From farm to (board room) table: pilot project aims to get fresh food into office buildings
By Justin Robertson
The farmers' market at CSI (Image: Penguin Perspective)
Imagine a miniature farmers’ market that sells leafy heads of lettuce, fresh cheese and packaged meats inside your office space downtown. How convenient would that be? Located inside the Annex's Centre for Social Innovation, the Food Innovation Constellation is testing out that concept.
The group has just extended its farmer’s market pilot program for a further four months, wherein it intends to gauge interest from local office workers.
Aruna Handa, a convenor with the group, said it was a no brainer to continue pushing the farmer's market project.
“The market doubled in size and in revenue, so now we're going to spend more time templating the model, gathering resources and vendors and speaking to the downtown offices that have indicated interest for this program,” she says. “Eventually we want this to be self sustaining.”
Right as you walk inside the lobby at the CSI building, you'll notice a 10-metre stall full of fresh vegetables, chocolate and bread. During a typical lunch hour, workers from the CSI building queue up to sample local growers' produce.
Why? The food variety is abundant.
The bread hails from Nice Buns (try the fougasse) and the chocolate truffles from Boardwalk Chocolates (ask for the custom made truffles). There is also fresh produce from Fresh City Farms, while Earth and City makes soups and foods for home. Gabriela Ituarte's nixtamal tortillas are to die for.
According to the most recent report researched by the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy, the top three food retailers — Loblaws, Metro and Sobeys — supply approximately 78 per cent of the food distributed to consumers. That can make it hard for local growers to get their produce to consumers. No big surprises there, but this proved to be the catalyst for the farmers' market pilot.
Handa hopes the idea of a farmers' market will be have a ripple effect across the city's office locations and their lobbies.
“If we had better access and better food distribution, people could just grab it before their commute home — and less food equals less waste,” she says. “Do we want to choke on our scenery or eat our scenery?”