GUELPH, Ontario, January 16, 2008 - As more consumers understand the concept of global warming and recognize how purchasing food from far away places aggravates the situation, many are looking at locally grown products as a solution. The sensitive issue will be on the minds of organic food producers and enthusiasts as they converge on the University of Guelph campus, January 24-27, for the largest organic event in the country, the 2008 Guelph Organic Conference.
However, for Lori Stahlbrand, President of Local Food Plus (LFP), an exhibitor at the Conference, the concepts of local and organic are not diametrically opposed. In fact, they can be one and the same.
LFP has created the new term 'local sustainable' to describe food that is grown locally in a socially and environmentally responsible way. "Consumers are interested in buying local as they are hearing more about food miles, but distance is only one measure," she says.
Other issues that need to be taken into account are sustainable production systems, animal welfare, labour standards, biodiversity and on-farm efficiency, she says. "We recognize farmers who go beyond local and truly have a sustainable farming operation with more sustainable practices," she says.
Jenn Pfenning of Pfenning's Organic Farm, a grower/packer/shipper of certified organic produce and a gold sponsor of the Conference, says she is frequently asked by customers whether local is better than organic.
"There's never going to be a black or white answer. Every time you purchase food, it needs to be a conscious choice," she says.
Retail sales of organic products tipped over $1 billion in Canada in 2006 and are expected to grow as well-off baby boomers, together with their offspring or 'echo boomers' are more aware of how nutrition impacts health and well-being. They are willing to pay a premium.
The Guelph Organic Conference includes a free table-top trade show, January 26-27, which will showcase close to 160 exhibitors in various related businesses such as organic processors, certifiers, distributors and groups supporting organic production, many of whom offer samples of new organic products or products for purchase.
A full exhibitor list is available at:
The Guelph Organic Conference is one of North America's longest-running organic events. Started in 1982 by two international students studying agriculture at the University of Guelph, the Conference has grown to be a nexus of organic information for farmers, retailers, wholesalers, government officials and motivated consumers across the continent. Held annually in January, the Conference's programming includes international guest speakers, full-day training programs, introductory workshops and a free organic food sampling fair.