Monday, 8 December 2014

2014-12-08 To Market or not to Market............

Our kitchen is operational now, it is very exciting to have our own commissary.  We are in our early days of recipe development and we are excited to have baking, soups, and take away dinners being created in the kitchen, and enjoyed by friends and customers.

I returned home from Vancouver in time for the Wilson Street Market and just in time to receive another letter from the city of Hamilton stating that a Farmers Market would not be permitted at 1632 Wilson Street West due to zoning.  We are permitted to use 25% of our warehouse space for a retail showroom and no more, this is despite our delegation to the City of Hamilton Planning Committee on July 8.  We have an agreement that we are permitted to operate as a Farmers Market until such time that the new Farmers Market Bylaw passes which if the Planning Committee passes unaltered it will demand we cease operations unless we are in a retail or commercial zone.  

It is a sad decision to pause our efforts to grow the market and follow the proposed but not passed through council city guidelines, however we are up for the challenge and Cooner will move everything around yet again to design a retail showroom that is 480 sq ft or less.  The showroom will be limited to Ojo’s kitchen production and Plan B Organic Farms until such time that the city gives us the green light to develop our market.  We have formed a not for profit corporation and will continue to hold special events at ojo’s in conjunction with the Wilson Street Market but will not be expanding to any new vendors until the city gives us the green light.

We will continue to provide fresh local and organic veggies on Fridays thru our friends at Plan B and we will continue to preserve local food into family friendly meals, we hope to keep the Market at our location, and will work with the city of Hamilton to find a solution to our conundrum.  Our zoning will be changed to retail, and if the city still refuses to let us host a Farmers Market perhaps the real opposition will come out.    

We are not quitters, we will not give up, but in the mean time we will shift our focus back to the matter at hand, which is getting Ojo’s Commissary, off the ground.  The Wilson Street Farmers Market sign will remain in place and we will continue to have fresh vegetables and fruit on Fridays from 9am till 2pm.  We will also be an authorized drop centre for Plan B Organic Farms CSA share program.  

While there is still some work to be done on the warehouse, you are welcome to come and visit us on Fridays and see what we are cooking up.  The Ojo Commissary’s “Retail Showroom” will be open Monday Thru Friday from 9am till 2pm, for custom order pick ups, and open with Fresh Veggies from Plan B Organic Farms on Fridays.



Sunday, 23 November 2014

2014-11-20 - Vancouver


Vancouver is such a great city, day one was near perfect, room service in bed for breakfast, local food truck Feastro for lunch, and fresh local oysters at Joe Fortes for dinner.  Combine that with lots of sunshine and a 10k sea wall jaunt pretty darn perfect. 
 

Day two I meet an old friend.   My old friend and I go back to Ancaster High School as with most of my besties today.  In the early 90’s my friend and I hopped a greyhound at the old Hammer bus terminal down on King William to Vancouver, along with the lead singer and bass player of the Hamilton RockaBilly band “The Crawl Daddies”.  After a night of music and everyone crashing at my apt at 33 Hess Street, (back in the day when the Gown was still the Gown, and everyone in the village knew everyone in the village) we decided that we would all spontaneously move to Vancouver to make a new life.  In a drunken stupor we cooked up all the food in the apt, called our next of kin, and for me left a key to my apt and car with my other still bestie (thank you Nona), and literally got on the bus the next day still hungover.   
 
We were sober when we arrived in Vancouver 3 days later, un showered, tired and hungry, and rented a hotel room above a classic  seedy strip bar with a big neon sign called Hotel Niagara.






















There we stayed until we got an apt in the west end near Bute and Harwood.  Me, bestie and bass player found jobs reasonably quickly them styling hair, me selling leather clothes and singer dude busking on Granville, and often he had more cash than us, and in the beginning we lived off the busking, we were sure he was going to be the next Stomping Tom.  We eventually had a small steady income and our food supply was bologna lettuce, white bread, pasta and tomato sauce.  We really had to make 10$ go as far as it could, and often that meant eating at MacDonalds,  Triple pizza’s were about the best deal and served for breakfast as well.  Stubby beers, nights at the historic Railway Club, Grapes of Wrath, and backstage at White Snake.
 
We had no furniture, no beds, we all slept on the floor, and we were poor.  Eventually the
excitement wore off and the reality of our existence sunk in.  I found a bachelor apt, and was now the Assistant Manager at Danier in the Pacific Center, so I bought a futon and some plastic patio furniture and called it home.  I lived like that for 6 months, when I realized, I missed the Hammer, I gave my meagre possessions to my still furniture-less ex roommates, and caught a plane home.  My bestie at home had amazingly and thankfully relocated my life on 33 Hess to her apt on Markland Street and I was grateful and still am.  I moved into a shared house on Market Street, one of my roomies being the left us too soon amazing guitar player ageless Brain Griffith.   My friend stayed in Vancouver and remains there to this day, and she is happy now I think.

