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Restaurants in Windsor and Essex County are starting to see the value in supporting our local farmers and why using local ingredients makes a difference.

It’s about quality and serious chefs and restaurants know that using the best quality ingredients in their kitchen is a key component to success. You can have the best service in town, but if the quality of your food doesn’t match up, you’ll lose customers.

In an era where food recalls are becoming the norm, more consumers are demanding to know where their food comes from and even want it labeled on menus to make their choices easier. For many, the choice to switch to local was an easy one.

A handful of cherry tomatoes grown in our garden

“Customers are very happy with our decision to source local foods as well as local wineries,” explains Rosario Montaleone, owner of Foia Restaurant. “The sourcing of local food has become very efficient for restaurants. Farmers are more willing to work with us and companies like County Connect who source the farmers and deliver to our restaurant.”

Laura Giberson of Caldwell’s Grant attributes her sourcing of local products to wanting to avoid factory farmed products and supporting the local economy.

“We need to support one another in our community,” explains Laura. “I would much rather give my money to the farmer down the road than to a huge U.S. conglomerate. I want to keep my local farmers involved in a vibrant, local economy.”

She adds that diminishing the restaurant’s carbon footprint and being able to follow products from beginning to end also played a roll.

Laura says that she has noticed a difference in the quality and taste of Windsor-Essex products.

“Everyone is very supportive of the sourcing choices we have made,” she says. “Meat tastes better, and obviously an Amherstburg strawberry in June tastes way better than a California strawberry in December.”

The Downtown Windsor Farmers Market has been a success story

Customers are noticing and taking action. The resurgence and popularity of farmers markets such as the Amherstburg Farmers Markets and the Downtown Farmers Market in Windsor are an indication that consumers are asking for local.

“Customers love when I can come out and talk to them about their meal and about the farmers, and artisans that contributed,” says Janine Bratt, owner and chef of Taste Bud Bistro.

Taste Bud Bistro menu consists of 25% local ingredients.

The next time you are dining in a restaurant ask your server for a local wine list. If they don’t have local wines on their list, then ask to speak to the Manager. Ask where their produce or meats come from. Are they local? Let them know that you would like to see local wines and foods on their menus. Encourage them to list local products on their menus so you, as a consumer, are aware of where your food is coming from.

Local lamb served during one of Windsor's 100km Dinners

Visit and support your local farmers markets. Meet the families that grow your food. Ask your local grocer to include more local products on their shelves. Support those restaurants that are using local foods in their menus.

Laura believes the decision to source local is more than just the bottom line.

“It allowed me to continue in good conscience to be a chef and restaurateur, and therefore, for my restaurant to continue to do business.”

Each one of us has the opportunity to change the community we live in. It just starts one step at a time.