A Culinary Culture

As an entrepreneur, I know that my businesses are only as healthy as the community they’re in. I believe we must feel deep attachment to our communities, and work for their continued health. I sit on council, and participate in local committees and working groups. I spend a lot of time thinking about what we can do to advance the community and improve its liveability. And, in my mind, much of a community’s health comes down to food – how we produce it, prepare it, sustain its supply, dispose of the waste it produces, and make it universally available.

I had the opportunity to hear Gord Hume of London, Ontario speak a couple of years ago. His remarks struck a deep chord in my foodie soul. He links food, culture and community health to economic well-being.

 In his book, The Local Food Revolution, he calls on municipal government, entrepreneurs, community residents and food activists to take up the torch of food tourism and food security, community health and community prosperity. He discusses the close ties between food and culture, and in turn economic development. He advocates cultural planning for creating prosperous communities and he sees food as a large part of that cultural planning. He talks about what he calls the CRINK (CReative, INnovative, Knowledge-based) economy. He is my new guru, next to Jamie Oliver.

So here is an equation, courtesy of Gord Hume:                Culture + Culinary = Economic Stimulus

Farmers’ markets, good restaurants, farm and ranch B&B experiences, festivals, wineries and breweries, niche market food production, food shows, cultural events involving food, and local food suppliers figure strongly in any effort to encourage food tourism.

That sounds like a lot of work! But let’s take Maple Creek as an example.

 In our area we have:

  •  Meat producers, cattle, sheep, pigs, bison
  • Hutterite colonies: eggs, vegetables, cured meats,
  • A Winery
  • Good restaurants and caterers
  • Established farmers’ market
  • A Saskatoon berry farm
  • A food festival
  • A community garden

All of these services have been developed independently by entrepreneurs, business people, and volunteers – with dreams and hard work their biggest assets, without a community plan, without organized funding and recruitment, without focussed group marketing. The people who run many of these businesses often flirt with economic collapse. Some businesses survive in spite of failure rather than because of success; their owners believe in the business, have too much money invested in it, or are just too stubborn to quit.

Think what could happen if we worked together to create a comprehensive economic development plan, with municipal and provincial backing! We could create a reliably prosperous community with jobs, stability and sustainability as its watchwords. My point is, these things too often happen by accident rather than intention.

Dave and I recently visited Vancouver Island. We used to live there; nice place, beautiful, lush, a little wet, resource-based economy in trouble. What we saw on this visit was astounding.  Between Nanaimo and Campbell River there are signs on the Old Island Highway for 12 wineries. When we lived there, there was not one winery in that stretch. Why have so many popped up so fast? Because government and business have come up with a plan.

In Prince Edward County in Ontario, the same scenario has played out, with similar results. Surely we can come up with a plan that uses our unique culture and environment to stimulate this sector of the economy.

So let’s start the conversation. Let’s come up with a plan. We can do it.