Topline Trends Tuesday: Bridging a gap between farms and tables


Local foods are enjoying renewed popularity as people all over North America and Europe realize that nurturing a dependable, nearby food source leads not only to delicious eating experiences but enriched communities, too.

This new trend has spawned interesting new jobs. Take Paul Sawtell and Grace Mandarano who started 100km Foods in 2007. They noticed a lack of infrastructure for local food producers. Before 100km Foods, chefs who wanted local products had to find individual farmers, coordinate deliveries, and source new farms and products themselves. Plus, the farmers had to deal with deliveries, invoicing and receiving orders on top of their regular workload.

Enter Paul and Grace with an ambitious idea to help both sides do their jobs more easily:

“It was literally a case of cold calling farmers, driving up to their farms, sitting at their kitchen tables to tell them what we were trying to do and seeing what kind of products they could offer,” says Paul when asked to explain how 100km Foods started.

He and Grace initially drew largely on the member lists of organizations such as Durham Farm Fresh as well as York Region Farm Fresh to make contacts with the growers. Since then, their roster has grown mostly by taking product requests from chefs and subsequently finding farms that can offer supply.

What’s next? “In the future, 100km Foods will be a resource to GTA chefs offering a vast array of local foods including protein and dairy sourced from north, east, west and south of Toronto, all harvested to order with multiple deliveries per week. We also hope to expand our direct-to-consumer Ontario Artisan Share Program, providing all local, artisan-produced food products direct from producer to consumer.”

What’s happening in your area? Are you involved in CSA’s or aware of restaurants who work with companies like 100km Foods in your area? If so, give them a plug in the comments section.

Also, visit Christie’s Corner today to read Paul Sawtell’s perspective on fresh food prices. His comments about what we pay for food may surprise you.


14 Responses to Topline Trends Tuesday: Bridging a gap between farms and tables

  1. Thanks for the mention Dana. I’m always impressed with your generous sharing of knowledge and links.

    Eating local is big here. Borealis Restaurant and The Woolwich Arms Pub are both based on local fare as much as possible. Borealis even brings cucumber water instead of lemon to the table.

  2. Beth says:

    I’ve been hearing more and more about CSA’s but I still don’t really know what they are or how they work. Maybe you can write another post about them specifically?

  3. Barb says:

    I guess the Farmer’s Market counts? I support that when I can but for the rest of the year we pretty much have to support whomever the grocery stores choose. I do try to pick up brands from here have started eating more made in Alberta products.

  4. Interesting concept. I hope it catches on elsewhere. One of the big obstacles with making small farmers efficient is the delivery system. I wonder if anyone in NY is doing this…hmmm…. I better forward this post to a few friends!

  5. Another example that it takes EFFORT to be committed to a cause and action. Whether it is a restaurant or as individuals. In addition to our CSA I shop for entire household groceries at 4 different places? Am I insane as a working mom, maybe? But we’ve gotten picky about quality and sourcing and this is how it must be done. Thankfully my kids are used to getting groceries at the milk store, the market, and the farm.

  6. Kathryn says:

    I would love to be part of a CSA, but any I have looked at were either not practical (for example, pick-up location or terms) or the smallest package was still too much food for me.

    I did, though, subscribe to the Monforte Dairy CSA: over the five years, I will receive vouchers which I can redeem at the St. Lawrence Market.

  7. Natashya says:

    I am a big fan of farm to table programs. I wish CSAs were available in my town. I am jealous of all my friends who get the farm fresh boxes.

  8. Thanks for the post Dana. We really appreciate the support.

    I left a similar comment on Charmian’s blog, Christie’s Corner and I thought I would leave it here too regarding the potential future of the cost of local foods in the new global economy.

    I am currently reading ‘Why your world is about to get a whole lot smaller; oil and the end of globalization’ by Jeff Rubin, former chief economist for CIBC world markets. Very intereesting read but where food is concerned is makes some interesting predictions. Cheap imported food (and cheap manufactured goods for that matter) are available and competitive largely because transportation costs and oil prices have remained relatively low. Even after transporting goods thousand of miles, it has remained more competitive and cost effective to produce them overseas where cheap labour is the norm.

    Rubin predicts that triple digit oil prices (per barrel) will become the norm in the coming years. What will that do to the competitive and comparative advantage of overseas cheap labour? There will be a threshold when the new high costs of transportation will negate any competitive advantage of overseas cheap labour. Bottom line is that one day soon, it may just be cheaper to eat locally than importing food from long distances.

    Rubin even goes so far as to predict that one day, the high value of local food and hence local land may lead to the redevelopment of suburban landscapes back to farm land. Imagine that.

    Great discussion and thanks again for the post Dana.

    • danamccauley says:

      My pleasure! I have heard a lot about Rubin’s book and I think he’s spot on. Once the world economy gets moving at full speed again, fuel will begin to rise in cost.

      I really think that the wealthiest people in the future (a generation or two from now) will be the ones who can grow or produce some of their own food and who live near farms.

      Best of luck to you and Grace in your exciting endeavour!

    • danamccauley says:

      I was just listening to CBC radio one’s program THE HOUSE and Rubin was the guest. Absolutely fascinating.

      Even more interesting, is that the next few weeks that program is going to follow up on some of his hypotheses about globalization and explore them from other sides

      The programs will be available online live and as podcasts:

  9. […] Pay it forward to Dana by popping by her blog. Today she’s looking at innovative and socially conscious companies, like 100km Foods, that are making it easier for chefs to buy local crops. […]

  10. […] Pay it forward to Dana by popping by her blog. Today she’s looking at innovative and socially conscious companies, like 100km Foods, that are making it easier for chefs to buy local crops. […]

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