carrotslargejpg_1

In 2008, only about 13 per cent of the money spent on food in Nova Scotia went to farmers in the province, a new report suggests. ((CBC))

Farmers in Nova Scotia are getting only a fraction of the money shoppers in the province spend on food, a new report suggests.

In 1997, an estimated 17 per cent of the money spent on food went to farmers in the province, says a report from the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and the Ecology Action Centre.

That rate dropped to about 13 per cent in 2008.

Co-author Marla MacLeod said researchers looked at more than 60 products and concluded that, on average, the food on Nova Scotia plates travels nearly 4,000 kilometres.

In the Halifax area, some consumers say finding the source of locally produced food can be difficult but worth the effort.

ns-meet-farmer-web

Farmers hope their new website will help persuade Nova Scotians to buy from them. ((CBC))

"It's not an easy task but it's worth it to me," said Bob Dillman, who was shopping at Dave's Fruit and Vegetable Market in Dartmouth on Tuesday.

"I can go and find out where the food is coming from and not some mystery garden somewhere that is genetically modifying what's going into my family's stomachs."

At Local Source market in Halifax's north end, owner Sean Gallagher said serving only locally grown products and baked goods made from local grains has eliminated the guesswork many customers previously had to go through.

"We're fully transparent with where our food comes from," Gallagher said. "So you know exactly what you're getting and you can ask our staff, 'How is this grown, how is this animal raised, what kind of processing do they do when they're making the sausage?' … We know exactly where it came from and we aren't afraid to promote the farmers that we got it from."

And farmers say selling directly to retail customers has benefits for them as well.

Andy Vermeulen, a farmer in the Annapolis Valley, said he used to sell his produce through a broker. When he began to sell directly to stores, business got better.

"It wasn't until that that I really took an interest in giving my customers service and giving them a good quality product," he said. "And it has had a dramatic impact on my business. In fact, we doubled our production in five years."

The Federation of Agriculture launched a new website Tuesday to promote farmers: www.meetyourfarmer.ca.

Federation president Richard Melvin said the website will allow Nova Scotians to get to know farmers and ultimately encourage people to buy local food.