 6 months of poverty was a life changing experience.  I learnt a lot during that period of time.  Mostly I learnt that being poor sucked and it affected my health.

 During that 6 months of eating junk and drinking beer, I acquired an extra 20 lbs and towards the end of the 6 months I had developed a rash that covered a good portion of my upper body that the doctor told me was viral and untreatable.  I came back to the Hammer, tired sick and with a dreadful set of hair extensions, it was the 90’s after all.

 Danier gave me a job as manager in the Hammer square, and within days of returning home my rash was gone, I had started running again and was well on my way back to healthy mind body and soul.

Poverty is a terrible thing, in my case it was a self induced choice, one that I vowed never to make  again. 

I recently took part in the Peoples Platform, a grass roots initiative in Hamilton, that really tried hard to get people engaged in Municipal politics.  I attended round tables in the down town and Dundas.  I was one of a few that participated from Ancaster in the first rounds.  I was interested in attending to try to create dialogue around the new emerging policy on Farmers Markets. 

 It's easy to live in a bubble, work, kids, mortgage payments, the never ending perpetual cycle of the rat race.  And while the Peoples Platform did not rock the vote as hard as it had hoped only a pitiful 34% voter turnout from the complacent Hamilton public.  It did raise awareness of some of the social issues facing many Hamiltonians,  poverty especially among children and the elderly, lack of public transportation and  family doctors, with each pocket of our community having similar but different concerns.  It is a good initiative and needs to continue.   I was disappointed that our Ancaster Councillor elect did not bother to address the questions of the Peoples Platform.

 I took away a broader perspective on my first world Ancaster issues, and my week in Vancouver was a grounding reminder on how poverty can be buried in wealthy neighbourhoods.  Luckily for me my trip was business, and room service in bed overlooking the harbour in my super lush robe, propped up by awesomely plump pillows, was an easy choice, and it is even easier to forget that my 26$ breakfast delivered hot to my bed, would feed a small family multiple meals if shopped right.

 For many of us it is a choice but when do we have enough? If you can afford to choose, when do we start making the right choices?  Amassing wealth so you can die with millions in the bank seems so completely pointless.  We should all be encouraged to use what we amass, and leave a zero foot print.  When will the average person value the item that costs a little more and supports a local mom and pop business over the cheapest comparable item on the shelf.  Buying on price alone creates poverty, and we are all guilty of it.

Each of us could change the world tomorrow simply by saying no to companies like Walmart that source on price point and keep employees in working poverty.  The lines at the cash register are thick with people cash in hand buying junk, creating poverty.  We choose every day at the cash register.  Consumers have so much power and yet we choose not to use it.  Just don't buy crap and then it won't get made.  Simple supply and demand.

My Vancouver dinner at Joe Fortes, my favourite dinner place in Van, fresh oysters bottles of wine, and friendly dinner companions they were subject to my rant on choosing to save the world thru just saying no to junk.  Easier said than done, but maybe one person at a time, put down the preservative laden mass produced junk.  Let's all cook a little more and be thoughtful of how we spend, support your local farmers and stop putting people on pedestals that hoard wealth.   If you cannot possibly use it in your life time why do you need it? 

So my trip is over, Manitoba is below me, it's a red eye and I have the most leg room on the plane, I am feeling blessed and inspired to open up the ojo kitchen tomorrow and save the world with local ketchup.

 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

2014-11-17 - and so it snows


And so it snows – my 5 am wakeup for my 6:45 am flight was a stark reminder that winter is now upon us.  The gentle white blanket just barely covering the lingering maple leaves on the grass and still poking out from my eavestrough is the warning sign, that old man winter is waking up.

Still dark driving to the Hamilton airport, cars were sliding and slipping and 4 way flashers abundant.  I missed the luggage check in cut off and was sent home to make my way later out of Toronto.  The joy of air travel.  Now  tucked into my window seat and thankful to be on a direct flight to Vancouver, I slept.  I always wonder if I snore on a plane.  The other half says I snore.  

Awake and my flight now thankfully more than half over I peer out the window at the snow on the ground and think of garlic and our little market.

Our little market day was yesterday, I call it a little market cause it is a little market.  We like our little market.  We officially decided to make the closing time 6pm because of the winter darkness.  And I was glad to be home to spend time with the kids before I took off again.

