Highlands food tourism ‘on the cusp’ of taking off
By Jenn Watt
Published Jan. 22, 2019
One of three pillars of Haliburton County’s tourism strategy is building and promoting the culinary arts – such as the area’s farmers’ markets, restaurants, maple syrup, wild edibles and craft breweries.
The seeds have been planted and cultivated, said the county’s food tourism co-ordinator Lila Sweet, now it’s all about to blossom.
She defined food tourism as: “any time that you travel to get a taste of place in order to get a sense of place.”
Sweet led an informal conversation at Haliburton Highlands Brewing on Thursday, Jan. 17, with those who responded to an open invitation to come together and discuss next steps in culinary tourism.
“Haliburton County’s food culture is blossoming. We’ve planted, we’ve grown. We’re just sitting on the cusp of it all being very apparent to the outside. This is our chance to define ourselves. I’m very excited,” she said.
Attendees snacked on hors d’oeuvres provided by Abbey Gardens and sampled coffee from County Coffee and sipped beer by Haliburton Highlands Brewing as Tom Regina serenaded the group on his flute.
Sweet said the event was a community building exercise to bring together people who want to take the next steps in building and promoting food tourism.
She played a TED Talk by Pam Warhurst, co-founder of Incredible Edible, based in the U.K. Her talk detailed how a group of volunteers put local food at the heart of the community, building partnerships to improve education, business and community capacity.
They transformed flower gardens to herb gardens and engaged schools, which in turn began teaching agriculture and assisting in the gardening.
After the video, attendees piped up about their ideas for what could be done locally. Some of the ideas from the TED Talk weren’t practical for the Highlands, members of the audience said; deer would be likely to mow down any veggie garden not surrounded by a two-metre fence. However, other ideas such as mapping places to buy eggs from the farm gate were considered good first steps.
“Our tourism is a very important piece of the economics in this area and tourism is growing all over the world. It’s one of the major driving forces of the economy,” Sweet said. “In my opinion, I’d love to see tourism flourish up here and I would really rather that we define ourselves and celebrate what we have instead of having industry moving in and define who we are.”
Sweet collected names of those interested in participating in the next step, which will be a meeting to discuss creating the Highlands’ version of an Incredible Edible movement.
In addition, there will be a Field to Fork meeting for farmers, chefs and producers to meet over beer at Rhubarb Restaurant on Monday, Jan. 28 from 5 to 7 p.m. Terri Mathews-Carl of Rhubarb will present on buying locally.
For more information, contact Sweet at 705-286-1839 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.