Thursday, June 16, 2011

It takes a Village to market these Meats

Written for my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner; published under the title "Village Meats a reliable mainstay at market"

With all the bad news around the closure of small food processors, the exit of aging family farmers from our fields in the face of industrial agri-business consolidations, and mega-stores pushing out local family business, one might believe all the news about food is bad. But now and then we see a good news story on the food front, and here’s one to celebrate.

My family has always enjoyed Barrie’s weekly Farmers Market at City Hall Saturday mornings. In addition to the field vegetables and hand crafts, a mainstay has been the deli counter. Frequent long lines demonstrate the popularity of Frank’s products, including salamis, cheeses, and a great variety of sausages. And for the kids, there is always a free pepperette, which rarely lasts past the ride home.

Their products have become mainstays of our favourite home recipes for local produce, such as cabbage & potato stew featuring double-smoked sausage. The one hitch is that, some weekends, we have other commitments Saturday morning. Luckily, that won’t be a problem for us – or anyone – anymore, because Village Meats opened a full-time location on May 1st. In addition to the sausage and cheese offerings, they now feature a full European-style butchery with a variety of fresh meat cuts, a bakery aisle with specialty breads & pastries, and all sorts of jams or other prepared goods from Poland.

Frank’s Polish roots are fully expressed in this store, in all the aisles, from cheese to jam to soup mix to cakes to candy and sweets. If you’re of Polish extraction, you can now rediscover your roots at Village Meats and hook into a whole network of ethnic and specialty providers. It’s a wonderful expression of the diversity which makes Canada so wonderful.

Located at the corner of Yonge St & Little Ave, the deli brings a much-needed diversity to that part of Barrie, where food-shopping options used to be limited to convenience stores or mega-grocery chains. And don’t worry, they haven’t abandoned the Farmer’s Market – they remain an anchor vendor each Saturday morning.

One of the most exciting (for me) products will be delicious smoked Great Lakes fish, prepared in their own smoker. Supporting our freshwater fisheries demonstrates the importance of keeping our watersheds clean and productive.

Village Meats is just one example of the kind of positive job-growth this area desperately needs. Economics tells us that small business is a major job-creator, and the easiest way to grow our local economy isn’t bending over backwards to attract new business, but helping our existing businesses expand. So drop in to Village Meats, fill your basket from their array of fresh and unique products, and be a part of this Barrie success story.

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is an educator, father, volunteer, and politician.

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