Our Elite Clubhouse, Made From Peaches and Tomatoes

Oooooh, Loblaw’s you bastards!

How dare they?? I mean, really how DARE they try to sell local produce? Don’t they know the rule about how you’re not a good, conscientious consumer unless you buy it directly from the farmer? You icky supermarket shoppers, you can’t be in our special club! Yes, sure, we preached at you to buy local produce and support local farmers. But not from an (ewwww!!) supermarket!

Yes, Loblaw’s is at it again, for the third year in row they are setting up stands within and outside their stores with a farmers’ market-style booth featuring locally-grown produce. This is good, right? Because we want people to buy and eat more local food. And since, despite the proliferation of farmers’ markets in urban areas, most people still buy at least some of their fruits and vegetables from supermarkets, it’s better to have it be local instead of imports. Any switch is a step in a positive direction, right? Good things grow in Ontario?

Apparently not.

Because Robert Chorney of Farmers’ Market Canada seems to think that Loblaw’s is just trying to capitalize on the markets’ success. Well… yeah. But that’s a given. And food activist Anita Stewart says “For generations, all across Canada, farmers markets have been embedded in our collective food culture.” Really? I’m thinking Stewart has/had a very different food culture than the majority of Canadians, because my informal poll indicates that most people grew up with supermarkets, only occasionally visiting a farmers’ market.

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100 Miles to Nowhere

If you follow food politics at all, you’re probably aware of the theory that “local is the new organic”. Where we once fought to have food that was pesticide-free, over the past couple of years, what with the attention towards global warming, people have clued in that maybe cutting down on the distance their food travels would be a good thing, too.

The pinnacle of this philosophy would have to be the 100-mile diet in which people make every effort to source all of their food from within a one hundred mile radius. This is easier said than done, particularly when you live somewhere like Toronto. Even if we assume people are willing to give up all coffee, tea, chocolate and citrus, there’s also things like spices to be considered. Imagine living life with absolutely no salt and pepper. Or flour.

Despite the inconvenience and overall lack of logic, the 100-mile diet seems to have its proponents and the San Francisco Gate recently gave coverage to three families trying to stick to the diet. However, the food writer for the East Bay Express made his opinion resoundingly clear…

Unless you make decisions for an entity like Chez Panisse, whose mission involves influencing fellow businesses to reduce impacts, isn’t a complex scheme of artificial limitations on your daily life the kind of self-indulgent game that elites love to play? Isn’t it a bit like masturbation? As the father of the Chron staffer is quoted as saying: “This challenge sounds like something for people with too much spare time.”

I want to focus on the comment about elites within this quote. I attend a variety of conferences, symposia and gathering for the food industry and the elite issue comes up again and again. So much so that it’s embarrassing.

Why is it embarrassing? Because it’s true.

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