U of G Study Aimed at Creating Local Food System
June 21, 2007 - News Release
Grocery stores have organic, vegetarian and vegan sections, so why not a locally grown section?
U of G researchers are embarking on a one-year study aimed at breaking down barriers standing in the way of establishing a local food system. This project could ultimately lead to shoppers having the convenience of going to any local grocery chain and buying from a section solely dedicated to food produced in Guelph and Wellington County.
“It’s not very easy for consumers to access local food right now unless they get up early on a Saturday and go to the farmers’ market,” said Prof. Karen Landman, of Environmental Design and Rural Development, who is part of the research team. “It’s not like people have time to be driving across the country landscape in search of their evening meal. It has to be made more convenient.”
Consumer demand for local food is currently booming, said Landman, but there is no system in place to feed it.
“The interest in a local food system seems to be partly a kick back at the globalization of agriculture, and it’s creating an opportunity for both farmers and consumers.”
Funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), the study involves interviewing stakeholders involved in local food production and consumption in Guelph and Wellington County to find out what the common problems and opportunities are. The research group will then submit a report to the ministry with a list of recommendations.
The study was sparked after Landman and a team of landscape architecture students completed a research project for OMAFRA on the current status of the local food movement across North America. They found that the biggest challenge in making local food available to consumers is the lack of an overall distribution system.
Finding channels to distribute their products is difficult for local farmers, said Landman. There are often regulations in place that prevent them from selling directly on their farms.
“And nothing is in place for farmers to easily distribute their food to grocery stores, restaurants, hospitals, school boards or any other large institutions.”
Landman is working on the study with Prof. Charlotte McCallum, Geography, and Prof. Ricardo Ramirez, Environmental Design and Rural Development, as well as three graduate students. The researchers had their first meeting with city and county politicians and staff last week. They will now move on to conducting workshops with growers and larger consumer-based groups such as Guelph restaurateurs.
One outcome of the study could be a recommendation that grocery stores have a local food section, which would allow farmers to distribute to the larger chains and give consumers a more convenient way of accessing local food, said Landman. Another outcome could be a recommendation to hire a local food co-ordinator for Guelph and Wellington County.
The study recommendations could also lead to policy change at the municipal and provincial levels to remedy identified barriers, she said.
At the very least, the study will help bring all stakeholders together to communicate and work as a whole, said Landman.
“A lot of what’s happening right now to foster local food production is at the grassroots level, and there is no organization bringing them all together. This stakeholder analysis will bring people together, so even after the research is over, they’ll still be communicating.”
Prof. Karen Landman
School of Environmental Design and Rural Development
519-824-4120, Ext. 53748
For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982.