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Coast full of food opportunities

Finding locally grown organic food just got a lot easier. The Sunshine Coast Green Banner Local Food Directory is now available and to promote it, media were invited to a Green Banner Tour last Saturday (Sept. 18).

Finding locally grown organic food just got a lot easier.

The Sunshine Coast Green Banner Local Food Directory is now available and to promote it, media were invited to a Green Banner Tour last Saturday (Sept. 18).

The tour started in Gibsons at the Fiddlehead Farmer's Market, then visited Green Room Organics, Henry Reed Produce and Backyard Bounty before heading out to Roberts Creek to view the Gumboot Gardens. From there the tour continued onto the Sechelt Farmers' and Artisans' Market before wrapping up with a visit to the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden Society Harvest Festival in West Sechelt.

Coast Reporter joined five media representatives from the Lower Mainland for the tour that highlighted a handful of places to purchase organic produce, and encouraged a self-guided tour of the Coast's growing argritourism sector.

Attendees had the chance to speak with farmers and tour their farms, even sample some of the delicious vegetables grown close to home. It was easy to feel the farmers' passion for sustainable organic farming and their commitment to the cause.

Linda Fogarty and her partner Gabriel Forbes own Green Room Organics on Henry Road in Gibsons. The pair of farmers often put in 14-hour days on their three and a half hectare property.

"But it's a labour of love. It has to be. I wouldn't work this hard otherwise," Fogarty said.

Green Room Organics has a farm gate stand where the public can purchase their freshly grown, certified organic produce, although Fogarty said they are thinking of dropping the certified organic label.

"I think a lot of people don't value the word anymore. It's been so diluted. The responsibility [of certification] has now been passed on to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and there are literally 20 pesticides you can use and still say you're organic. I think the new word is sustainable," Fogarty said. "I think the best thing people can do is get out and talk to farmers. Find out what they are doing. Go to their farms and see it yourself. The best guarantee is to come and see how your food is being grown."

Her neighbour, Martin Keiwitz of Henry Reed Produce, agrees.

"If you want to know what I'm doing, come over and take a look," he said.

He's been doing organic farming for the past 10 years with his wife Tracey, and although they started small, they now grow almost a hectare of vegetables a year for Coast customers.

"It just grew bigger and bigger. It got addictive," Martin said.

Now Henry Reed Produce is a seven-day-a-week venture with produce and fresh organic eggs moving daily through the farm gate stand, salad mix being sold in local grocery stores, and fresh veggies available at farmers' markets on the Coast.

Just down the road, Dawn Myers has Backyard Bounty, which is an organic garden with a different approach dubbed Community Supported Agriculture.

Myers works several organic gardens on other people's properties. She then invites the community to "subscribe" to the farm program. Those that join receive a box of farm fresh organic produce each week from May to October.

Currently she feeds 30 families, with any extra produce going to her farm gate stand on Henry Road and to local farmers' markets.

Farmers' markets are a great one-stop shopping experience for those looking for local, organic produce and the chance to speak to the people who grew it.

Growers from all over the Coast come to the various farmers' markets in Gibsons, Sechelt and Pender Harbour, with produce picked that morning and a wealth of knowledge to share.

The new Green Banner Local Food Directory, which features more than 80 businesses, restaurants and farms, will also make it easier for Coasters to find fresh local food.

You can pick up the free directory at various farm gates, farmers' markets and visitor information centers on the Coast.

The Green Banner Local Food Directory is an initiative of the Food Action Network, is sponsored by Vancouver Coastal Health, the Smart Fund and the One Straw Society and is distributed in cooperation with Sunshine Coast Tourism.