The organic movement is growing in power and presence in Toronto. NOW's special supplement puts the spotlight on the people committed to increasing the availability of organics and the places where shoppers can get their healthy fix. Rating: NNNNN
The beauty of eating organically is that you get to eat locally - if local growers can sustain their farms.
That's not easy, say Zalia Conde and Lorenz Eppinger , both active in the local greenbelt organic community.
"A farmer earns an average of $6,000 net per acre in this province, barely enough to feed the family pet, let alone the family," says Conde, who works a certified farm in Sunderland north of Uxbridge.
Having participated in most of the farmers markets in southwestern Ontario, she insists that the time is ripe for organic producers to get organized. They're proposing the formation of the Ontario Organic Farmers Collective.
"The collective will support local farmers, deal with issues like labour laws and crop insurance, as well as keep them from going broke," says Conde.
"The zoning in the greenbelt doesn't allow subdivisions," says Eppinger, whose farm is in Campbellville near Guelph. "But it does permit recreational facilities. In other words, it's a green light for golf courses. Why save the greenbelt if all it's doing is bankrupting farmers?"
The group, which next meets October 22 on Eppinger's Greenfields farm (for more information, call 416-888-4746), aims to make farming financially and ecologically viable in the Golden Horseshoe. They want to revolutionize Ontario's antiquated government policies and regulations on food processing and distribution, allowing for the return of fresh, free-range poultry and artisanal cheeses. They also hope to create a centrally located organic food terminal in downtown Toronto where farmers can offer their products to wholesalers, retailers, restaurateurs and the public.
"The provincial government has decided that it needs to fund greenbelt commerce, so an organic food terminal in Toronto geared toward the greenbelt makes sense," says Eppinger. "The restaurant industry is completely underserved. We're often approached by chefs, but we literally can't afford to deliver."
Conde knows this all too well. As a 20-year resto-biz vet - including stints at Scaramouche and at Peter Pan as Susur Lee's replacement, as well as numerous catering gigs in her guise as the Organic Goddess (416-888-4746) - she understands a chef's frustration when it comes to sourcing organics. To show the potential of an all-organic menu, Conde is presenting a series of three-course $50 prix fixe dinners at Atom Egoyan 's Camera Bar (1028 Queen West, at Ossington) starting Sunday (October 16). The meal deal includes admission to the film screening that night (for details and reservations, 416-530-0011 or www.camerabar.ca).
"People need to realize that food doesn't grow on trees in Loblaws," reasons Conde. "If we can put a face to food, be it that of the farmers, the people who work the market stands or the chefs who support them, we just might get a planet our kids can enjoy."