when Hamilton will have its own culinary & local food festival. Stay tuned…once The Mustard Seed is open we hope to help organize events like the ones above showcasing our own local producers and culinary artists!



Investigations & Inspirations

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!