Ontario, Canada’s most populous province is home to the country’s largest green belt, a protected two million acre area stretching from the northern Tobermory area to the end of Lake Ontario in the south.
The green belt, which houses many of Ontario’s renowned farms, vineyards and producers, not only supplies one of the fastest growing regions in North America, it also supplies food to adjacent provinces and the rest of Canada.
Farmlands in Ontario
As the most protected area of its size in Canada, the farmlands in Ontario’s green belt are considered a valuable asset to provincial residents and Canadians as a whole. In fact, according to the official website, “more than 90 percent of Ontarians agree that the Greenbelt is one of the most important contributions to the future of the province.”
Because Ontario winters are mild in some areas, in comparison to other Canadian regions, Ontario is a year-round producer, featuring more than 50 varieties of vegetables and fruit, as well as beef, veal, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, duck, trout, pickerel, perch, eggs, cheese, milk, beans, lentils and products like honey, wine and maple syrup.
Ontario fresh produce
The more than 200 locally grown and raised foods produced in Ontario are the inspiration behind the province’s fast growing locally sourced movement -- an effort that promotes using local goods to reduce the impact on the environment and promote local economies.
“Real jobs are linked to real food. And real food is prepared using fresh ingredients, and maximizing the availability of local produce,” says Danielle Olsen, Executive Director at the Hospitality Workers Training Centre. “By promoting the integration of local food prepared from scratch we are not only supporting Ontario’s economy but also working towards shifting the dynamics of the industry.”
The abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as the responsibly farmed meats, offered in the province are also inspiring the chefs and food service workers who integrate the large bounty into their menus and culinary creations.
Ontario's chef's and restaurants
“Before all the magic happens at a restaurant, there is a man or a woman growing the food. For me, that represents the true labour of love in this industry,” said Ricky Casipe, Executive Chef at Hawthorne Food & Drink.
Toronto native and Executive Chef Kanida Chey uses only locally sourced foods at Branca, the Argentinian-styled restaurant he opened with a close friend. Chey is a strong believer that the closer you are to the food source, the better the quality of food you get.
“We use traditional cooking techniques that don’t call for a lot of gimmicks, sauces, marinades and unnecessary spices,” explained Kanida Chey. “Because of this, the meat we use has to be of the utmost quality, something we can only get from local farmers.”
Kanida Chey, who was raised in Ontario’s largest and most diverse city, Toronto, often spends his days off visiting local vendors and travelling to farmer’s markets. He strongly believes Ontario’s vast array of vegetables and fruits are something residents should truly be proud of.
“It’s right here in our own backyard, you don’t get much luckier than that,” he said.