Organic? Local? or Both?
Feast of Fields role is raising public awareness. Some people who don’t normally use organic food might come out and discover celebrated chefs are cooking with organics.
A pioneer in the business of organic food, chef Daniel Gilbert says things have come a long way since he opened the doors of his organic restaurant, Daniel’s of Nobleton, in 1980. Feast of Fields, the annual outdoor organic food and wine fest, which he has been helping organize for 22 of its 23 years, has also matured. In this exclusive interview, Daniel shares his insights into the organic food movement, and how it blends with efforts to buy local.
Food in the Hills : When it comes to food, what’s more important? Organic or local?
Daniel Gilbert : They are equally important. Both have benefits. The problem is people who buy local often think it’s organic. They pick up a bag of carrots in the grocery store, see they come from Ontario, and think they are healthier. Or they pick up a bag of organic carrots only to discover they come from California. What we need is local, organic produce. Then it’s good for the environment and our health.
FOOD : Is the Ontario government supporting organic and local agriculture?
DG : There is a lot of support from the government now. Still not as much as for traditional agriculture, but it’s better than it was. However, if farmers want to get government funding, they need to leave out the word “organic” and just talk about “local.”
FOOD : Is there a conspiracy against organic agriculture?
DG : I don’t want to use the word “conspiracy.” I simply believe some people at the top in government, industry and in universities don’t believe in organic agriculture. It’s like global warming. There are lobby groups too. Monsanto isn’t interested in farmers switching to organics.
FOOD : You are an organic chef. Is it easier for you now than when you began?
DG : Oh, it’s much easier. I used to have to go to the farm, which was cool, but it was time-consuming. It took a few years, but now there are distributors who carry organic foods. We even have distributors who specialize in organics, which makes it much easier.
FOOD : Where do you buy your organics?
DG : There are some farmers who deliver. I like to go to farmers’ markets, but it’s hard for chefs to go to weekend or evening markets. I use distributors and I can even buy in grocery stores now.
FOOD : Are the big grocery stores helping?
DG : Loblaws is doing a good thing, but with their power they could do more. Some grocery stores have small markets within the bigger store that sell flowers or wine. I’d like to see grocery stores that have similar little markets that sell only local products. The large grocery stores say they can’t buy from local producers because small farms can’t supply all their stores. These little local markets would overcome this problem. If someone would start it and if it were successful, it would catch on.
FOOD : What is Feast of Fields’ role in organic and local agriculture?
DG : Its main role is raising public awareness. Some people who don’t normally use organic food might come out and discover celebrated chefs are cooking with organics. When we started Feast of Fields, there were no organic wine producers and now there are four. And there seems to be an event like ours every weekend, but Feast of Fields is still the only exclusively organic one.
Feast of Fields
The 23rd annual Feast of Fields takes place Sunday, September 9, 2012 from 1–5 pm at Cold Creek Conservation Area in King Township. Tickets are $100 or 10 for $90 each. Celebrity chefs include the Food Network’s Michael Smith and grilling guru Ted Reader. For tickets and information: 905-859-3609, [email protected] or visit www.feastoffields.org