Snow on the ground and markets, when the ground is frozen, there is not much growing.  The season is officially over for farmers.  As we fly over Lethbridge, Alberta, I realize that the season has been over for some time now in the prairies.  Snow is everywhere.  I often think what it would be like if you lived in a time before convenience foods, the snow comes, and if you live in Canada and do not have at least a 3 month food supply you might soon die.  For real.

Susanna Moodie Life in the bush, a first hand account of one families struggle to survive the harsh Canadian winter.  It’s a good read.  She was a resilient lady, who managed to overcome, the harsh reality, that canned goods should be valued over fine china,  and dandelion tea was a staple.

When I first started to research food preservation for ojo’s and fast forward to today, there is an abundance of preservation websites, and they are very much dominated by preppers.  Yep prepping for the big collapse, zombie apocalypse or similar.   

I am not sure that the world is going to collapse, but there sure are a lot of people who think it will, and there has been for much of humanities existence.  Food security should be on the minds of everyone, all the time, and shopping and eating local is the most  important thing that any of us can do as consumers to build a resilient food economy.    That along with protecting our fresh water.

Now flying over the rockies how majestic and awesome, small pockets of human development on the edges of lakes  amid towering jagged mountains.   Water and the ability to grow food is the backbone of civilization.  We take it for granted, the grocery store has become our pantry.  Many homes have barely a weeks worth of food let alone 3 months.

In the winter especially the food in Canadian supermarkets has travelled a long distance and often has been processed with preservatives and additives to make it “safe” to sit on the shelf and not produce mold. Food that is safe to sit on a shelf, is it really safe for us to eat.

We are what we eat, and we eat a lot of junk.

The rockies are behind us now and the gentle slopes of Cologna and the BC interior make me look forward to 5 days in Vancouver.  I like Vancouver.  I also get to spend some time with my boss of almost 17 years.  Not too many people can say that, and like them!  I don’t just like my boss I am fiercely loyal to my boss.  I would never for a moment wonder if he had my back.  I always felt and feel that he does, and I have his.  That is important in corporate culture.  No one wants to work in an environment where you fear job loss or your boss belittles you.  So much of our time is spent working that we don’t have time to think about preserving food.  

So how do you make a business out of preserving food, well I am not quite sure yet, and the market and ojo’s cannot in reality be considered anything more than a hobby if you look solely at revenue.    But as of two weeks ago, our commissary kitchen was finished and  our food truck is closed.  It is about time that we got around to the business of food preservation, but there is snow on the ground and food in Canada is no longer in abundance.

The building blocks are in place, we have all winter to experiment with small scale food preservation and canning.  When the harvesting begins in 2015 we will be ready and it will all be worth while.  In the mean time we need to just off set our costs, and subcontract out our warehouse and kitchen just to pay the rent.  

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

2014-11-11 - I remember

I remember, today and every day I always remember my Poppy.





That’s what I call my grandfather – Poppy.  My Poppy passed when I was 18 and I like to think that he has been by my side ever since, and so do my sisters – he get’s around as a guardian angel.  He brings me great comfort.

My poppy’s nick name was “chopper” in the second world war, he prepared food for the troops on the front line and thus acquired the name.  Kind of like a food truck, my Pop worked in a mobile kitchen following the war across Europe.  My Nanny worked at a cigarette factory, where they encouraged the ladies to smoke to help relieve the stress of war.  In most pictures from that era my Nan has a cig in her hand.  My father was born during the war, my Pop was away, I imagine those days of air raids, bunkers and loved ones in combat would be terrifying.



After the war my Nanny became head of school meals at the local school.  She ran the kitchen, she had a staff of ladies, my Nanny was tough, and an awesome cook.

So both of my grandparents were in the food business and both cooked local, cause that is what you did because it was all you had.

School meals are an important part of English and European culture, schools had a full on kitchen where the food would be made from scratch every day, wholesome, nutritious, and hot.  In most European countries the tradition continues.  We lived in Finland for a year and my children attended public school, breakfast and lunch were served hot every day, much to dismay of my chicken nugget loving 6 year old son.  Community parks, served hot soup every day to kids who brought their own bowl and spoon, and then washed it and put it back in their bags after use.  My kids shunned this service in favor of pizza, but the local kids lined up with bowls in hand.  Parents knew that every day their kids were fed at that it was nutritious.
 
 

Jamie Oliver  - I love listening to him talk, local and healthy has turned into fast and convenient.

Improving the nutrition in our schools and hospitals serving real fruit, not fruit cups from china is a start, and a there is a group of engaged citizens in Hamilton trying to do just that.
 


