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Barrie's Foodshed & Food Trade Economy

Foodsheds are areas of surrounding land that provide all the food required to feed a particular population. It encompasses the flow of food from the land it grows on, to the routes it travels through, to the markets it sold at, and finally to the people who consume it. 


Barrie’s foodshed has all the attributions required to support regional food security because its unique geographical features and industry modernizations has turned it into one of Canada’s most lucrative food-producing regions. 


Because Canada enjoys favourable conditions for food production that far exceeds the needs of our population, our agri-food sector is primarily export oriented. Canada is the fifth largest exporter of agricultural and agri-food products in the world after the EU, U.S., Brazil, and China. Canada exports $82.2 billion a year in agriculture and agri-food products and approximately half of everything produced is exported as either primary commodities or processed food and beverage products. 


So it makes sense that Barrie’s foodshed also produces significantly more food than it consumes, and thus lies a new, untapped food economy. 

Barrie's Foodshed Map

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Video taken on the drive to The Holland Marsh to pickup lettuce. It was in August; almost 7AM EST.

Canada's Surplus Has it's Own Surplus

Even before Fresh Food Weekly received charitable status in 2022, the vast majority of our produce donations were coming from The Holland Marsh throughout growing seasons. In addition, all produce donations received from farmers in The Marsh were given “indefinitely”. Meaning, these farmers have so many vegetables, they can give as much as we need, whenever we need, as long as we could pick it up. 


Pretty awesome right? 

But why?

Outside of the fact that our Marsh farmers are wonderful people, the reason for SUCH generosity is usually one of two main contributing factors:

Produce Farmers

Gaetano's Green Acre Farms

The nutrient levels in the Marsh’s soil are very high and deplete slower than other types of farmlands. As a result, farmers in The Marsh are coveted by grocery stores and so there’s a ton of farmers with big grocery store contracts in The Holland Marsh. 


When farmers have contracts with grocery stores, they need to be able to guarantee their supply to cover all the store’s demand - whether there’s a lot of demand or a little.


This is the case for Tony Gaetano, the owner of Gaetano Green Acres Farm located in the heart of The Holland Marsh, who supplies local Loblaws with various lettuces, as well as celery. He also ships his product to New York as well. Tony says that some grocer agreements use computers to recommend a volume based on the previous year’s sales, and then he increases production by 10 percent over the contract volume to guarantee supply. For Tony’s contracts, it means he needs to have a minimum of two extra fields available per item under contract. 

This usually leads to having an extra two fields of produce to be donated instead of ground back up in the soil by the till. In the event of reduced demand, Tony harvests the product and stores it in refrigerated stores until demand resumes back to normal. This practice has drastically limited their waste which is almost down to zero because he donates to local food charities. 

Tony believes that The Holland Marsh is the richest natural resource in the world, and to protect this productive soil, he says Marsh farmers have adopted conservation practices such as cover crop and oil seed radish. One prevents soil erosion and the other releases natural nutrients that become trapped within the soil. Farmers in The Holland Marsh are continuously experimenting to improve their practices and this is why it still remains so nutrient-rich today. 


Another key ingredient to The Holland Marsh’s excellent food growing rates is its climate. Tony says that a good, deep frost in the winter kills harmful bacteria and diseases, which reduces the use of pesticides. Additionally, every year he performs a soil analysis test to evaluate the nutrients a plant requires for optimum quality and shelf life. Tony conducts tissue analysis tests three times on the plant while it’s growing - sometimes four times - to top up any nutrients that are deficient due to extreme weather conditions such as excessive rainfall or extreme drought. 

Celery root

Vegetable Packers & Distributors

Grocery stores classify produce by “one’s” or by “two’s”. Produce is sorted by physical appearance; perfect fruits and vegetables acceptable for selling are sorted as “ones”. Two’s on the other hand, are still edible but simply don’t look perfect. Carrots sometimes grow curly and onions can get nicked from the harvesting process, but this food is still perfectly good for human consumption. 


Being the longest packer of carrots and onions in a region with where carrots have a farmgate value of $130 million annually and onions have a farmgate value of $160 million annually, Dominion supplies all the major grocery store chains except for Sobeys and Walmart, with their largest customer being Loblaws. They’re also the largest donor of onions to The Daily Bread Food Bank who pickup by the crate weekly (crates contain 1,100 pounds of produce). Tony also donates their root vegetables to other charities throughout the GTA including Second Harvest, The Mississauga Food Bank, HarvestHands, and The Ontario Christian Gleaners to name a few. 

