THUNDER BAY – LIVING – Thunder Bay has a multitude of local sources for food.
On Monday, March 18th, the Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy hosted a speed networking event at the Finlandia Hall for buyers and sellers of local food called ‘Meat Your Match’. The event targeted all buyers and sellers involved in the local food scene: food producers/farmers, food retailers, restaurants, institutions and food distributors.
“It’s important to create opportunities for people from different sectors to come together and network. Restaurants and retailers are busy running their businesses, and producers are busy growing or raising their food, and the two groups don’t always get an opportunity to discuss ways to work together,” says Karen Kerk, Coordinator of the Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy. “This event helped spark new connections.”
It wasn’t just meat producers who attended as the title may imply, a wide range of producers including a number of dairy producers, value added processors, and a number of new producers including: vegan “meat” and “cheese”, a bison farmer, a new northwestern Ontario beef co-op, a new ethically sourced tea company, and a new vegetable sprout producer were among the 70 participants who attended.
“Meat Your Match was a great opportunity for me to showcase the quality and diversity of my products to prospective buyers. It was a great way to network and help strengthen local business,” reports Mike Visser of My Pride Farms. “I’ve made some great contacts and even got a new wholesale order from Eat Local Pizza the next day!”
Of course, the event also included a sampling of delicious local food inspired appetizers catered by Pinetree Catering and a Fine Fit Catering. “We really love sourcing local ingredients,” says Rhonda Bill of A Fine Fit Catering. “We had so much fun picking up the ingredients we used from local producers and making delicious and memorable appetizers.”
The Food Strategy is working to make this an annual event – and also has preliminary plans to have additional events targeting producers with high volumes and institutional level buyers, as well as an event, focused on Indigenous food producers and harvesters. “We have such a rich and vibrant food system here in Northwestern Ontario – it’s important for everyone involved in the food supply chain to get on board to support and help strengthen it,” says Kerk. “Coming together to talk while sharing food is a delicious first step.”