A young lady named Grace Evans who hails from Ancaster heads up this program – I think she is pretty awesome, and ojo’s wants to get involved, cause we feel inspired to do so.  Dr Wayne Dyer says that inspiration is to be “in spirit” the following of your inner voice, and when your actions are in spirit all is good.

I am thankful for feeling inspired, and thank my Poppy and my Nanny cause I remember.

 


Sunday, 9 November 2014

2014-11-09 Green Light

Friday was a big day for ojo's we recieved our official green light sticker for the Wilson Street Farmers Market, and permission to produce and sell from our brand new Ojo commissary kitchen it was worth celebrating.


For the last 6 months we have stayed close to home with the food truck, we have stuck it out at our out of the way little spot by Soldaats and the Ancaster Fairgrounds.  Our lunch crowd has not been huge, people are having difficulty finding our driveway, but we hold faith that they will and one day our little. out of the way place for local produce  duck fat fries and locally procurred meats will be the go to for families in search of a locovore family friendly meal, where the kids can play outside, and you can pick up some local fare to go at the same time.  We are almost there.  And then comes winter, snowy dark days are coming soon, and already at the Wilson Street Market it is dark in our west end Ancaster location.  

There are no street lights from the business park to the Ancaster Fairgrounds, our stretch of Wilson Street is dark at 4:30 you can barely see our driveway.  We need lights we need to light the place up, street lights, and sidewalks are in order, we look closed even when we are not.  

Each time we pass a hurdle it seems we meet the next one, building a business from scratch takes time and patience, I can now clearly see the value in purchasing an existing business.  However the business we wanted to create did not exist, and we are lucky to have had the time and patience to endure the process.  It is hard to envision the the end result when you are just coming out of the starting gate.  Our business plan has changed as we feel out the the things that work and the things that do not the main thing we have stayed true to our mission and purpose and I like that a lot.

We are now a fully certified mobile kitchen, fully certified commissary kitchen, and Farmers Market, and while the city still has it out for us with regards to zoning we feel confident that logic will prevail cause in my humble opinion zoning is a racket.  

Zoning, while some may argue that it serves a useful purpose in civil society by allowing and restricting the business that can operate at any given address.  I think that it is too much govenment.  If a land owner or business chooses to conduct a business that does not interfere with the rights or liberties of others and is accepted by the neighborhood, and has a valid business license and meets all the health and safety requirements why would the Municipal govt actively try to prevent the said business from operating.  The Pearl Company Theatre is a prime example of bad zoning policy.


I used to feel special thinking that some how our little business was being singled out, and after a year of dealing with the city and ranting to anyone that will lend an ear, I have found that we are but one of many small business's that continue to face red tape with the city of Hamilton and the zoning dept.  But maybe it is not just the city of Hamilton it is just a function of govt that is fundamentally broken a system that enables the rich to get richer and small business to suffer.

Properties with low value zoning also have a low value price.  Zoning changes take years, and often, those in the know, the inner circles of those making the zoning changes, can buy up and sit on properties.  If you are lucky enough to be sitting on a property that is destined for a zoning change, its a wind fall for sellers,  if you are a long term investor with time to spare now is time to invest in Ancaster west properties, cause just like the Pearl Company, our zone is set to change to Retail, and that will solve our connundrum we hope.




Tuesday, 4 November 2014

2014-11-04 - winding down for the winter


2014-11-04

Truck is closed and kitchen has been finished built – just waiting on the final bits from the city before we can go ahead and start production of anything….. but when we do expect some big news….

In the mean time I go back to what pays the bills and I am thankful that throughout this process I have managed to keep working in corporate as a marketing coordinator and event planner.  The season of events kicks into high gear now and runs thru spring, which works out great cause the truck is closed till spring.   To support local –  I treated myself to a new dress for the next event – thanks to BlackBird Studios bought a Hamilton made dress, yes I really do try to shop local for everything.  

With that in mind and getting back at it on the computer and into events it brings me back to my original motivation for this journey in entrepreneurialism.   
 
 


I have seen a lot of industry – I have been in just about all the pulp and paper mills in North America – most OSB and MDF production facilities – many wood pellet production plants and I have attended most all Biomass related Renewable Energy events in North America for the last 5 years.   Renewable energy is inspiring – there is so much talent and energy but it does not create the same levels of revenue as traditional fossil  fuel energy – profit margins are lower and when the price of fossil fuels starts to drop the industry becomes less stable as the cost to create renewable energy generally exceeds that of fossil fuel derived energy.  Kind of like local food….   Everyone supports it but when imported food is so cheap – it is hard to justify.  (and FYI yes I do support the gasification plant proposal in Hamilton!)

