This year’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair (also referred to as The Royal) includes the return of Spotlight on Local Presented by Metro— a 7000+ square-foot feature that brings together winners from The Royal's food competitions, entrepreneurs from Metro's Locally Sourced program, and the best artisanal local food and beverage suppliers from across Ontario's regional tourism destinations.
Fair attendees have the opportunity to meet over 25 different locally sourced vendors, with the ability to sample and purchase their products. As part of Metro's Locally Sourced program, Metro has been sourcing and qualifying small businesses and food entrepreneurs, providing business coaching, marketing support, free listing opportunities, and prominent placement in Metro stores across the province.
Joe Fusco, senior vice president of Metro Ontario, tells Grocery Business that Metro was a sponsor prior to Covid, including as a major sponsor in 2019. Fusco and team thought this year was particularly important as it is the 100th anniversary of the Royal.
“Our participation aligns with Metro’s local sourcing program and we want to be a community grocery and support local products across all regions. The Royal gives us an opportunity to showcase local and let customers know what we do to support local.
“As part of supporting local, we are sponsoring the Champions showcase in which local products get nominated and win awards voted on by consumers. This contest is a perfect opportunity to foster more innovation and more introductions of local products and help local vendors be successful as they go to market and it helps our stores because we’re able to find innovative local products to expand our local sourcing program. This year we expanded the showcase of local products. Since the start of our local program, we have 150 vendors and 800 local products and we’re always looking for the opportunity to expand our local offering.
“Another new component to our participation at the Royal is our focus on urban farming, which is very important in [the] GTA and Ontario because we’re losing more farmland and it’s important to foster more ppl getting into the farming industry, so one thing we did this year is to work with urban farmer Cheyenne Sundance and director of Sundance Harvest, a 1.5-acre farm in Toronto in the Downsview area and has two greenhouses and she has partnered with Metro to foster next-gen farms. What we’re doing at the Royal is funding three classrooms of students to come to the fair and Cheyenne will meet with them and talk about urban farming and talk about food security and what we can do to foster the next generation of understanding. We plan to give each classroom $5,000 to start their own urban farms at their schools. The students from the three classrooms will also visit Cheyenne’s farm,” explains Fusco.
He concludes by saying that Metro’s ultimate focus at the Royal is to support local innovation that can be expanded into store offerings, as well as supporting communities and next-generation farmers.
The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair runs from November 4 to 13, 2022.