guest post by Sally Miller
Out in Lucknow Ontario, an astonishing community is reviving the local food system. The Mennonites in the area are not just growing beautiful fruits and vegetables but restoring every thread in the web of a strong local food system, and creating something like a community food hub in the process. Some of us from LOFC had the pleasure of being generously hosted recently by Elmer Brubacher and his family. We spent an enlightening day seeing all their initiatives. The day finished up with the biggest ice cream cones we have ever seen.
Farmers in the area have created a second produce auction like the produce auction co-op in Elmira. Fruits and vegetables come in by horse and wagon or trailer from one side of the auction building; trucks from restaurants, markets and other venues belly up to the loading dock on the other side. After some spirited auctioneering by Dave McCormick, the pallet loads of tomatoes, cauliflower, cut flowers, garlic, etc., are whisked away. For the most part the auction helps to distribute the harvest of many farms back out to local market stands and farmers’ market, as well as local restaurants. The auction is designed for commercial buyers; the public can attend but must pay an additional percentage. The model has been used with great success in the United States as well.
However, the auction is just the beginning; initiatives in the area include a new cider mill that presses apples and squash for sauce and butters; commercial scale greenhouses heated with giant wood-burning boilers and hydraulic arrangements to distribute heated water, a new orchard full of adolescent apple trees, a puffer machine for making puffed rice and other grains, etc. The community has its own machine shop that designs and welds appropriate-scale machinery (including the cider press, puffer and boiler). As a community with shared culture, they are able to mobilize community investment for these joint ventures, although they also receive some government funding. The opportunity to see these thriving agricultural enterprises is an inspiration for those of us who want to rebuild a strong local food system that includes production, processing, distribution and marketing.