So wood pellets took me into Animal feed pellets and for a couple of years I was attending Animal processing and feed events,   I saw the equipment used in those disturbing PETA under cover camera movies, yep it is all real.   Antibiotics, growth enhancers, color injections, assembly lines for animals – what has happened to our food production.  Material handling shows based around frozen pizza – ingredients being sold by the ton with package labeling that say “fresh tasting”.    It was all quite disturbing, so much so when I came home I would say – we are never eating that again or never eating there again, and I would try to source local.

I signed up for a local CSA share with Plan B Organic Farms, I started asking questions.  In Fortino’s the meat would say Canada Grade A or USDA grade A, I would ask – which is it – is it Canadian or American we have different standards for Animal feed, no one knew.  Fresh baked in store at Fortinos – love the sour dough – asked for the ingredient list – they could not find it.  Does it use GMO corn syrup?  No one knew the answer.




Shopping local became an obsession and luckily since I worked from home I could pop out at lunch time and visit my favorite spots, Fenwood Farms, Carluke Bakerys, Walden Beef, Wally Parrs, Dearsley Meats, and Soldaats Poultry.   I shunned the Costco shoppers and reminded my friends and family regularly the horrors of the food industry – convenience foods and especially fast foods.    Then came food trucks – small business – out there taking on food industry giants – building small business from the ground up – low overhead – realistic startup costs and flexible hours.  Loved Loved Love it!

So we built the food truck out of our travel trailer and built a business around our favorite local companies.

I love our food truck – I love it so much that even if it does not make profit – I still love it.

I believe in eating local not as a way to make profit – but as a way to make the world better.

In building this small company I had a consultant ask me – are you a food truck on a mission, or a mission with a food truck…..  We are a mission with a food truck!  Yep we just wanna change the world – one bottle of ketchup at a time….. and do it with a cool mobile kitchen, called Avi.

We want to do things for the right reasons, we are not trying to make big profits, we are doing this cause we think it is important and the right thing to do. 

They says that right action is when the right people do the right thing for the right reasons, and that should sum up success.

Fingers crossed for future success for ojo’s – for now this winter we will continue to grow and support local producers and we will be actively producing our own products in our kitchen at our awesome home at Soldaats Poultry.  And we don’t mind sharing – our commissary kitchen is available to share with like-minded folk – who want to join the food revolution!

Friday, 31 October 2014

2014-10-31 - Happy Halloween from Ojo's and the Wilson Street Farmers Market


Oct 31 St  - We begin again.

It’s damp and chilly Halloween as Ojo’s gets ready for our weekly Wilson Street Farmers Market – open every Friday in the winter from 2pm till 7pm – what is Ojo’s selling at the market – why nothing of course.   Surprised well let’s bring everyone up to speed on ojo’s markets,  intentions and ethics.

In the beginning……. (I love saying that) – Ojo’s never really intended to found a farmers market – all we ever wanted to be was a Ancaster French Fry Stand – we never signed up for the whole food truck highway experience we wanted to stay local – and stay in Ancaster, after exhausting the prime locations in Ancaster that appealed to us first – BIA – Food Basics Plaza – Little Gourmet Plaza …. We settled on Soldaats.    We tried our best to work with the city and we followed the food truck bylaw – and we started paying rent on our location in the hopes that we could be a chip stand in the somewhat lonely West end corner of Ancaster.

When the city gave us push back on operating our food truck – we started thinking – how do we get permission to operate at this spot we hope to call home – well – form our own special event that’s how – lets re-establish the West End Farmers Market that was located at the Fairgrounds till 2011 on Saturdays, that way Ojo’s can be a vendor and we will be allowed to operate if only one day a week at our planned location.  We contacted the Ancaster Farmers Market and told them of our intentions – our idea was not well received – and not supported by the AFM –they advised us if we went ahead with a new market we would not be welcome at theirs.
 



 

We never were joiners, so to establish the west end market we set up a stall in our warehouse and called ourselves a market.  This was as much poking fun at the establishment as anything else and we invited other vendors to join us. We visited farms and local producers and told them what we wanted to achieve and try to re-establish a farmers market in the west end of Anc, but make it year round and indoors.  Everyone loved the concept but could not afford the effort of staffing a new market with potentially small revenue in the first years.  So we agreed to get the market off the ground we would staff the local market stalls in a co-op fashion.    The ojo stall was based on the local suppliers that were being featured on our food truck – VG meats – Jensen Cheese – Hewitts Dairy, and the Ontario Natural Food Co-op, this was a sampling of our product used on our food truck during the season.

