Tiffin Project

Is Local the New Organic?

by Hunter Moyes on April 25, 2012

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Before answering that, we must first agree on the definitions of those terms, as well as the context – this concerns context, mostly. Accepting the sentence “local is the new organic” is largely an exercise in branding to the average consumer mind today.

As you probably know, organically produced food items of all kinds became overly (to the point of shame) (and beyond) marketed years ago when Whole Foods / Capers was at what I’d say was its apex – in terms of public brand awareness. Obviously, organic produce has been around for a while (since the agricultural revolution) – nevertheless, for a time there before 9/11 continuing up until recently, even mom-and-pop-shop operations were putting money towards leveraging anything organic. Organic! Organic! Organic! Local? Local food is a little different. Has it become what organic was though? Or, perhaps, even over-take it in influence?

Which option presents less general evil between the two, really? By now, surely, this is topical enough and I, gladly, don’t have to explain it.

First off – both are incredibly important, to me at least. Let’s face it. In a hundred years, if we’re still around – given the resources we have left – all farming will be organic, and, trust me, we’re going to be a lot more localized around it. The question today is: which should we be investing in? How can we invest in our food security now?

Vancouver seems to be building a budding environment for local produce.

Over the course of the past few months – on a mission to establish some direct farm-to-table relationships with a start-up called My Garden Footprint and medium-scale restaurants in the city– I have met with many of the city’s food system string-pullers. To get to know the playing field, I read Peter Ladner’s book about the pending “Urban Food Revolution”, then had dinner with him after calling him out on Twitter to discuss it. I met Darren Stott, as he’s holding the plans of the proposed New City Market. Arzeena Hamir of the Richmond Food Security Council was nice enough to lend me her ears, as well as seasoned scene speaker Herb Barbolet, David Suzuki’s Queen of Green (Lindsay Coulter), Claudia Li of SharkTruth about seafood even! – on top of restaurant owners and business people involved in all things sustainably edible.

From the ocean, in, leaving all the splendour of the Lower Mainland out of it, past the community garden at Davie and Burrard and the others over there – the East side is where the action is. Look into it! There, in my opinion, the SOLE gang are some of the more interesting characters in the show, with the Fresh Roots Urban Farm posse, the inspiring youth at Windermere Secondary, and there are many others! Oh, there are others! Those characters, I feel, are the most noteworthy today in Vancouver’s East.

The newest kid on the block is about to be the Harvest Union – located at Main and Union St. on the Adanac bike route. The story of Harvest Union gives me hope, that local is, in fact the new organic.

I believe in both local and organic, and support them as much as I can, but I’m an aspiring locavore Chef in my heart right now.

See, before the Harvest Union got off the drawing board that it was conceived on, it was something else. It was “This Space” – a little community experiment involving a ping pong table. Two ambitious young men set up a ping pong table in a store front that would have otherwise been abandoned at the time, and they invited people in. They invited strangers in for ping pong, and got them to – in return – participate in a survey. The survey was simple. If they were residents of the area – what would they want “This Space” to be? The conclusions of their survey threw them in a direction that they never thought they’d get into – the people of the area wanted a social service, and they wanted it to involve local food. And so – Harvest Union was born! They plan to develop their new business in “This Space” into a flexible and triple-bottom-line sustainable local food hub. I live close by, so I’ll probably end up helping them out.

We’ll get into Monsanto’s wild world of GMO super-crops another day. There are more productive things to read up on and rant about – for instance: I just found out that Chilliwack produces flour!

My next article will include a recipe – promise!

~ Hunter J. Moyes

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