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An informal, stream-of-consciousness reflection on business ideas, events and issues in modern business, modern life and with some specifics to the web-software industry by Paul Tomori, Internet Entrepreneur

Eating Organic Just Sounds Cool
By Paul Tomori
Sunday, September 06, 2009 at 13:28:29 (EDT)

The organic food craze has hit a rallying pitch. What used to be a quaint little mostly ignored side-show in our city grocery shops is now getting centre ring feature in the circus of modern life. And you know what is so strange about the phenomenon? You know what must be so bewildering to local farmers? It's as if the concept of organic produce was just invented in recent years. In reality, organic foods is just a return to the more natural way of living.

In Oakville just off the QEW, and in Toronto on Avenue Road, there is a grocery store called Whole Foods. I first encountered this chain in Austin Texas about 8 years ago, ironically, where it originated. In the big cities of America, Whole Foods is THE place to shop for discriminating buyers. It's also ridiculed by some who call it "Whole Paycheck". Ya, it's expensive (as most good things are). I am hoping that Whole Foods will venture into Niagara at some point since I consider myself an "increasingly discriminating" shopper. However, if they never arrive, attending local town markets and highway produce stands will suit me fine too. The benefit of local markets is you are definitely supporting local suppliers and that is good for several reasons, not the least of which is the freshness of the food. And not second least of which is the fact that if one buys locally, it means that the food has had to travel less distance and this is better for our air quality. The main drawback of only having local markets is the fact that some foods are seasonal to one's locale, though in Niagara, the growing number of greenhouses might help to distribute the seasonality along broader calendars of availability. Other drawbacks include not having a centralized purchase point that is open 7 days a week (local markets tend to be open just 2 or 3 mornings each week).

But, you know what would be even better? A return to planting one's own garden. For those of you who already do this, kudos to you. I have moved several times in recent years and knew that the moves were forthcoming, so that has been somewhat counter-motivational to undertaking the planting/harvesting process on my own, but once I am finally settled in my "forever home", I fully intend to grow my own veggies and maybe even have a little greenhouse too. For the time being, who am I kidding? With a highly demanding business life and two little children, where would I find the time right now? Still I hearken back to the simpler days of my childhood and reflect on my many visits to my grandad's farm just outside Dalkeith Scotland.

I would stay there with my mom and sister and brother for 6 week stretches some summers and fell in love and in step with the daily rituals and rustic comforts of plain living. My grandfather had been a successful businessman and thus had been able to obtain an impressive old stone farmhouse surrounded by ample fields of barley and pastures of cows and sheep. There were also the equivalency of "rowhouses" full of little piglets, yet surprisingly the farm was not a smelly place. Perhaps the farmhouse itself was always just upwind from the pig's quarters... or perhaps, I just became oblivious to any stench. Northfield Farm was located in a little town called Cousland. So, it was not one of those really remote properties where you have 100 acres between each farmer's lot of land. It was situated in a tiny village and there was a little shop where for 25p, you could procure more than your daily dose of gummy bears and chocolates. And, there was a blacksmith just up the lane from the farm where the fires would be stoked daily and the dirty, sweaty men would be hammering incessantly on shoes for all the local horses. Harvesting Combines would roar up the road daily off to dispatch the grains from their grassy stalks. At the time, for me, barley was just something yummy to add to soup, but the"now-obvious" adult reality is that the Scots have a penchant for fine whiskey... and whiskey would not exist if not for avid farmers like my Grandad. He would ship barley from the farm to Edinburgh and they would ship whiskey to the masses. From what I am told, he indulged daily... the reward for a hard-day's toil perhaps.

In addition to managing big fields of produce and some livestock, my Grandad also maintained a massive personal garden filled with "organic produce". Well, it wasn't called organic at the time. It was just plain good pure food. There was a henhouse just 15 steps from the front door. Each morning, my Grandad would wake early to stir up some mash type mixture for the hens and by the time we awoke, he would be on his way to do the feeding. We happily followed, for our reward was to help in the collection of freshly laid eggs (what a thrill to rob a poor hen of her hard-night's toil!). To walk back 15 steps to the front door, just minutes after eggs were laid, and to put them straight into boiling water, then 10 minutes later to be eating them with toast... that was heaven. My Grandad's next ritual was to start a big pot of simmering soup stock. He'd walk out the front door again and down a few steps into a side garden where rows of tatties (potatoes) would be pushing there way up to the surface. With a few pokes at the soil, he'd have a handful of fresh white potatoes in hand, some carrots, leeks and more... The day's lunch was underway. It all felt natural and good... We didn't have a fancy word for it, but the sophistos of our modern day, call it organic. Hmmm... if only today's organic fare were even half as good as what my Grandad produced.

There was an ominously dark and primal side to it all too, one that remains indelibly burnt into my magical memories of Scottish holidaying. That is the image of blackbirds strung up at the edge of the garden, dead. You see, my Grandad would sit by a small window that overlooked the garden, with a rifle at the ready. He protected the garden from leeching birds and other vermin and ruled with a merciless resolve. I never saw him shoot the gun, because I am sure he was implored to not make that kind of morbid example to his impressionable grandkids, but the lingering evidence of dead birds staring down at us spoke volumes to our heightened senses of the world. It was almost "Kurtzian" (a la Kurtz from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness) to see the forbidding corpses hanging for all other birds to see. I wonder if it actually kept those fethered pilfering agents of home garden destruction at bay... Organic living has its price I suppose.

Yesterday, we had an all-local, all-organic, supper. Fresh tenderloin from the Mennonite store, fresh squash and yellow beans from the market. And, tomatoes, big enough that one slice more than covers the whole piece of bread! It was great. But the idea is nothing new. It's just the past dressed up in new clothes and given a new name. I hope you enjoy an all-natural eating experience sometime soon too (if it isn't already part of your regular agenda). Perhaps your plates will be as empty as ours were last night when all was done. Enjoy.

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