New Farmers 

New farmers need to get a lot of expensive certifications in place before they can start selling produce to grocery stores. This often takes years to do and in the meantime, they can’t sell all their product. Matt Reesor own 'Fresh Veggies at 60 Aileen' in The Holland Marsh and he was our very first Marsh donor. 

Inclusion Works

The Marsh's Unique Features


Along the sides of the Marsh run two canals that extend 28km in length; one on the Bradford side and the other on the King Township side. Surrounding the 7,000 acres of premium growing soil are trees and hills, and that’s why the Marsh can be compared to a salad bowl; it’s a valley and it has it’s own microclimate. 

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Between the farmgate value of the vegetables, processing, packaging and transportation, the total estimated economic impact from the Marsh is over $1 billion each year.

The Marsh: A Man-Made Resource

In 1934, with the assistance of grants from the Netherlands, Canada and Ontario, 15 Dutch families settled in The Holland Marsh. Over time, they settled throughout the Marsh to farm it, and became the first migrants to successfully develop the area. 

The Dutch are well-known for reclaiming sea beds; creating fertile soils in largely flat and treeless land, which makes them very suitable for agriculture. The soil remaining is below the natural water level and requires pumps to continually remove water from the area. 


Today, the Marsh System is governed by the Holland Marsh Drainage System Joint Municipal Service Board. The Service Board was formed in 2007 in joint partnership with the Township of King and Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury with the mission to maintain and manage the Holland Marsh drainage system, to plan any future development for the Holland Marsh and tackle any possible environmental issues. 

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Local Food Packaging Investments

Tempo Flexible Packaging

Tempo Flexible Packaging is a food packaging solutions company located in Innisfil, Ont., and in 2021, they underwent a $14.4 million dollar expansion, which included some government funding through Andrea Khanjin’s office. The company continues to make strides in new technology and new investments, and must be doing well because they’re supporting Fresh Food Weekly by supplying all of the custom-made, fully-branded, heavy-duty, recyclable delivery bags we've used to date (11,000 bags donated so far!). 


Tempo Flexible Packaging is a food packaging manufacturing company located in Innisfil, Ont., who’s been an incredible supporter of Fresh Food Weekly’s food security program since its inception in the summer of 2022. Specializing in custom-printed and sustainably-minded packaging solutions, the company is strategically located next to Canada’s vegetable-producing epicentre. Throughout 2022 and 2023, Tempo Flexible Packaging donated +11,000 custom-made and designed, recyclable delivery bags to the Fresh Food Weekly food security program. 

Tempo Flexible Packaging Fresh Food Weekly Bag Design

Start Cultivating Your Foodshed Today

Every time an agricultural investment is made within a region’s foodshed, the result is a surplus of food. This surplus is how Canada could irradiate food insecurity for all disadvantaged Canadian populations. 

You just need to give them the opportunity to do so. 


Investments strengthen food economies and strong food economies create food surpluses. These surpluses form a second surplus because THAT'S how much extra produce Canadian farmers grow! It’s this surplus that will create a second food trade economy. And excitingly, the players would be fellow philanthropists. 

A Regional Food Trade System

A regional food trade system between the surplus of Ontario’s foodsheds could feed all vulnerable Canadians. If there was a group or charity in other regional foodsheds that would take on collecting produce donations grown in their foodshed, we could start making surplus food trades. Fresh Food Weekly could immediately start trading our unlimited carrots, onions, celery, celery root, romaine lettuce heads, and red and green leaf lettuce heads. 

Although the vegetables listed above would be our main trading commodity (and yes, we can get onions and carrots year-round because they’re imported from California during the winter months), we also get lots of apples, and our volunteers - particularly our high school student volunteers, pick mass volumes of strawberries (June), raspberries (July), and blueberries (August) as well. Since there will always be high school students in need of 40 community service hours in order to graduate, there will always be lots of students available for gleaning. And who doesn’t enjoy picking berries!? 

Why should you count on businesses supporting a free food trade economy for food security in your foodshed? Because businesses are run by people and there’s a lot of people who want to fight local food insecurity too. 

