Local Food Challenge: Carleton University Shows Off All Ottawa Has to Offer

Think about Ottawa for a second. As a Canadian, what probably comes to mind are the iconic images of Parliament Hill, skating on the Rideau Canal, and the ubiquitous Grade 8 class trip.

What about agriculture? Did you know that the City of Ottawa is comprised of over 90 per cent of rural lands, and according to Statistics Canada, home to 1128 farms! This was just some of what we learned about Ottawa’s vibrant network of growers and producers when I visited Carleton University and joined their chefs and students for a tour of the farms and fields of Ottawa.

Carleton’s Dining Services has embraced every opportunity to supply their cafeterias with Ontario food, and some of the specialties of the Ottawa region. The surrounding areas are rich with dairy farms, corn, and soy, but our tour focused on smaller operations. Upper Canada Cranberries is the only commercial cranberry marsh outside of Bala, and the Carleton chefs used them in their Thanksgiving menus this year. Arc Acres is a small, diversified farm growing kale, pumpkins, all manner of squashes, mushrooms, chicken, and pork. The highlight for me was standing in a sunny meadow dotted with beehives as their residents buzzed around our heads, and we sampled chunks of honeycomb paired with blue cheese. If you’ve never tried this, you should.

Beyond the tour, Carleton has declared Wednesdays to be Local Food Day, and the daily menus offer students great meals cooked up with a diverse range of seasonal ingredients. The results of all these efforts? Close to a half a million dollars spent on local food over the course of the Local Food Challenge.

-Kelly Hughes, Education and Outreach Specialist

For more success stories, please visit Ontariofresh.ca