People and programs 06/12/2014

Wherever possible, Community Food Centres try to purchase directly from local farmers and producers as a way to support the local food economy and make fresh, nutritious, and ethically produced food available to those on low incomes.

When it comes to food procurement, it’s the Community Chef — tasked with running the community meal program as well as ensuring the smooth functioning of the kitchen — who is usually in charge. At The Table Community Food Centre, Chef Judy Dempsey’s long-time role in the Perth, ON culinary scene makes her a great fit for the role. Creative, resourceful, pragmatic, and still abundantly patient and warm, Judy espouses the most important characteristics of a Community Chef. She’s also no stranger to working with local farmers.

While Chef Judy initially purchased The Table’s local food on the fly, she’s now more well-versed in their kitchen’s needs, which has made pre-ordering from farmers easier. “Now we are having real conversations with growers so they can grow specifically for The Table,” she says. “For example, Sarah at Hollyhock Grange is growing giant blue hubbard and butternut squash for us this year. We discovered which varieties we liked, stored best, and were easiest for our volunteers to work with.” In return, The Table will buy whatever Hollyhock Grange produces. For meat, Judy often places her orders for chicken, pork, and beef well in advance, making her an ideal customer in an uncertain marketplace.

In addition to sourcing local wherever possible, The Table, with the support of CFCC, produced a brochure on how it supports local food in Lanark County called Putting our Money Where Our Mouth Is. And every year at their Barns, Farms and Wicked Chefs fundraiser, The Table promotes local producers and restaurateurs. This year’s August 23 event will be a moveable feast featuring the best of Lanark County, set to music.

Alongside chefs at fellow Community Food Centres, Judy continually strives to make sure that The Table’s commitment to local food delivers fresh, high quality ingredients to the centre’s program participants, while benefiting the farmers who become, in some ways, an extension of the CFC family. As Judy put it, “the food grown in Lanark County is directly reflected in the dishes we create here together, making our meals both for the community and of the community.” It seems fitting, then, that the connection between farmers and eaters would be at The Table.