New Brunswick farmers join push for local food labels

A group of farmers wants to introduce a new label for local, made in New Brunswick food, that would make it easier for customers to identify where their food comes from.

Farmers surveyed support move to introduce labels in time for fall harvest

A group of farmers is introducing a label for local, made-in-New Brunswick food 1:58

A group of farmers wants to introduce a new label for local, made in New Brunswick food, which would make it easier for customers to distinguish where their food comes from.

The National Farmers Union in New Brunswick began talks with the province, after a survey found its members largely supported a move to introduce labels for locally-grown food.

Stephanie Coburn runs Spring Meadows Farm, a grass-fed beef operation outside of Sussex.

The people who run Spring Meadows Farm near Sussex say there is no simple way for buyers to tell the difference between local and non-local when their meat is sent to market. (CBC)

She and her husband have 65 head of cattle, and "essentially everything they eat is grown on the farm."

However, Coburn says when she takes her meat to market, there is no quick and easy way for buyers to know that it's locally sourced.

"Many people want to support us, they want to support local farmers, they want to buy something that's grown here but they can't make that choice because we don't have a label," she said.

Local food labels attempted before with limited success

At the Saint John City Market, Balemans Produce co-owner, Robert Balemans uses a small collection of purple violet signs to identify his inventory of local fruits and vegetables. He says he now has to use them sparingly.

"We used to have stickers and all kinds of stuff, but they eliminated them for some reason, and we haven't been able to get any for the last few years," Balemans said.

The New Brunswick Conservation Council is trying to grow its "Buy Local NB" program by adding a provincial foods directory. For now, its website directs people to a community page on Facebook.

Coburn says it's important not to confuse people with too many labels that mean the same thing.

"Whatever we decide to do, we need to work together and have some kind of system in place," she said.

Representatives from the Conservation Council, and the Agricultural Alliance are also part of the ongoing discussions with the province to introduce one standard label for farmers.

The National Farmers Union's New Brunswick chapter hopes to have it ready by the fall harvest.