We understood that it is costly for vendors to come out to a market and not have  sales –so I would like to point out that – WE HAVE NEVER EVER CHARGED STALL FEES TO ANY VENDORS!  NO MONEY HAS EXCHANGED HANDS FOR RENT – OR MANAGEMENT FEES – NOTHING - NADA  - We work on the idea that together we can make it great and if and when there is revenue – the market will begin in earnest.  

Ojo’s has personally flipped the bill for all advertising – signage – rent – tables etc….to the tune of thousands of dollars for the Wilson Street Farmers Market – we have do not have any thoughts on making profit on the market – to which end we have officially formed a Not For Profit Corporation called the Wilson Street Farmers Market.    Websites, City of Hamilton – hours and hours and hours of time that Ojo’s – has spent trying to establish this market – so much money and time and we are not quitters.

Ojo’s stopped having our own stall in the spring – we get that speculative grocery sales do not bring in profits and food waste is a bigger issue.   We host the market – cause we believe in Farmers Markets and we will continue to pursue our right to host a market.  There is no current bylaw for Farmers Markets that limits where a market can be located.  The city is working on one – it has not passed council.  It can not be enforced pre-emptively – and we exist.    

Each Friday – the Produce arrives – our kitchen is officially finished – way over budget – but yes we have met or exceeded all city regulations – building codes – fire codes and health codes……..  Expect a grand – grand opening announcement soon for Ojo’s Commissary kitchen!

And soon….. Ojo’s will have product for sale at the Wilson Street Market – made in our kitchen – and made of 100% local ingredients

Ojo’s will continue to support Bill 36 – and thank the Local Food Fund for all the good that is doing to bring local food back into the forefront of conversation, and we sincerely look forward to serving our community and the greater good.

Bill 36                                                          2013

An Act to enact the Local Food Act, 2013and to amend the Taxation Act, 2007 to provide for a tax credit to farmers for donating certain agricultural products that they have produced

Preamble

Ontario has robust and resilient local food systems: a highly productive agricultural land base, a favourable climate and water supply, efficient transportation and distribution systems, and knowledgeable, innovative farmers, food processors, distributors, retailers and restaurateurs. These resources help ensure that local food systems thrive throughout the province, allowing the people of Ontario to know where their food comes from and connect with those who produce it.

The variety of food produced, harvested and made in Ontario reflects the diversity of its people. This variety is something to be celebrated, cherished and supported. Strong local and regional food systems deliver economic benefits and build strong communities.

Maintaining and growing Ontario’s local and regional food systems requires a shared vision and a collaborative approach that includes working with public sector organizations. The process of setting goals and targets to which the people of Ontario can aspire provides an opportunity to work with industry, the public sector and other partners to promote local food and to develop a shared understanding of what needs to be done to support local food in Ontario.

Therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario, enacts as follows:

Purposes

   1.  The purposes of this Act are as follows:

    1.  To foster successful and resilient local food economies and systems throughout Ontario.

    2.  To increase awareness of local food in Ontario, including the diversity of local food.

    3.  To encourage the development of new markets for local food.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

2014-09-30 Confessions

Confession time, starting up a Farmers Market having a food truck, trying to also keep some corporate dollars flowing in is exhausting.

Really exhausting, I have neglected my own families meals, had no time to clean the house walk the dog or take time to visit friends and family for what seems like a very long time.  I miss my hairdresser and live in pony tails.

Working with my uber boyfriend,  I spend too much time sweating the  stuff that I should let roll off my back, and not enough time enjoying the fact that for the last year we have been busy trying to build a company, and have been able to spend loads of time together, and that my honey is very supportive and cute and I am lucky.

Confession - Blends - a divorced mother of two dating a divorced father of two, we have not been able to find a successful blend pattern that works for both unique families, so we don't.  Does that make me a bad step mom, yes probably, do I stress about that? yes a little - can I change it - no - so I can live with that.   Accept the things you cannot change, and allow the parents to parent without interference.   Kids will be grown soon enough.

On the topic of blends, coffee - I admit it I do not often buy organic coffee and sometimes I feel shame for that.  

So after months of food trucks, farmers markets and small town politics.  I sit on a plane en route to a corporate event, trying hard to get my head around the person that I was when I had my head stuffed in a flat screen every day, actually looking forward to putting on my black suit and sensible shoes and reconnecting with the Borg.

What I thought I was leaving when we started this adventure, the politics of corporate life, time constraints, personalities, I have found exist in everything just in different forms.  I thought being my own boss would somehow liberate me from the chains of middle management and corporate stress.  Instead I found that small town Politics are way more exhausting, and the demands of a small business exceed those of corporate life, and in the beginning with little payback, outside of the satisfaction of doing yourself, making your own decisions, and being responsible for your own success or failure.  Which I love.

