Local love for the holidays

Advice to keep your dining money in your community

Shopping local offers all kinds of perks, including endless food and drink possibilities. 

By doing your holiday food spending at home, you’re ensuring a connection to your community and supporting the local economy. It’s a win for everyone involved in the food chain: farmers and food purveyors, small businesses, and diners. 

And it’s an increasingly popular choice. A survey by Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab in October 2020 found that 80 per cent of respondents were willing to pay a premium for local produce at the grocery store. Still, only one in four say they actively seek such opportunities.

“Buying food locally will not only keep money in your community … it will support the innovative food minds we have,” says lab director Sylvain Charlebois. “But most importantly, it keeps city dwellers engaged and informed about what our agri-food sector is capable of producing and creating.”

Every small purchase we make from a local business adds to our community, creates more jobs, and strengthens the financial security of more Nova Scotians. 

The Halifax area has nine farmer’s markets. They provide valuable opportunities to connect directly with small, local producers. Markets also offer an alternative and stable sales channel for vendors, a chance to test new products, and the opportunity to grow their businesses. They also get us into the habit of purchasing produce that’s in season. 

“It’s important to support local food suppliers and producers in Nova Scotia, and retain the already limited local food production,” says Osprey’s Roost retail manager Tyler Harland. Photo: Bruce Murray

Buy your meats directly from Nova Scotian farmers. Many farms have weekly deliveries or are regulars at Halifax markets. When shopping, ask your butcher which meats come from local farms. 

Osprey’s Roost Butchery & Provisions, with shops in the Hydrostone and on Oxford Street, features three lines of Atlantic beef: Getaway Farm, Millen Farm, and Certified Island. 

“It’s important to support local food suppliers and producers in Nova Scotia, and retain the already limited local food production, and reduce our dependency on bringing in food from out-of-province,” says retail manager Tyler Harland. “The pandemic and truckers’ strike in the last couple of years have shown our lack of resiliency in the Nova Scotia food system with the empty grocery store shelves.”

For the holidays, Osprey’s offers fresh and frozen free-range turkey from local farms, along with an array of stuffed and prepared roasts like porchetta.

Vessel Meat Craft Butchery in Dartmouth also spotlights ethically and sustainably raised meat. Suppliers include Loch Abar Farms (Antigonish), Tuckamore Acres (North Mountain), Little Dorset Farms (Middle Musquodoboit), Dickie’s Meats (Amherst), and Beck Farms (Middleton). 

Owner Brianna Hagell believes most Nova Scotians don’t realize the vulnerability of our food supply. 

“We have hectares of unused farmland and limited farming resources,” she explains. “Every dollar that goes back into our agriculture community impacts keeping our food system alive. Avian flu and staffing shortages have hurt our poultry producers and the small-business owners who run the processing plants. Be kind and patient this holiday season, as things we normally might have will not be as readily available … Many folks out there have been working hard to get you your holiday meal for months.” 

You can assemble a board of meat, cheese, preserves, pickles, and bread showcasing all-local ingredients. 

Include cured meats from Ratinaud, Brothers, and Cavicchi’s. Seek fresh local cheese from Fox Hill, Cows, Ran-Cher, That Dutchman’s, Knoydart Farm, and Urban Blue. Serve alongside a chunky baguette from La Boulangerie La Vendéenne or artisan bread from LF Bakery and choose from local jams, jellies, and honey. You can even get a Nova Scotian-made serving board from Basic Spirit, Larch Wood, or End Grain Chop Shop

Try to support locally owned restaurants, coffee shops, and pubs rather than eating at large chain restaurants. Local restaurants often buy from farmers, offering another way to support them (and without having to cook). If ordering takeaway meals, seek out caterers and food shops in the community that prepare healthy, homemade meals. 

Community-supported agriculture (CSA) ensures delivery year-round of fresh produce, eggs, and meat. Options vary from farm to farm, but where you subscribe, you’ll get regular orders of farm-fresh food. It’s a great way to support Nova Scotia farmers, eat seasonally, and ensure your hard-earned cash stays in the local economy. 

“Committing to an all-local holiday menu means that our dollars stay within our circular economy, and we’re supporting our neighbours and friends,” says Krista Armstrong, co-owner of Local Source. Photo: Bruce Murray

Skip the cooking this holiday and order Christmas dinner from a local restaurant. Many eateries in Halifax will be preparing delicious holiday offerings to go. For example, the Cannery Kitchen & Social offers a traditional roast turkey with smoked bacon and summer savoury dressing, home-style gravy, and cranberry sauce, served alongside Yukon gold garlic whipped potatoes, roasted root vegetable medley tossed with apple thyme butter, and pumpkin cheesecake. 

Whether you’re giving a gift or buying it for yourself, Nova Scotia has an almost endless number of delicious local goods to choose from to create fantastic gift hampers this holiday. For example, coffee (Anchored, Sissiboo, Laughing Whale), tea (Just Us, Blume), honey (Kittilsen’s), maple syrup (Bentley’s, Wood ‘n’ Hive), chocolates (Rosseau, Gourmandise Avenue, Peace by Chocolate), and jam (HardyWares). 

“Committing to an all-local holiday menu means that our dollars stay within our circular economy, and we’re supporting our neighbours and friends,” says Krista Armstrong, co-owner of Local Source. “Consider quality, local food, which usually tastes better and lasts longer when purchased locally, meaning your dollar will go farther. Ask your small businesses to carry more of your favourites. Maybe your local shop is interested in expanding its products and is just waiting for suggestions. This will make it easier to shop local for everything you’re looking for, all in one place.” 

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