Opinion Column

Supporting your local food industry adds flavour

By Brittany Doner

At Nicholyn Farms, visionary, owner and general manager, Lynda Van Casteren - seen here with her family - is passionate about her community and home-grown food. (Submitted)

At Nicholyn Farms, visionary, owner and general manager, Lynda Van Casteren - seen here with her family - is passionate about her community and home-grown food. (Submitted)

Many meals travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to reach your dinner plate, which is wasteful considering that throughout spring, summer, and fall local producers are offering the freshest, tastiest, and most nutrient-rich selections available — along with a variety of value-added benefits: 


The longer food has to travel the fewer nutrients it maintains, the more handling it receives, and in many cases food may have been genetically modified or irradiated in order to ensure its pristine colour and shape, or extend its shelf-life.   


Purchasing local food creates sustainability in many facets of society. A reduced carbon footprint and regular crop rotation creates environmental sustainability, while purchasing from local farmers sustains the economy, creates more jobs locally, and preserves the profession of farming. 


Picking your own berries, shopping at the local farmers’ market, and going on a wagon ride are all fun-filled experiences only your local food producers can supply. Moreover, local farmers and butchers are often the best source for family recipes, and cost-saving tips.  

At Nicholyn Farms, visionary, owner and general manager, Lynda Van Casteren is passionate about her community and home-grown food. From the moment you pull into the parking lot, you can catch a glimpse of Lynda’s educational garden where she shows customers how different flowers, fruit and vegetable plants grow. 

“We are the farmers, we know how our animals are raised and what they eat,” said Lynda. “We’re proud to use our own and locally produced fruits, vegetables, and meats, in our baked goods and ready-made meals, and many of our recipes are generational treasures.”

Nicholyn Farms, named after Lynda and her husband Nick, originated as a small home-based business run out of the family kitchen in the early 1980s. Since then, the family farm has blossomed into a 1,500-square-foot retail space with 14 permanent employees and partnerships with approximately 70 other local food producers, farmers, micro-processors, and cottage industries.  

Supporting local food isn’t simply about the food itself; rather, it is about the experience, knowledge, and quality that local farmers’ markets, farm gates, and family farms can provide. Moreover, local food producers truly appreciate your patronage and commonly reciprocate goodwill back into the community. 

Over at Barrie Hill Farms, all three generations of the Gervais family are gearing up for their 10th annual Blueberry Pancake Festival on Saturday, July 28 and 29 running from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., with all proceeds going to the Royal Victoria Hospital’s Simcoe Muskoka Regional Cancer Centre.  

“It’s an important facility for the community that has given so much to us over the last four decades,” says Morris Gervias, who now operates the family-owned Barrie Hill Farms. “We’re happy to be able to give back to this important community project”.

Since they purchased the farm in 1968, Adrien and Evelyn Gervais have had incredible foresight and business sense, transitioning a fading tobacco farm into a successful pick-your-own strawberries and blueberries farm-based business. Since then, Barrie Hill Farms has become a trusted resource for highest quality fruits and vegetables.

For more information on the Blueberry Pancake Festival, and directions to Barrie Hill Farms, visit www.barriehillfarms.com. 

If you would like to learn more about what foods are in season and when, where and how to shop locally, which of your local restaurants support local food, or to find various profiles on local farmers, visit the Simcoe County Farm Fresh website at www.simcoecountyfarmfresh.ca.

Brittany Doner is the project manager for the Simcoe County Food and Agriculture Charter.


Food Matters is a monthly column addressing a variety of relevant topics concerning the food system in Simcoe County, as identified by the Simcoe County Food and Agriculture Charter.

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