About a week or two ago, we finally made our annual spring visit to Mr Ferdzy's dad. Yeah, we are running just a tad behind schedule here, what with one thing and another. I really didn't expect to have the opportunity to check out any local food action, but the first evening I was there I picked up a flyer from the local paper, which was for Farm Boy. Now I'm sure all you eastern Ontarians are saying, "What, them? They're a grocery chain.", but I had never heard of them before and that flyer sure looked interesting. So, when we found ourselves with a free morning we headed off to the nearest one, which was in the Merivale Mall.
Right off the bat they look distinctly a little different from any of the grocery chains around where I live - they had a sign out front calling for local producers to come and talk to them about having them carry their product!
Inside, they look pretty much like your standard grocery store, apart from a horrifically tacky animatronic farm boy blearing out a hideous welcome by the front door (no photo of that, you lucky dogs). That was just about enough to make me turn tail and run, but we pushed on past and after that it was clear sailing.
Like most grocery stores, they have the produce section at the front, where you first enter. Unlike most grocery stores, I really don't think I have ever seen a display with such a high percentage of Ontario-grown produce.
Look at those leeks! Seems like I wasn't the only one to have a bumper crop of leeks. Unlike me, they also have lots of really lovely looking broccoli. Those prices are ridiculous, too, and I mean that in a good way. Good for the shopper, anyway. I wouldn't sell my babies for less than a dollar each! Do you have any idea how much work goes into getting that long white shank? (You should - I've posted about the technique.)
Three kinds of cabbages, squash, beets...
Tri-colour and regular carrots, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, cabbages, all seasonal Ontario vegetables... it shouldn't be amazing, but it is. Of course, they are a full service grocery and have all the standard imported items as well, but the local produce is front and centre.
But their interest in carrying local products extends beyondproduce. These were samosas from a local manufacturer.
St Albert Co-op, a local dairy, was well represented.
Like most groceries these days, they have their own line of products under their own name; according to the flyer these corn chips are made by an Ottawa-based company.
The dairy case looks like a dairy case... with probably 1/2 to 2/3 of the contents being produced in Ontario or Quebec, from what I can see. Pretty unusual!
I recognize these cranberries from attending Ottawa area farmers markets. Yes, locally grown cranberries. Stupendous.
Just what the sign says; a selection of Canadian Artisan Cheese, most of it from Ontario and Quebec. We tried some sheep's milk Gouda from Cross Roads - very tasty!
There seems to be 15 Farm Boy locations in eastern Ontario, with 2 more to open in the spring - these new ones being in London! Which is great news for those of us living in Western Ontario. Think we could talk them into opening one in Collingwood?! Or Meaford! (Ha ha; no.)
Much as I love farmers markets and small retail shops, the reality is that most of us do most of our shopping in large grocery stores. It made me really happy to see a full-service grocery chain with a significant commitment to local food. Long may they prosper! And maybe they will even oblige some of the other big chains to get a little serious about local food.