Notes from the MLA: Celebrating, encouraging local food

Danielle Larivee,
MLA for Lesser Slave Lake

Summer is about great meals, drinks and treats with friends, families and community.

It’s also a reminder of the variety and deliciousness of local food. A freshly caught walleye, some savoury moose meat or a saskatoon pie can transform a simple summer barbecue, picnic or road trip into a memory that warms you through winter.

Local food isn’t just fresh and tasty. When you grown, caught or hunted your meal, you’ve glimpsed where every meal begins. It’s a reminder of how land sustains us.

In Alberta, local food is also a growing billion-dollar industry with incredible potential, thanks to hardworking and innovative farm families. Enjoying local food means supporting local Alberta farm and businesses, the families who make our communities better and healthier.

Last week, we kicked off the first-ever Alberta Local Food Week. As part of new legislation passed in the spring, every third week of August will be an opportunity to celebrate local food producers, and the farmer’s markets, restaurants and breweries that celebrate. The celebration leads into Open Farm Days, when more than 100 farms, ranches and ag-tourism operators across Alberta open their gates and invite visitors in each year.

Like those farmers and producers, our government wants to set the table for Albertans to enjoy local food. We want to expand access to local tastes, textures and smells, and the possibilities of eating Alberta-grown delicacies throughout the year. We passed the new Supporting Alberta’s Local Food Sector Act because Alberta needed a focused and deliberate approach to encourage local food.

The new legislation sets standards for local organic food, so Alberta products marketed as organic meet federal standards. It also establishes a local food council to bring together producers, experts and enthusiasts to explore ways to connect more Albertans with local food, whether it’s through programs, pilot projects or policy.

There’s nothing better than local food. It makes our trips to restaurants and cafes more memorable, and it’s something special to bring home from the farmer’s market to enjoy on a special occasion.

In coming weeks, we’ll begin harvesting and preserving the highlights of summer. I’m proud of what Lesser Slave Lake produces, whether it’s wild blueberries or saskatoons, delicious game, or veggies, honey, eggs from local farmers.

With some of the best land, air and water, our local food is safe, high-quality and fresh. The foods that grow best in our backyards are enough to inspire any creative chef or baker.

There’s also innovation coming from start-ups, entrepreneurs and restaurants capitalizing on shifting consumer preferences for safe, healthy, and ethically produced local food. A few days ago, I had the chance to visit Shady Orchard and Winery, which sells delicious fruit wines along with syrups and fresh fruit and veggies. Between them and Slave Lake’s Dog Island Brewery, you could throw a backyard barbecue with exclusively local beverages.

Right here in our communities, there are dozens of Alberta producers, processors and entrepreneurs who make, bake, brew and grow their own products. You can meet them at farmers markets in Slave Lake, Kinuso, Enilda and High Prairie. Summer is the perfect time to get out and make a connection to local food, to buy some pickles, jams and jellies, local baking or perogies.

As we continue to diversify our economy and make life better for local food producers, we will make life better in our communities. It is important to recognize the hard work of our local food producers in ensuring rural and urban Albertans have access to fresh food.

Summer is about great meals, drinks and treats with friends, families and community. It’s a reminder of the incredible land and people that surround us. And thanks to Alberta Local Food Week, we have another reason to sit down and share a meal.

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