And just like that, another year has come and gone. What a strange year it has been. The pandemic we are living through has only added to it.

There is not one sector untouched by COVID-19. From farming to retail, for many of us this has been a year of firsts.

At home, we grew what people are referring to this year as a ‘pandemic garden.’ Granted, we just moved into our house last year so no time for a garden then.

We built our garden, planted our seeds and harvested like crazy. Some things grew well (peppers, cabbage and tomatoes) others not so well (pumpkins, sweet corn, carrots). I spent the spring and summer teaching myself to can. I purchased tomatoes by the bushel in late summer from Debackere’s and Howe’s. I canned jams and jellies, tomato sauces, diced tomatoes, relishes, pickles, barbeque sauce, peaches, pears and apples from Great Lakes Farms. It was a steady and productive year, with lots of learning along the way.

For Christmas a lot of those jars will end up with friends and family. A labor of love that will hopefully aid in spreading good cheer, in a year where things to be cheerful about seem sorely lacking.

In addition to those jars, there will be other, small, food-related items gifted. Most come from small, independent businesses in and around Elgin County.

We are all hurting this year, and agriculture is no exception. It has been a year fraught with worry and questions that have no answer. Farmers are particularly vulnerable to an ever-changing market, and we’ve all seen how this year’s trends have been impossible to predict (Toilet paper, really?).

Christmas this year will be like no other Christmas we have ever had. In fact, there is a chance we might not even be able to gather as a family, except over Facebook chat, or some other inventive technology.

One thing remains certain though, wherever and however we gather for Christmas this year, Ontario and Canadian produce should play a part in your Christmas meal. We are fortunate to have so many local delicacies at our fingertips, from honey to maple syrup, from lavender to Christmas trees.

When you shop this Christmas, keep in minds local businesses that deal in local product. Now more than ever we need to support our friends, family and neighbors.

To all of you, I wish you the best Christmas and festive season you can have.