Events across Calgary offer welcome approach to living local

Great food mixed with an eclectic atmosphere Oct. 15, when the second annual Food For Thought conference brought restaurant owners, costumed stilt-walkers, food activists and farmers together with curious consumers under one roof.

Through samples of gourmet sandwiches and coffee the conference kicked off National Organic Awareness Week in Calgary, continuing what organizers hope to be a yearly tradition with food lovers across the province.

“We [had] a unique opportunity to have all these food lovers, farmers and chefs in the same room, talking about what we can do as consumers to create positive change,” said Stephanie Jackman, president of Respect for the Earth and All People (REAP), a local food-centered business association and main host of the event.

The week has so far featured special tastings in the Birds and Bees Organic Winery in Brosseau, Alta. and Alley Kat Brewery in Edmonton, as well as food deals from grocers and restaurants like Calgary’s own Community Natural Foods and The Coup, which will last up until Saturday, Oct. 22.

Jackman sees a growing awareness in the city of both environmental responsibility and the impact of buying local. This reflects in the event’s turnout, which sold out last year.

The conference has since gained a reputation, drawing restaurants, vendors and farmers from all across Alberta under a large quonset hut next to the Calgary Vipers’ stadium.

“Word of mouth is what makes any business,” said Mary Ellen Greuneberg, a farmer and “food artisan” based near Edmonton, who has worked with restaurants for 13 years providing sustainable organic food.

Other vendors are quick to agree with this kind of small-scale business strategy, and see it as a great way of getting their names out in the community.

“From a business perspective, it’s great networking,” beamed Malcolm Saunders, who runs The Light Cellar, a specialty chocolate maker. Saunders buys his ingredients from Greuneberg’s farm, contributing to the ethos of local collaboration upon which this event relies.

Saunders values the “great mix of local producers and restaurants” this event offers, and appreciates Organic Week as “another drop in the bucket,” continuing to affirm peoples awareness and commitment to organics and local food.

Jackman hopes people will understand the positive atmosphere that Food For Thought and other events related to the National Organic Awareness Week provide, saying the goal is to focus on what individuals and consumers can do, “rather than feeling guilty or overwhelmed.

“We want to make it fun and accessible for people. There are things they can do on a daily basis that have an impact.”

cbell@cjournal.ca