Farmers hug our cities

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As the last few winter days run themselves out, we eagerly anticipate the fresh produce and farm goodness that will be available for our tables — and much of it is grown and made right here in our own backyard.

But let’s look at that simple phrase.

I can say with certainty that I’ve been lucky to live in the Region of Waterloo, a region with more than 600,000 or so other souls, many of them food lovers, that has grown up on what is arguably some of the richest farmland in southwestern Ontario. And even the entire country, perhaps.

Its arability aside, along with our precipitation and the compaction and alkalinity of the soil – all technical agrarian things I know little about – I do know we are extremely lucky to live where we do.

If you take a moment and look at a map of the region’s 1,400 square kilometres – and use your imagination just a little bit – you can see from a sort of cartographic bird’s-eye view that Waterloo Region has a physical appearance that I have always imagined as C-shaped outer ring enclosing an area inside.

The Region, formerly known as Waterloo County with five townships, has evolved into the three cities of Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo – centred in the middle of the C-shape – surrounded by the four agriculture-based townships starting in the north with Woolwich and then clockwise to North Dumfries, Wilmot and Wellesley.

Silly, I know, but it’s like the farmers are “hugging” our cities. These townships, chock-full of pork farmers, apple producers, asparagus farmers, sweet corn farmers, bison and Black Angus farmers and organic veg farmers, embrace the cities in their arms and grow and deliver food.

The image reaffirms for me another very wise and very true bit of bumper-sticker wisdom that we ought not relegate to a trivial bromide: “Farmers Feed Cities.”

In a symbiotic relationship, our townships embrace these larger urban centres just as true food lovers will drive to the townships for farmgate purchases, or search out local products with passion at area farmers’ markets, as they embrace the people who put food on their tables.

We are lucky. But let’s not take it for granted.

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