Written by Kalynn Spain
Springtime, for me, brings the anticipation of eating fresh food that has been produced close to home – outdoor farmers’ markets, fresh herbs from the garden, canning, you name it. Eating locally in Manitoba has never been easier. Its seems that everywhere you look in Winnipeg and beyond, there is a new pop-up market, community food hub or CSA farm delivering a box of fresh vegetables to the doors of your neighbour. While this is a win-win for the local economy and conscious eaters who are looking for groceries that are produced close to home, going local for an event, on any scale, can be another story.
Although the term “local” is a growing trend in Manitoba, unfortunately not all suppliers who use this label have products that fit within the authentic standard of the designation. Since there is no body to regulate the use of this word, people tend to be overuse it to enhance products and services that would otherwise compare the same in quality and integrity as similar goods. For example, if your venue is serving prime steaks – most likely shipped to your chef from Alberta – are you going to impress your dinner attendees even more if you added a “local” beside the menu item? This term, in my opinion, should only be used when describing food that is using ingredients that have been grown, produced and packaged right here in our bountiful province, Manitoba. There are many products that you can find that fit within these guides, even in larger quantities for events.
Going local for an event doesn’t need to be complicated. Lucky for us planners and venues, there is a growing number of distributors, caterers and producers who are readily available to help us create an event that contributes to the local economy in a true sense. Here is a list of my favourite ones, in no particular order:
· Chef Ben Kramer – Ben is one of the most well-connected and experienced chefs in Manitoba when it comes to ingredient-sourcing, cooking and serving local dishes. He can come with his own serving team, or can fly solo for smaller, more intimate dinners.
· My Farmers’ Market (.com) – This online ordering platform featuring local and organic food is super easy to use and deliveries of your orders are available 7 days a week.
· Direct Farm Manitoba (.ca) – This directory helps you find farms across the province that offer a wide range of local food and farm products that can be delivered to the city.
More than ever before, Manitobans are more aware of where their food is coming from, giving us the opportunity to celebrate this in the events that we plan. Luckily for our budgets, most dinner-goers these days are willing to pay more for local food, as it often means a higher quality meal (as long as your chef knows how to cook it!). Make sure to reflect the value of this food in your ticket pricing so that everyone – from the farmer to the chef – will be paid the rate that will sustain our growing local food economy. Most importantly, do your research and find suppliers that you can trust who can bring you the best of what’s in season – it’s all part of the beauty of going local!