Guelph Wellington Local Food ties in with Aberfoyle Farmers Market

It seems Taste Real has a good thing growing.

Taste Real outreach coordinator Gayl Creutzberg and Matthew Bulmer were at Puslinch council April 6 to explain the Guelph Wellington Local Food initiative.

Councillors quipped it was unfamiliar territory for Bulmer being on the other side of the council table.

“… but friendly territory,” the former councillors said.

Bulmer is president of the Aberfoyle Market Association – a local not-for-profit group – to introduce Creutzberg and the Taste Real development program.

“Many of you know that a farmers market depends on customers making conscious decisions to visit the market,” Bulmer stated.

He said week to week those visits can generate a significant amount of destination traffic. One of the things market committee members came to understand was destination traffic has the potential to benefit other organizations, other community groups, and other businesses.

“In effect, we came to see the market not so much as a destination in itself, but as a gateway to this community.”

He found that interesting because he often saw Puslinch in a similar role, “as a gateway from the 401 to the city of Guelph and into Wellington.”

Bulmer said what council may not realize is the initiative builds upon the many years of success in the Buy Local Buy Fresh program, which encouraged residents to get out into Wellington County to experience goods and services available.

Creutzberg said, “It really depends on stakeholder partnerships, and networking to make it happen county wide.”

She said the program is active in the community, adding Bulmer’s presence is proof of that commitment.

“We’re developing new products and trying to focus on bringing money back into the community. I used to farm, attend local markets, and ran a food business. As a result, I know how important to have that municipal support.”

She said, “Our local communities are kept alive when our businesses remain vibrant.”

Creutzberg said councillors have likely seen the Guelph Wellington local food map is the foundation on which local projects can be built.

“We’ve actually got four projects going on right now.”

One is to get locally grown food into area hospitals, schools, and day care facilities.

The food hub has not yet been launched but the intent is to bring it to one place to remain economically viable.

There are also discussions on accessibility and affordability.

Creutzberg said Taste Real  marketing works to bring in tourism dollars, and involves bed and breakfasts, accommodation, and restaurants.

She said in Waterloo-Wellington $4.41-million is being spent on food.

“That money is going to the head offices of the chain stores and its leaving the community.

She said with a small start, the group can start to funnel that money back to the local community. She asked for council support through a strategic membership category, and hopes to see other municipalities come on board.

“We’re marketing your community, your small businesses, and your farmers’ market.”

The program requires membership, long term investments, resources, and financial plans

Creutzberg said she hopes to be able to return to report on the organization’s success.

“While it’s all very nice to promote local food, but as busy people, how often can we be scooting down a country road to go pick up a product?”

As a result, a smaller map was created to show people where they can buy local food “right now” while they are grocery shopping.

“We’re trying to rebuild that whole lifestyle component

She suggested taking the family to a local farmer’s market, sit down for a coffee and treat, and while there, do the grocery shopping.

Councillor Susan Fielding called the proposal a wonderful idea, and “I would be happy if we can find $500 somewhere to support your initiative.”

Those sentiments were echoed by other councillors.

Councillor Ken Roth considered them “very aggressive goals.” He noted that he had been in the food business all his life, and sympathizes with a goal of gaining market share.

Councillor Jerry Schmidt considered the plan an excellent idea and believes they were on the right track.

Mayor Dennis Lever questioned some of the population figures.

He said the documents indicate 318,000 people eating in Wellington County.

“Where did you come up with those figures?”

Creutzberg used Statistics Canada information and information from Waterloo-Wellington Community Futures.

Lever said those numbers are more than the population of Wellington County and Guelph combined.

He wondered if some of the Waterloo numbers are included.

Lever also said that he had visited the group’s website, which identifies Puslinch farms.

“I’d like to see a lot more than there are,” he added.

He did, however, agree the site is relatively easy to use.

Aberfoyle Market update

Lever asked Bulmer how things are proceeding on the local farmers’ market.

“Quite well,” Bulmer responded. “We’re quite pleased.”

He anticipates the market being full for opening day and throughout June.

“We’re oversubscribed on some days, so we’ve had to rearrange our layout to accommodate the number of vendors. We are in excellent shape in terms of vendors; what we have to do now is draw in the customers to ensure the vendors are successful and stay.”

He also appreciates the facility is there.

“We realize we are fulfilling a role for the community in this new facility, but without the facility we would not be there.