So for the next week I am back at corporate and Honey is in charge of the food truck and Farmers Market, and for that I am thankful.

I am also thankful that the conference this week is in Miami beach. and this plane is near empty and I have three seats to myself.  















Sunday, 21 September 2014

2014-09-21 Re-opening of the Wilson Street Farmers Market

Sept 21 - our first weekend back at it as a vendor at the Wilson Street Farmers Market.

Despite a slow start to the re-opening of the Wilson Street Farmers Market, lying in bed the morning after the day after, pondering with a cup of coffee We think ojo's had one of its best days ever.

A food truck founding a Farmers Market has sure raised a lot of eyebrows in the town of Ancaster, why would anyone want to start up a market in a small town that already has a successful market.  

Well that's an easy question, we strongly believe that markets should be everywhere , small business should be supported and local growers should have better access to retail markets.  Shoppers shop on convenience and there  should be a market available every day of the week not just Wednesday afternoons in the center of our small town.  

We are big supporters of all markets.  We don't see other markets as competition we see the big grocery chains as the biggest challenge which funnily enough can exist peacefully across the road from one another without any fuss or politics.  

Aside from the practical necessity of facilitating local commerce.  Ojo's is a food truck that is committed to sourcing it's food locally, from local growers and producers, what better way to source fresh grown than at a farmers market.

At the end of the food truck and farmers market season in 2013, post crunching food costs numbers, and witnessing the sheer volume if food that leaves Outdoor Markets in trucks destined for the compost pile, we started to contemplate food preservation.

When we first began developing our tin can kitchen, in our antique travel trailer, we envisioned cooking, preservation, and more happening inside our 25 ft x 6 ft certified kitchen space, we quickly found out that prepping, serving, cooking, all at once in a tiny space was challenging in the best of times, add in pressure cookers, frozen produce and glass jars, it quickly becomes overwhelming, which is why most food trucks are attached to the hip to a commissary kitchen.

So in Oct 2013 we developed our plan to build a food preservation kitchen, attached to a market, to preserve local fare, that could carry us through the long produce barren Canadian winters.

Fast forward to Sept 2014, almost an entire calendar year later, and with the help and guidance of Plan B Organic Farms, golden handshakes, and government grants Ojo's reached it's first personal milestone, the preservation of Farmers Market produce, on site, with glass of wine in hand and in the spirit of partnership.

Plan B Organic farms runs CSA shares and is an active grower/vendor in a number of markets.  They  process and handle large volumes of local organic produce, the best quality and only year round supplier in our local region.  Alvaro Venturelli, co owner of Plan B and advocate for a healthy planet thru healthy food, has been an inspiration, teacher, and friend.

Our best market day ever started like any other market day, but with our new kitchen on hand. We really needed to run a test day, to examine the process flow and counter space and locations of kitchen appliances to get a feel for how our kitchen will function before we put the final touches in and receive final certifications.  With that goal in mind, over the last two days Plan B and Ojo's processed over 1000 cobs of corn, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, potatoes, garlic.  Enough food to feed our families for quite a while, a quite astronomical amount of valued added food, that would of likely ended up in a compost pile.

Despite aching arms, sore backs, and 12 hour days, it was fun.  So much fun we plan to do it again next week, and every week after.  

The impressive display of canned and frozen produce, soups, sauces, and smiles, is our first milestone at ojo's to becoming a little bit more than just a french fry truck in Ancaster's west end.  

Come check us out next Friday from 2 till 7 at the Wilson Street Farmers Market, and if you are up for lending your skills in chopping veggies, send us an email, there is plenty of room for everyone.

Happy Days!















Thursday, 11 September 2014

thinking about food trucks!

Food trucks are an important social phenomenon and are part of a solution to local food independence they provide people with the choice to eat local and most often healthier with fresh local food.

Food truck rally's are widely successful and well received by the Ancaster community, however most have faced issues with the city of Hamilton with regards to zoning.

Currently there is a big grey zone of how and where food trucks rally's can operate in the city of Hamilton, it is getting better however with the city loosening the grip on the Hamilton downtown and city parks, however up in Ancaster we are still in the dark ages with food truck events confined to church parking lots.  

There are two events currently operating in Ancaster, one is the well received Holy Food Trucks at Bethesda Church on Hwy 53 that runs on Tuesday nights and the new this year event Thursday nights located at Ryerson Church in the Village core.

