We are fast approaching a season full of food festivals, celebrations and deliciousness. Every year, the best of the best in the culinary world round up their most mouth-watering creations, gather around and serve up food, food and more food to their communities. The Bay of Quinte region is fast becoming the hot spot for these unique, local food producers to showcase their talent. This comes as no surprise, because the area has such deep roots planted in the history of food. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and see where this community love for food really began.
Dating all the way back to the early 1700s, agriculture originally commenced when European and American settlers claimed this land as their own. These settlers produced food on their land to support their large families, and the tradition has remained in place ever since.
In the 1800s, Hastings County was dubbed the “Cheese Capital of Canada” because the area was home to over 100 cheese factories. The number of factories were necessary because every dairy farm had to be just down the road from a cheese factory as there was no refrigerated transport for longer travel. In 1816, the Belleville Farmers Market officially opened for people to come from far and wide to sell and purchase locally produced food, crafts and more. This year the Market will be celebrating 200 years of delicious business. By the 1870s, new refrigerated transport on ships and trains allowed for longer transport of milk products so many factories were shut down, but some still remain today including Ivanhoe, Maple Dale, Wilton and Empire cheese factories.
In the late 1900s, the community realized it was time to celebrate the diverse ethnic culture and immigration in the area through food. In 1984 the Belleville Waterfront and Ethnic Festival was born. The weekend-long festival celebrates food from areas such as Italy, Mexico, India and Poland all coming together in the ethnic food village. In 1986 the Agmuseum – now Farmtown Park – opened its doors in Stirling. The museum recognizes and preserves the area’s agricultural heritage and is open every summer for visitors to take a trip back into history.
Flash forward to the new millennium and even more celebrations have been created. In 2008, a marketing and branding initiative from Hastings County called Harvest Hastings began promoting sustainable agriculture, forestry and supporting local. The initiative was created by the farm community, for the farm community and has since grown to more broad areas of coverage (like local wood sources) with the same values in place. Transitioning to a little more specific and a lot more cheesy, The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton held its first festival in 2011. The weekend event is now the biggest artisan cheese show in Canada and offers delicious variations of cheese, wine, beer and food for sampling and purchase.
Bay of Quinte Today
The most recent trend in our food history today is the explosion of the Food Truck scene. Although the original quick stop chip trucks remain, they are not the only players in the game anymore. There are now several mobile food businesses in the region, with specialities including pierogies, tacos, macaroni and cheese, salads, shawarma and so many more.
If food is your kryptonite and you’re craving some history to go along with it, the Bay of Quinte is your stop for all things delicious.