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Muskoka's Bogs

The cooler weather, web of fresh water rivers and melted glacier deposits of layered sand, peat, gravel, and clay formed acid peat bogs over the years, making Muskoka the ideal environment for growing cranberries and blueberries. 


However, over the last 20 years, Ontario's cranberry production industry hasn't grown due to the low price of cranberries. The province of Quebec has aggressively pursued a cranberry industry thanks to government-backed loans. Since entering the cranberry market with a ton of acres, and even more growers, Quebec's cranberry industry has become even more efficient at producing better yields thanks to new hybrid variants. 

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Quebec's Cranberry Production

The government of Canada has invested a ton of money in Quebec’s cranberry production and it’s paid off in dividends. Fruit d’Or in Quebec is a worldwide cranberry and blueberry supplier serving processors and distributors. The five-year repayable investment was made in 2017 and was worth $698 million, demonstrating Quebec’s commitment to take advantage of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union. 

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This investment allowed Fruit d’Or to produce cranberry juice and dried fruits with increased nutritional content and better meet the growing global market demands for their products. Nine point three million was allotted to the construction of a new plant, new equipment and technologies to help Canada achieve it’s ambitious goal of growing our agri-food sector exports to $75 billion by 2025. This project has enabled Fruit d’Or to increase its processing capacity by eight million pounds of traditional cranberries and 15 million pounds of organic cranberries over three years. 

Now, Ontario only has two commercial bogs: Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery near Bala, and Upper Canada Cranberries, at the south end of Ottawa. Ontario used to have a third until 2017; Iroquois Cranberry Growers, which was owned and operated by the Wahta Mohawks First Nation peoples, and was once considered the most successful Indigenous, community-owned business in Canada. 


Instead of investing in the Indigenous-owned business, though, our government invested in Marc Bieler’s Cranberry company instead. Coincidentally, Mr. Bieler has been donating to McGill University since 1964, including a $1 million donation in 2009. It comes at no surprise to hear that in 2020, Bieler donated $15 million to McGill University to allow them to acquire resources to tackle critical environmental and social issues. 

We don’t think there’s anything wrong with strategic investments that will “come back” later, but it’s totally and completely unethical to drive Indigenous-owned companies out of business because their entire culture and ability to participate in commerce was annihilated by us. Investing in Fruit d’Or was clearly a social decision that did not take into consideration justice in any way, shape or form. It was never considered for a second because if it was, the outcome would have been completely different. We need to start empowering Indigenous communities to gain economic opportunities, and not destroy them even further than we already have. 

South Georgian Bay Views Ontario

The Blue Mountains

The waters of Georgian Bay surrounding The Blue Mountains has a moderating effect on the area’s air temperature  by slowing the pace in which the air’s temperature changes. 

Tree Top Trekking
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The cliffs and hills of the Niagara Escarpment also act as a protective boundary that confines the lake-warmed air along the shoreline and thus reduces the likelihood of frost shortening the growing season in late spring and early autumn. 


The Blue Mountains have been experiencing an increase in food production value as a result of investment in agriculture. 

The Blue Mountains have been experiencing an increase in food production value as a result of investment in agriculture. The global apple market remains competitive due to the emergence of new apple variants. Pressures are being placed on The Blue Mountains’ apple producers to modernize their mix of apple varieties. As a result, the amount of acres allocated to growing apples has declined over the last few years. More farmers are shifting to the adoption of high density apple plantings of new varieties such as Ambrosia and Honeycrisp, as well as other tree fruits; particularly cherry trees. 

Regional Climates Dictate Surplus Food Options 

Pear and plum trees were too susceptible to dying from cold winters and were mostly phased out of the region, although some smaller farms still grow them. Orchards that have prioritized high volumes of production have fully transitioned to apples only as it’s a hardier fruit, can be stored in cold storage and lasts in long transport hauls.  


Concord grapes used to be known as the backbone of the Canadian wine industry, as these plants are very cold hardy, widely adapted to many soil types with the proper training system and do well against local plant disease. But as you can imagine, the wine industry is even more competitive than its’ apple-industry counterpart and improved grape varieties grown in warmer climates simply taste better. 

Grapes in Collingwood, Ontario
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