Greenbelting the CRFA Show

On the first weekend of March, the nation’s largest tradeshow for restaurants and foodservice took place in Toronto. Hundreds of exhibitors gathered at the city’s Direct Energy Centre for the annual Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA) Show, to offer their goods and services: stoves & fridges, wines & beers, uniforms & food, delivery services & cleaning products—you name it, it was there.

I am proud to say the Greenbelt Fund organized the largest exhibit at this year’s show: the Ontario Pavilion had 50 businesses! The Pavilion showcased some of the most innovative businesses and producers in the Greenbelt and in Ontario, from the award-winning 100km Foods Inc. to the family-owned and operated, Ying Ying Soy Food. We also hosted special guests for local learning sessions, including celebrity chef Anna Olson, who engaged audiences with a cooking demonstration, "Going Global with Local."

Anna Olson at the CRFA Show

Anna Olson introduces the blind taste-test.

So, why did we go to the tradeshow? To rub shoulders with gas stove salespeople? While I can appreciate a good gas stove, our foremost goal with the Ontario Pavilion was to mainstream the great products coming from our province’s farmers and producers. The idea is to make local Greenbelt food something on every cutting block and counter; something that’s a part of regular thinking. Local food should be the norm.

And we are making progress. Restaurants Canada recently conducted their annual survey of Canadian food trends. The organization asks hundreds of chefs to report on food trends they observe from their customers over the year. The 2014 results continue to show an overwhelming support for local food.

Ontariofresh.ca Booth at the Ontario Pavilion

Some of the Greenbelt Fund team at the Ontariofresh.ca booth in the Ontario Pavilion. From left to right: Franco Naccarato, Chloe Brown, Megan Hunter, and Andreea Nicoara.

Of the top ten hot trends, three of them deal with local food issues: they represent three of the top seven, for that matter. These trends are "locally sourced food", "craft beers / mircobrews", and "heirloom fruit and vegetables".

Aside from bringing in farmers and producers, being at the tradeshow also allows us to highlight our work. We connected with attendees about our B2B food-buying website, Ontariofresh.ca; we made several new Friends of the Greenbelt and learned about their favourite places to work and play; and, finally, we hosted a final reception at the end of the show with local chefs, winemakers, and brewers to celebrate all that’s good and great in our Province.

Highlights from the Ontario Pavilion

From left to right: 1) The Ontario Pavilion featured many of local producers and businesses. 2) Grantees, 100KM Foods Inc. 3) An enlarged map of the Greenbelt, where participants have highlighted where they work and play. 4) Friends of the Greenbelt, Beau's Brewery.

The show was a stunning success, and I want to give a very special thank you to Megan Hunter of my staff for leading this effort. I’d also like to thank the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food for their financial support at this year’s Ontario Pavilion.

Until next year!

- Burkhard Mausberg, CEO, Greenbelt Fund