The origins of this Ancaster zoning conundrum is based around a don't ask, don't tell policy.  Holy Food Trucks began in 2013, with an ask for forgiveness not permission policy,  they received no complaints despite huge parking congestion, when Ryerson and the Ancaster Rotary Club decided to host their food truck event at the end of 2013 they asked for permission.  The city gave them a big fat no, based on that they were located within the Ancaster BIA and the BIA has decided that they did not wish to allow food trucks.  After a going back and forth with the city, the city gave Ryerson permission to host given that they are institutional, same as Holy Food Trucks.  To deny one you should deny both.  

The idea that Food Truck rally's are suitable for institutional zoning, but not for industrial, or otherwise is logically baffling.  What does religion have to do with food trucks.

Food truck events should be treated the same as any other special event, and provided you follow the SEAT application guidelines, food trucks should be permitted.  If a non religious group decided to have a barbecue it would be permitted, because these barbecues are mobile on wheels  is not reasonable or logical to prevent their participation.  If they were all in tents it would be ok.  this type of governing over how our our food should be served to us is in no way serving in the best interest or wishes of the community.  

The zoning dept of the city of Hamilton's official stance is that food trucks should operate in a restaurant zone, but the developing food truck bylaw then further state that they cannot operate near a restaurant.  It is also often not the wishes of food truck owners or restaurant owners to be restricted to the same area.  A mobile food truck is designed to be mobile allowing access to areas  unserviceable by restaurants, including parks and other areas where a brick and mortar would be too big a social foot print.  To limit a food truck to a zone is almost to deny its very purpose. 

It is also not logical to apply the same set of standards to food trucks operating in the down town core to those that are operating in Ancaster's rural and industrial areas.  

Restaurant zones in rural areas are few and far between and rural and industrial areas are often the areas that most need access to food service.   There are food trucks currently operating in "non designated" areas within Ancaster but all it takes is one anonymous phone call to the city and the zoning dept. can shut them down.  This does not make for a good long term business plan, knowing that at any time a city official might tell you to move it on over. 

Preparing food in a truck is not in any way more hazardous than a catering truck or farmers market vendor and whether a Farmers Market Vendor is in a tent or a truck providing they meet the health and safety regulations, and abide by the applicable bylaws it should make no difference where they are with regard to zoning.

Food truck's are out there working hard within our communities.  Some bricks and mortar restaurants see food trucks as a threat.  Anyone that thinks food trucks have an economical advantage being mobile, and not having to pay rent or taxes, think again, Food Trucks pay rent at every event they attend in the form of typically 10% to the host, they also likely pay rent to their commissary kitchen, or parking storage.   There is travel time, and fuel costs, and chefs that need to be drivers and social media experts all at the same time.

So as the season winds down for food trucks, be sure to give your favorite trucks a big thumbs up for all the exceptionally long hours and hard earned pay.

Here at ojo's we have been staying local at our home near the Ancaster fairgrounds, we plan to stay open as long as the weather holds out.  Our commissary kitchen will be open within a couple of weeks, and we hope to stay busy with the Wilson Street Farmers Market and food preservation through the fall and winter.

Come and visit the newly renovated ojo warehouse on Saturday Oct 12 th for our thanksgiving concert featuring Hamilton's own Tom Wilson, come by the truck for tickets!





Friday, 15 August 2014

2014-08-15 - Success in smiles

so yes we have an out of the way location that is a little hard to find - good signage is expensive and requires permits - we are still plugging away with the market and kitchen renos all things take longer and are more difficult that you m...ight imagine when the project is still a concept.

Building a commercial kitchen - trying to stay on schedule and in budget, and run a food truck at the same time - (while continuing to work on contract for corporate) is sometimes a lot of balls in the air at once. The light is at the end of the tunnel and the kitchen and market projects look like all will be in time for our first private party - 50th birthday party of a dear friend Sandy Bear, we expect lots of our freaky friends out on Sept 13th to celebrate.

The market will start up shortly after looking at Sept 20th start date - deets to be announced soon - when all vendors and voting members can get together and agree moving forward.

Success is measured in many ways and quiet and cold days inside a food truck cooking lunch for a special few - gives you plenty of time to reflect on all the whirlwind of activity at the Wilsonstreet Farmersmarket - my measurement of success is happiness and customer satisfaction, and I love cooking in our travel trailer and I love it when our customers are repeat and by word of mouth referral - this always makes my day perfect as it was today.

If you have never been out to our out of the way location blink and you will miss it as you drive towards the fairgrounds at hwy 52 and 2 in Ancaster - we are located on the grassy area beside Soldaats Poultry and behind Maxim Marine and beside our new neighbors Ancaster Automotive, (and a new Thai restaurant that opened today in the Esso plaza). Come on out Tuesday thru Friday for lunch.

Next week I am on holidays with the kidlets and David Coons is on the grill - come on out and say hi - he gets lonely by himself!
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