Sowing the Seeds of Health: Stories from the 2014 Local Food Challenge

According to Simon French of Cookstown Greens, there’s a real opportunity to change people’s lives through food.

A call to Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital resulted in a seed-to-plate partnership that’s getting a variety of fresh salads and vegetables onto patients’ plates. The Hospital was also selected as a 2014 Local Food Challenge participant by the Greenbelt Fund.

On a cool and cloudy day in May, the Hospital culinary team visited Cookstown Greens in Simcoe County to see firsthand what it takes to get organically grown greens into the ground, and eventually onto patient trays in Orillia. 

Kale, spinach, chard, carrots, and beets had gone into the ground two weeks earlier, and despite the late start to spring, had already achieved some impressive growth. Cookstown also sells radish, pea, and mizuna sprouts, greenhouse tomatoes, and many varieties of edible flowers.

While a small grower like Cookstown supplying to a large institution may seem like an unlikely scenario, the Hospital’s commitment to sourcing local, paired with the skills of the their Red Seal certified culinary team, creates the perfect environment for success. As one of the chefs told me, “There’s nothing better than Ontario product. Nothing. I can’t wait to use these [products] on our menus.”

Follow the Local Food Challenge on, and on Twitter @ontariofresh, #LFC2014

- Kelly Hughes is the Education and Outreach Specialist 

All photos courtesy of Kelly Hughes