Post conference fervour: pride and prejudice
Lynda Brown - 17 February 2011
For me, one word sums up the Organic Conference: empowering. Not because it comes up with grand solutions (it doesn't), or that the talks and discussions are endlessly spell-binding, informative or incitful (they're not), or that you don't have to suffer marketing goobledook (you do). It's where you get the big picture: where science, sustainability, society, and the everyday stuff of life converge. Where you can be free to agree, disagree, explore new ideas, meet people who do/don't share your views, and where you can begin to shape your version of your organic life (I'm a fan of the pick and mix version of life: do what you can and don't feel guilty about what you don't). And that I find empowering. In short, it's the place where you get it - presuming getting it is what matters to you.
As a journalist, facts, trends,off the cuff remarks and anything quirky is what I'm after. My favourite off the cuff remark was given by the nice man from ASDA, who, having done his best to reassure us that saving the planet was high on ASDA's agenda, later let it slip that ASDA's role is to inspire and entertain. Mmm, I look forward to the in store fruit machines. The best quirky thing? A great new intiative on eco-funerals - see what I mean about the stuff of life?
Trends - Boringly predictable, I'm afraid. Organic food sales have taken a body blow, but are now in recovery. That brilliant ad (want that owl!), Yeo Valley's rap about organic milk and farming - which has had trillions of hits on You Tube - looks set to be one of the most successful ever. PS. The owl is real, lives on the farm, and was caught doing his splendid head roll on a mobile phone.
Price: This never goes away, and will require a whole blog to sort. We value food less than Europe, indeed are programmed to believe the only food worth buying is cheap food (blame it on the Industrial Revolution). The UK continues to spend less on food, no change there then.
Perception: The other big problem we face. Local food (often, incidentally, more expensive than organic) can do no wrong , free range eggs are flying off the shelves, and fair trade is the new must have brand. Organics is saddled with elitist and expensive. Whatever. Am I bothered? Yes.
Pleasure: Food is not just about saving the planet. We seem to have lost sight of the real pleasure that food , cooking and convivialty can bring, not to mention its empowering and confidence building benefits it gives you as a human being. Cooking - or rather not cooking - is one of the biggest challenges the Big Society faces. Thank heavens for the Food For Life initiative.
Health: Apparently got put on the back burner during the recession: we reached for junk food and Americans got even fatter.
And finally... gold in that there biochar...
Heart-stopping moments at the conference come in all shapes and sizes. This year, Craig Sam's (who co-founded Green & Black's) new venture, Carbon Gold, did it for me. Carbon Gold is about developing commercial biochar products to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, improve soil fertility and generate carbon credits. A triple win win - their compost, now on sale in garden centres looks good enough to eat. If there's one website to visit today, make it www.carbongold.com.
Lynda is an award-winning food writer and broadcaster, and keen advocate for organic living. She is author of several food books over the last twenty years including Planet Organic: Organic Living, The Cook's Garden, and The Modern Cook's Handbook, as well as writing The Preserving Book that was published in 2010 in association with the Soil Association. Lynda is an expert on food and nutrition and a seasoned broadcaster, regularly speaking on food and farming both on the radio and television.