From field to fork: honouring local food and culture at The Purple Onion Festival

The 6th annual Purple Onion Festival was my first. As a newcomer to Local Food Month in Peterborough, I was intrigued to find out more. The Purple Onion festival, founded by Fred Irwin, began in 2010 as a celebration of home-grown food, regional products and the flourishing of the community’s economy. Each year in September it grows bigger and better.

On arrival I was instantly introduced to the importance of local food and the need to share, love and engage in the Kawartha food industry. The Eat Local Challenge Wall gave incoming festival goers the opportunity to express their adoration for localisation, their actions, intentions or messages for others. Scattered among the wall were phrases such as “I’m going to become a local farmer!”, “Check your fridge for healthy and unhealthy choices”, “Harvest Wild Rice”, “Buy from the Farmers’ Market” and “Grow a Garden!” These inspirational comments were just the starting point of a sunny day in Peterborough celebrating local produce, community, food security, entertainment, arts and wellness.



Every corner of Millennium Park overflowed with different vendors and speciality products, from local farmers on the Green Commons to the ‘Wellness Village’, the festival had something for everyone. Stall after stall sold diverse creations; local honey, various healing salves (for dry skin, sun damage, pain, itch, rash, poison ivy), vegetables and herbs, and fresh baked goods such as cheese twists and sausage rolls. Meanwhile, at the corner of Water and King, the new-to-2016 Electric City Electric Vehicle Meet (EV), sponsored by Peterborough Mitsubishi, was underway. Electric vehicle drivers of the Peterborough and Kawartha areas exhibited their cars and bikes and encouraged others to get involved. There was also an all-electric i-MiEV on display to check out.

The Craft Beer Garden was another new addition to this year’s festival, with three choices of local craft brews from The Publican House on Charlotte Street. Another new element added was the ‘Art of the Leaf’ tent which displayed the collaboration of 30 local artists in an original project of leaf-shaped panels. In this tent, children and youth were given the opportunity to express their artistic side by creating leaves with different media forms, supported by ‘The World Tree’ art project.


After changing my Canadian dollars to Kawartha Loons (the local currency at a rate of $0.90 CDN for 1 KL) at The Peterborough Community Credit Union stall, the most difficult thing I had to do was decide whether I’d rather eat macaroons or waffles for desert. I sampled an array of delicious foods from locally sourced produce in the ‘Taste of the Kawartha’s’ food tent where ten regional chefs and their talents awaited. My favourite food to sample were tamales, a Latin American dish made of corn-based dough and filled with cheese, beans, vegetables or meat. The tamale came wrapped in a green corn leaf and served with hot salsa. Buying this fresh, local food means money stays within the Kawartha region; the community benefits and the community prospers.

As I mingled among artists, vendors, friends, farmers and purple-dressed people, live music played. The Sun Stage showcased local entertainment including live bands, inspirational speakers and Michael Bell as Festival MC. At 1:30 a ‘Dance for the Climate’ took over featuring more live entertainment including dancing and crowd participation. The one-hour event was created in collaboration with ‘ForOurGrandchildren’, a beautiful organisation of grandparents and future grandparents across Canada concerned with the impending effects of climate change. The organisation emphasises the urgency to both fight against and prepare for the effects, and to inspire children and grandchildren to be actively involved in a sustainable world.


The festival had an atmosphere which thrived off of, and celebrated its community. Supporting local business undoubtedly makes the world a better place. With transportation and import costs cut out, air pollution and the carbon footprint are reduced. Knowing that the food I ate, and will continue to buy, came from vendors who I met personally gives my plate a story. This personal touch from local growers doesn’t come with supermarket bought food. Instead, this locally produced food comes from my neighbours, the people of this community and people of the planet who care for the planet. With this in mind, the food on my plate is so much tastier.