Knowing where our food comes from and how it is produced can help us make informed decisions. It can also heighten the enjoyment of our meals, says Jenn Pfenning, director of human resources, operations and marketing at Pfennings Organic Farms. After nearly four decades of providing locally grown organic produce to surrounding communities, the family business has established strong connections with like-minded partners, who will come together for Market Day, a celebration of local food, and fundraiser for community food centres, on October 5.
“All of us at the farm are excited about the fact that we plant seeds and grow food. We combine this with the goal of feeding people good food that is grown close to where they live,” says Ms. Pfenning, who sees farming as a web of partnerships. “The way we grow our food is based on a partnership with the land and the natural world. We also partner with the people who eat our food and the businesses who bring the food to them.”
Located within Wilmot Township, Pfennings Farms is part of an area with beautiful countryside, close-knit communities, all close to major urban centres. Barriers to food accessibility exist in both urban and rural areas, says Ms. Pfenning. “If organic food is great for us – and we believe it is – how can we make it accessible and available to as many people as possible?”
This is also a key question for Amy Angelo, manager of Food Access and Skills at the Hamilton Community Food Centre, a project of Neighbour to Neighbour Centre (N2N). “We want everyone to have access to food, but we don’t want food to be undervalued,” she says.
One of the centre’s “good food” principles is that farming should be economically sustainable and farmers earn a living wage, says Ms. Angelo. In addition to food access programs, there is a strong focus on education, she states. “A significant part of our work is to talk about where our food comes from and how we can support the local food economy. The organic system, with its focus on environmental sustainability, fits very well with what we care about.”
Food accessibility and fairness – the goals at the heart of the partnership between N2N and Pfennings Farms – are also important to Jo Slegers of Slegers Living Organic Greens. As a supplier of greens to Pfennings Farms for nearly 14 years, Mr. Slegers commends the farm’s efforts to engage the public. “There is ongoing community involvement. For us, it feels good to be part of that movement.
“Over the years, people have become more knowledgeable and the public perception of organic has changed,” he says. “Rather than trying it out once in a while, more and more Canadians are committed to buying organic regularly.”
Market growth has brought changes in volume, packaging and logistics for the organic greens business, and Mr. Slegers believes this speaks to the “staying power of organic production.”
While much has been achieved in raising the profile of organic food, Ms. Pfenning would like to ignite even more curiosity about the ethics and sustainability aspects of food production. “I want to encourage people to ask questions whenever they buy food,” she says. “I believe that when we have more information, we can appreciate and enjoy our food more.”
Market Day at Pfennings Farms on October 5 (the weekend before Thanksgiving) will offer insights into life at the farm and be an opportunity to support community food centres like N2N through fundraising activities. There will be food for sale, a silent auction, tours of the fields, wagon rides and more.
Please see pfenningsfarms.ca/market-day for information.
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.